Recent Gardendale graduate Griffin Phillips hasn’t been fishing for long, but you wouldn’t know it by lifting the hatch to his livewell.
After only three years as an angler, Phillips has signed a fishing scholarship to the University of Montevallo, choosing the Falcons over offers from both Alabama and Auburn based on the small-town environment he found on campus. The school has an approximate enrollment of 3,000, including roughly 10 students on the fishing team.
Phillips’ decision was a major win for the Falcons, as he recently placed fifth at the 2019 Basspro.com Central Open at Smith Lake. Against a field of nearly 200 professional anglers, the 12th-grader set his hook into 40 pounds, 11 ounces during the three-day tournament in Cullman. Phillips came up two pounds, seven ounces shy of tournament champion, Caleb Kuphall.
Phillips, 18, points to the experience he received two years earlier when he became the youngest angler to fish the Central Open. His youth was apparent, as he finished in last place in 2017, but the tournament aided his growth.
“I ended up bombing that one,” said Phillips of his 2017 showing. “It made me think I was no good, but I kept finishing and I came back to Smith Lake two years later and I [qualified] for that one.”
His fifth-place finish was good for $9,920 of total winnings.
The Gardendale alum will compete in the High School Fishing World Finals from June 18-22 at Pickwick Lake in Florence, Ala. He will fish alongside his younger brother Fletcher, a rising sophomore at Gardendale.
“He’ll probably end up being better than me,” said Phillips of Fletcher. “He always fished up with me. So when he was a seventh-grader, he was fishing against high-schoolers. When he gets to my age, he will have been doing it a lot longer than I have.”
“We didn’t start fishing until probably three years ago, and we go about every day now,” he continued.
Phillips said he didn’t really inherit fishing from his family. He simply happened along the bait and tackle while his dad, Grady, owned Grabow Outdoors in Fultondale. Grady bought the boat and started out in some local water. It didn’t take long for his sons to dive full-length into the deceptive art of bass fishing.
Phillips hopes to fish the Costa FLW Series as a freshman at Montevallo next season.