Two students from Riceville are bringing home a national bass fishing championship after they competed in the four-day Student Angler Federation 2020 High School Fishing World Finals and National Championship combined event in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
Lawson Losee, 16, and 15-year-old Kooper Tweite took first place out of 312 teams from 39 states in the tournament and have qualified for Saturday’s one-day world finals.
“I still can’t believe it. It’s crazy honestly,” Tweite said. “Out of 312 teams, a little 800-population Riceville team came and won it all. It’s ridiculous.”
The tournament started on Wednesday, where teams spent two days trying to qualify for the national championship event on Friday. On Wednesday night, the boys found themselves in 14th place overall. After Thursday, the pair sat in first headed into the championship round.
“We knew if we kept doing what we’re doing and the fish were biting, that we would have a good day again,” Losee said. “We did the same exact thing today (Friday) as we did Thursday and it was awesome.”
The tournament gives out over $3.2 million in scholarships and other prizes. Losee and Tweite were each awarded a $5,000 scholarship check to a school of their choosing, along with reels, hats and trophies.
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“We were joking and we told our friends that we were going to go down and win this, but it was honestly a joke,” Tweite said. “We weren’t expecting to make top 10, but we came out on top.”
The pair won the Mississippi River tournament with a 30-pound, 4-ounce total bag over the three-day tournament. Coming into Friday, they held a one-pound advantage over the next best team.
On Friday, Losee and Tweite brought in an 11-pound, 2-ounce bag, the second-biggest of the entire tournament, to get the victory.
“We fished the same spot all three days and we found it’s got a light current, a lot of weeds,” Tweite said. “We just fished that weed line with finesse fishing, sinkos and jigs. We just picked it apart really slowly. We would get a bite every 25, 30 minutes, and every bite was a big fish.”
The boys got into bass-fishing tournaments when Tweite’s older brother and stepbrother participated in tournaments a few years ago.
“We’ve been best friends since we were three,” Tweite said. “His mom and my mom are best friends. I’ve always fished with my grandpa and my grandpa has always took him fishing. We’ve always fished together.”
Losee, a three-sport athlete who participates in football, wrestling and baseball, says he had to convince his baseball coaches at Riceville to let him miss a couple games to compete in the tournament.
“I told the coaches that I was going to have to miss this game, because I like fishing a little bit more,” Lawson said with a laugh. “They agreed with it and I’m pretty sure they’re pretty happy for me now.”
With a trophies in the back of their trucks, the boys can head home to Riceville happy.
“I couldn’t be more happy,” Lawson said. “Awesome experience and I loved every single moment of it.”
Gunnar Davis covers education and sports. Reach him via email at Gunnar.Davis@GlobeGazette.com or by phone 641-421-0598.