Ben Fouts' first time as a co-angler in a fishing tournament turned out to be a grand experience.
Make that a three-grand experience.
The 22-year-old Morehead, Kentucky, resident who began work this month in a master's program at Lee University in Cleveland was the first-place co-angler in the Phoenix Bass Fishing League event last Saturday on Lake Guntersville. He shared a boat with an Alabama pro but clearly wasn't just along for the ride.
Fouts won $3,000 for his five-bass limit totaling 17 pounds, 1 ounce. He said he was using lipless crankbait in offshore grass. Runner-up Tony Pendley of Oakman, Alabama, got $1,500 for his 16-14 total.
"My pro was really happy for me. He high-fived me after I caught my last fish of the day," Fouts said Wednesday.
"I weighed my fish in the boat, so I had a pretty good idea of what I had, but I didn't know what everybody else had till I got to the weigh-in. I thought mine was probably in the top 10, but I had no idea I was the winner."
Chattanooga's Jacob Daily was fifth at 15-2, Athens' Lynn Spears 10th at 13-7 and Hixson's Rex Henry 15th at 12-1 in the 223-boat tournament based at Scottsboro's Goose Pond Colony.
Seven area anglers finished in the top 25 of the pro division, which was won by James Swindle of Parrish, Alabama, with 20-7. He received $6,000.
Brad Harmon of Ringgold tied for third at 17-11 and won $1,533, and Gavin Ainslie of Harrison was sixth at 17-9, good for $1,100.
Winchester's Michael Hood tied for 12th at 16-7, and Soddy- Daisy's Michael Lowry was 19th at 15-9, Dunlap's Marshall Deakins 20th at 15-4, Winchester's Rocco Simeri 21st at 15-3 and Hixson's Braden Marshall 23rd at 14-15.
Fouts has been fishing since childhood but did no tournament competition until high school. He won a Fishers of Men open tournament in Indiana during his undergraduate time at Greenville University in Illinois, but Saturday became the top highlight of his angling career — a first in a first.
* Fishing League Worldwide's top tour, now called the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit, began its 2020 season last weekend on Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Texas, and Miles Burghoff of Soddy-Daisy finished 18th at 41-3 for three days. He received $11,000. The $102,500 winner was John Cox of DeBary, Florida, with 65-15 for four days.
* Major League Fishing's Bass Pro Tour kicks off Feb. 7-12 with Stage One on Lake Eufaula in Alabama, and the two groups of 40 fishing on alternating days include Dayton's Andy Morgan and Spring City's John Murray in Group A and Harrison's Jacob Wheeler, Dayton's Michael Neal and Spring City's Wesley Strader in Group B.
Contact Ron Bush at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6291.