More than 100 two-student teams are expected in Dayton this Saturday for the Tennessee high school fishing tournament.
"The last time I checked late last week, 96 teams had registered, so we'll probably have more than 100 boats for the tournament," Rhea County coach Brian Derlak said. "We're super tickled at the opportunity to have a state tournament right here in Dayton."
Takeoff from the Dayton Boat Dock is scheduled for 6:15 a.m.; weigh-in is at 3 p.m.
Area schools participating in the tournament along with Rhea County are East Hamilton, Grundy County, Silverdale Baptist and Soddy-Daisy.
While some teams will be getting their first competitive look at Lake Chickamauga, Silverdale hosted a tournament there on May 17. A Rhea County team (Justin Wright and Cody Gunter) won it, and a Soddy-Daisy duo (Slater Daniel and Eli Thomas) finished second.
"We're just getting together and figuring this out and trying to make it happen. This is our first year," said Tim Hodges, Soddy-Daisy's team sponsor. "I think you'd have to say our more experienced coaches are Jeff Daniel, Mike Thomas and Stony Johnson."
Although one of his duos won the Silverdale tournament, Derlak didn't see Chickamauga as a advantage.
"Home-lake advantage doesn't always play out in fishing. Like anything else you do, the effort you put into it, the dividends will eventually pay off," he said. "This lake changes so much all the time with the water rising and falling, and when we started in February we were fishing winter patterns and now it's summer patterns. Who knows? Anybody can pull up on the right bank at the right time."
Grundy coach David Lowrie agreed.
"We probably fished more than any other teams at last year's [state tournament] site (Nickajack Lake), and we didn't win," he said. "It's fishing -- finding them and getting them in the boat."
Grundy is bringing two former national champions to test the field in Dakota Cantrell, who took national titles in 2010 on Chickamauga and 2012 in Eufaula, Ala., and Lowrie's son, Hank, who won last year on Clinton Lake in Illinois.
Rhea County and Grundy County expect to have 11 teams, Silverdale six, Soddy-Daisy six or seven and East Hamilton as many as three.
At least two of Rhea's competitors have fishing scholarships in hand. Devn Wallis and Dylan Pritchett have signed with Bryan College.
The tournament is being sponsored by The Bass Federaton and FLW.
Contact Ward Gossett at email@example.com or 423-886-4765. Follow him at Twitter.com/wardgossett.