Hunter White casts his hook for higher competition
For as long as anyone who knows him can remember, Hunter White has been a man among boys in his sport of choice - competitive bass fishing. And now, as the five-time Bass Federation Junior World Champion transitions to the next phase of his career, he is becoming a boy among men - a position from which he has already experienced success.
After winning his fifth The Bass Federation championship last year, White finished eighth out of 38 anglers in this year’s event in Camden, South Carolina. On Nov. 4 and 5, White finished fifth against 52 angers, most of them adults, in the The Bass Federation National Semi-Finals at Lake Murray in South Carolina.
“Way to go, Hunter, I’m proud of you,” Black Mountain mayor Michael Sobol said as applause erupted at the town board of aldermen meeting Nov. 13. For the second time in three years, the mayor recognized White for his accomplishments on the water.
White, a sophomore at Owen High School, turns 16 on Dec. 20. He’s been fishing since he was 2.
“In the summer, even when I’m not going out and fishing competitively, I go out and ‘fun fish,’” he said. “I just go fish with my buddies and stuff. It’s what I love to do.”
White stopped playing basketball and baseball because they interfered with competitive fishing. It's rare for 24 hours to go by without the young angler practicing his casting.
"You have to be dedicated, " he said. "A lot of people like to fish, but not a lot of people have the time to commit to it." White, with the help of his father Mark White, makes the time.
During his off-season, which began after the national semi-finals and runs through February, White will continue to practice his craft.
"I fish two times a month during that time," he said. "And when I get home from school I practice casting, clean rods and reels, stuff like that."
In the world of competitive fishing, casting is much more than just getting a lure in the water - it's often what helps anglers find success when others have failed. White has been working on casting techniques his entire life, so many of his efforts result in pinpoint accuracy.
"People think I'm crazy when they fish with me," White said. "Because I'll pull up to a dock that someone has just fished and catch a fish."
When his friends are fishing for fun at Lake Lure, White will train on the docks. The practice has helped mold him into a consistent fisherman, his father said.
"Hunter will get way up under the dock where other guys haven't been able to get," Mark White said. "He's so comfortable casting."
When his season begins next year, White will move up from The Bass Federation's youth division and into the high school division. Already fishing 20-25 tournaments a year, from February to June "he'll be fishing in a tournament almost every weekend," his father said.
Hunter isn't nervous about moving up, especially considering the fact that he closed out this past season with a strong finish in the semi-finals among adult anglers.
"It was a special moment," he said his performance in the tournament. "It made me realize I can enter these adult tournaments and do pretty good in them."
Hunter - sponsored by Bullet Boats of Knoxville Tennessee, True South Lures of Monroe and a handful of locals - hopes to fish at the collegiate level.
To do that he'll need to continue to practice in a multitude of environments.
"To be great you need to be able to go from New York to Texas and be able to catch fish," he said. "That's how you know you're getting good."