“Show up and dominate” is the motto of high school bass tournament partners Dylan Parham and Thomas Zaczek.
The pair fishes for Mill Creek High School in Gwinnett County and are currently practicing for the B.A.S.S. Nation State Classic Oct. 17-18 at Lake Hartwell.
To qualify for the State Classic at Hartwell, anglers must fish in and finish in the top 10 at one of four qualifier tournaments. The Mill Creek duo easily met that goal. Thomas and Dylan finished third at Lake Seminole, second at West Point and second at Clarks Hill.
Dylan, who is a sophomore, paired with Thomas after finding out Thomas needed a partner for his senior season on the B.A.S.S. Nation trail. Once they paired together, the two began fishing in ponds throughout the area for practice and to get used to one another and their styles of fishing.
“A lot of time, effort and practice is required to succeed in this sport,” said Thomas.
Thomas said they can never be too prepared when it comes to tournament fishing. Both anglers stressed the importance of making sure their equipment is always in good working condition.
“Also, be prepared for that moment when there is only five minutes left to fish, and you still need to catch another one,” said Thomas. “It is all about winning, all about catching a big stringer, you know.”
Along with making trips to Lake Hartwell to scout for fishing spots, they have been seeking advice from locals who fish at the lake regularly. Thomas and Dylan use every resource they possibly can to their advantage.
“I just love it,” says Dylan, “Knowing all the time and work we put into this, but it’s still fun for us.”
According to both young men, it took months to “be on top.” They both have learned how to be confident going into every tournament. With 40 to 50 boats competing at the B.A.S.S. Nation Classic, Thomas and Dylan said they must stay focused on their goal.
“I think it’s great that the organization is growing quickly,” said Thomas. “I love promoting it. You can never have too much competition.”
When Thomas and Dylan arrive at the boat ramp on tournament days, they scope out their surroundings and check to see what everyone else is doing to prepare. Thomas said Mill Creek High School is by far the most competitive team in the state.
“Competition is fun. It is good to give our school’s program momentum and confidence,” Thomas said.
Dylan agreed and said both of them have set high goals, which includes making it to the professional level someday. To achieve such high standards, one must start fishing at an early age (like both did) and never give up, even on the bad days.
“On a bad day, Dylan and I still stick it out,” said Thomas. “We sit there, think, regain our confidence and don’t collapse.”
To qualify for nationals, the duo must finish in the top two at the state Classic in October at Lake Hartwell. From there, they would travel to compete against the other top-two teams from different states at a chance for a national title and scholarship opportunities. That tournament location will not be announced until January.
For the next month, Thomas and Dylan will continue to be open minded to any obstacles they may face while keeping their eyes on the prize. Thomas described how great of an experience it is to meet new people with different fishing styles, see new lakes and get a chance at greater opportunities.
Dylan hopes to continue his high school fishing career even after Thomas graduates.
“We’ve connected great,” said Dylan. “We couldn’t have asked for a better season so far.”
After graduation, Thomas may donate (if possible) his previously earned scholarship money to someone who is in need of education funding. Thomas placed No. 10 in the nation during his first year of fishing in the B.A.S.S. Nation trail.
“Nothing beats the high energy in the early morning before take off,” said Dylan.
With the state tournament quickly approaching, their excitement continues to grow.
“Teamwork, teamwork, teamwork… That’s what it’s all about,” said Thomas.
B.A.S.S. Nation Tournament director Wes Meadows spoke highly of both young men.
“Thomas is a top notch kid; I can’t say enough great things about him. I think the world of him,” said Wes. “He has come a long way, and now being a senior, he exceeds expectations.”
Approximately 150 Georgia teams are currently fishing in the B.A.S.S. Nation trail.
For more information on how to get your school started in this rapidly growing organization, contact Tournament Director Wes Meadows at (229) 416-5661. You can also go to http://georgiabassnation.com/.