Briarwood’s Morris, Smith to compete in 50th Bassmaster Classic
By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor
NORTH SHELBY – Standing on stage in front of a packed auditorium with the lights dimmed and a congratulatory video playing on a big screen, Grayson Morris and Tucker Smith turned to each other in amazement with their jaws dropped as the video ended.
A duo that became the first to repeat as Bassmaster High School National Champions, the video explained the history they had made, before making the surprise announcement to the two anglers that they would be accomplishing one more first—becoming the first high school team to fish in the Bassmaster Classic.
Not only that, but they’ll be fishing in the 50th version of the event and it will take place in their hometown of Birmingham with all weigh ins happening at the BJCC and the competition taking place on Lake Guntersville.
The two got an email on Monday, Jan. 13, notifying them that they needed to be at Briarwood for a special ceremony, but all the two knew was that they would be receiving their championship rings.
“I had no idea,” Morris said. “When they made the announcement, we were super surprised and it’s something I’m looking forward to in March.”
All Smith knew was that his boat was being wrapped by Academy and B.A.S.S, so he was suspicious as to what was going on, but this hadn’t even crossed his mind.
“I was really surprised,” Smith said. “To be the first high school team that has fished this event is just crazy. I can’t believe it.”
What’s possibly most remarkable is that they will be the first high school duo to compete in the event, something many professional anglers don’t get the opportunity to do, while they’re already getting that chance.
“It’s everybody’s dream to fish in the Bassmaster Classic, even for the pros,” Smith said. “So to get that opportunity in high school is incredible.”
“At first, I was in disbelief,” Morris said. “We’re not only the first high school team to win two national championships, but the first ever to fish in the Bassmaster Classic. We have a shot to just go out there and fish together again.”
It’s actually going to reunite the team, as Morris graduated from Briarwood last spring and is now a freshman on the fishing team at the University of Montevallo, while Smith is still at BCS.
To reunite in this event gives them a special opportunity and is something each said they are looking forward to.
When they repeated as national champions, the two had an incredible comeback on the final day and picked up a narrow victory, and since then, the two have been on an emotional roller coaster that is flying by.
“Looking back at the national championship, I don’t even remember a lot of it because it all happened in a blur,” Morris said. “We won two and I never thought we’d have that happen in the first place. Now, I’m in even more disbelief.”
Now, they’ll be part of a 53-man field featuring the best anglers in fishing, as they compete in the most famous fishing event in the country. On the second day of action, which is March 7, their boat, which was specially wrapped, will lead out a field of the best anglers in the world.
Smith admitted that would be emotional.
“In the high school championship, I actually shed a tear,” Smith said. “It was pretty emotional. So it’s going to be tough to hold those emotions in check for this event. It’s going to be crazy fishing against those guys. Honestly, I just hope I walk up on stage with a fish.”
But it offers the opportunity to compete against role models like Chris Zaldain and Gerald Swindle, as well as an opportunity to learn what it takes to compete at the highest level of the sport with a bright future ahead.
“Just to be able to compete against guys like that is something I never thought I’d be able to do,” Morris said. “It’s a dream come true.”
As for their chances in the event, Smith said one aspect may help out.
“We have a hometown advantage,” Smith said with a smile. “But against the pros, it’s obviously going to be tough, but I’m excited for that opportunity.”
The payout for the field is $1 million, while the winner will get $300,000. The two anglers will get to not only compete in the event, but will also be a part of media days and other special events throughout the three-day event that will take place March 6-8.