GREENEVILLE, S.C. – Jacob Foutz, the 19-year-old Bryan College student fishing his first ever Bassmaster Classic, began the second day of competition with a bang. Foutz put five keeper bass, his limit, in the boat between 8:08 and 9:46 am.
The quick catch propelled him up on the BassTrakk Leaderboard well above the Top 25 cut needed to qualify to fish the final day of competition on Sunday. Then his bite died.
Slowly but surely over the next few hours other competitors worked their way up the board knocking Foutz back down. Foutz’s final weight was 21 pounds 6 ounces, ending in 39th place. Jason Christie holds the top spot with 37 pounds four ounces.
“I spent five hours today fishing for largemouth and couldn’t get a bite,” said Foutz. “I went back to the spotted bass and culled a few, but not enough obviously. I’m disappointed but on the other hand I’m here at the Bassmaster Classic so you can’t be upset.”
Foutz is the youngest angler in the field. The young man earned a spot in the Classic by winning the 2017 Carhartt College National Championship.
You couldn’t see any disappointment on the young man’s face when he took to the weigh-in stage with Bassmaster MC Dave Mercer. Earlier this year Mercer nicknamed Foutz “The Paperboy” because the college sophomore looks so young.
Saturday Foutz played it to the hilt, waltzing on stage with a newspaper in his pocket to deliver to Mercer. The crowd loved it, as did Mercer who asked Foutz to autograph the newspaper because, “Someday you’re going to be back here and that autograph is going to be worth some money.”
Afterwards Foutz said, “I’m surely blessed just to be able to walk across that stage. It’s even cooler when the Bassmaster MC gives you a cool nickname like The Paperboy. So I just tried to embrace that and have fun with it. That’s what fishing is all about is having fun. Sure we’re out here competing and we’re all serious and stuff, but you never want to forget what the sport is all about and that’s having fun.”
We may have seen the last of Foutz in the 2018 Bassmaster Classic but he insists he’ll be back.
“I’m going to do whatever it takes to get back here,” he said admanantly. “This has been the best week of my life. It’s just added fuel to the fire. This is something I’ve always dreamed about doing and now that I’ve done it I want to get back so bad.”
Chattanooga-area anglers still certainly have a hometown boy to root for however. Jacob Wheeler ended Day Two in 7th place, about 6.5 pounds away from leader, Jason Christie.
Wheeler moved to Chattanooga last May. One of best friends, Seth Davis, lived here and Wheeler wanted to be near Chickamauga Lake, what he has described as being “in the middle of bass fishing country.”
“When I told my wife she says, ‘Whoa, wait a minute. What?,” said Wheeler. “We went down to visit and she said, ‘Absolutely.’ She loves the place. Every day we continue to get more and more attached to the area.”
For now, however, Wheeler is focused on what he needs to do tomorrow.
“It’ll just take a little bit of luck,” he said. “Today I never caught anything more than a three-pounder. But catch three of those and mix in two six-pounders and you’ve got 21 pounds. I feel like I’m on a good pattern and I’m around some quality fish. I’ve just got to get a couple of those big bites.