Before Garrett McWilliams and Dalton Smith ever reeled in the fish that would win them tournaments, they remember some simpler trips out on the water.
“I think I was with a Dora the Explorer rod that you go buy from Walmart, or a Spiderman rod, something like that,” McWilliams said with a laugh.
“Fishing with my dad,” Smith said. “I remember when I was in kindergarten and stuff, I didn’t really want to go to school. So he would just take me out and we would go fishing.”
Now, they’ve grown up to make history as high school anglers. Smith and McWilliams are the first Bassmaster High School All-Americans from Mississippi in the four years the team has been named.
The two will travel to fish with 10 other All-American’s, as well as Elite Series Anglers, on Lake Travis in Texas from May 17-20. At first, they couldn’t believe they made it.
“Pretty much shock, really,” McWilliams said of his initial reaction to the news. “I didn’t think it was going to happen, just because of all the people in the sport and situation.”
“The realization of being one of the best is something I had to take in,” Smith said.
McWilliams, a Discovery Christian School junior, and Smith, a Northwest Rankin sophomore, have combined to win six tournaments over the past year. They enjoy the intensity of the competitions with the relaxing feeling of being in their own element on the water.
“It’s more peaceful than the city or school or anything like that,” Smith said. “Just being out here on the water, it’s like you’re by yourself doing what you love. I describe it like being at your favorite restaurant, eating your favorite food.”
“You go catch a little fish in a little pond, it’s like yeah, I caught a fish,” McWilliams said. “But when you catch a fish in a tournament, it’s a bigger deal.”
And the two know how big of a deal it is to represent their state at such an event for the first time.
“It means that Mississippi is showing out,” Smith said.
“There are more opportunities, more doors to be opened for other anglers as well,” McWilliams said.