Chris Kanute would have been more than happy with just two state championships.
But now, the Hayden bass fishing club that he coaches along with Scott Ashley have just won their fourth straight title in the Alabama Student Angler Bass Fishing Association.
It’s the second year that the Wildcats have won the title through a season-long trail of tournaments, climaxing with the state finals on Neely Henry Lake two weeks ago.
“If you had told me we would win two state championships, I would have been happy with that,” Kanute said. “But to win four — and our team is only four years old — I wouldn’t have believed that.”
The Wildcats pretty well had the points race locked up before the state finals. They had first-place finishes in regional tournaments at Eufaula and Pickwick lakes, and were second place in another regional at Wheeler.
However, they had some close competition close by. Mortimer Jordan’s second-year team finished as the state runners-up, and Corner’s team — also in its second year — placed 13th.
“It’s kind of a renewal of an old rivalry between us, Jordan and Corner, Kanute said. “Before a tournament, these guys will all sit around in each other’s boats like they’re best of friends, which they often are. But when they get on the water, they’re competeing. And then afterwards they’re friends again.”
Three of Hayden’s anglers have been with the team since eighth grade, and will fish again for the Wildcats next year as seniors. Chase Kanute, Taylor Ashley and Houston Calvert were on the team’s top two boats at Neely Henry.
“They’ve already set their sights on a fifth championship next year,” Chris Kanute said.
Gardendale’s first-year team finished in 40th place, in the top half of the roughly 90 schools that fielded a team in the ASABFA this season.
Hayden has traditionally attracted three dozen or more members to the club each year, and has had to whittle that number down to a maximum 10 anglers in five boats to fish on the tour. That’s been done in the past with local qualifying tournaments, a process that the ASABFA will take over next season starting in the fall.
“We could have as many as 140 or 150 boats out there for those tournaments,” Chris Kanute said.