BUCKHANNNON – A local Buckhannon boy and his partner were the champions at the 2020 West Virginia B.A.S.S. Nation Junior State Championship.
Bo Hollen and his partner Ari Clark won the championship title in the ages 7-to-14-year-old category Aug. 23, and now they will move on to the national competition Oct. 19 and 20 at the Carroll County Thousand Acre Recreation Lake in Tennessee.
Bo’s mother, Dustynn McHenry, said he has been fishing with his father for years.
“Bo’s father has been fishing since he was about Bo’s age, and he did competitive fishing 15 or 17 years ago, so when Bo got old enough, he had to go out on the boat and learn how to fish,” McHenry said. “He was just a natural at it, so his dad started putting him in tournaments about a year ago.”
Bo and Ari were the runners-up at the state competition last year and placed ninth out of 62 teams at the national competition.
“This will be his second time at nationals, but his first time going as the state champion and he and Ari are still the youngest team,” McHenry said.
Hollen’s father and boat captain Dustin Hollen said Bo and Ari were eight and nine years old when they first qualified for nationals.
“Last year, when Bo and Ari qualitied for nationals, they were eight and nine, and this year they are both 10, but to me, between nine to 14 years old is a big age difference, and they definitely impressed a lot of people,” Hollen said. “They’re definitely not scared of the older kids.”
McHenry said she’s happy Bo found something he loves to do and will open opportunities for him in the future.
“I’m extremely happy and proud of him,” McHenry said. “This is something we have never forced him to do, and it’s just come natural to him. Anything that he does – whether it’s riding his dirt bike or playing basketball or fishing – I want him to always have fun. I don’t want him to feel like it’s become a job.”
However, if Bo does continue down the fishing path, McHenry said she would be thrilled.
“I’d love to see him go on and do a lot with this fishing,” she said. “There’s a lot more with it now than there used to be, and he could get a scholarship to college for four years to fish if they win nationals.”
McHenry said she attended the state tournament last year, but she could not go this year because of COVID-19.
“That was a bummer because I couldn’t be there in person to see my child’s joy, winning first place, but that phone call … I can still remember like it was yesterday and his excitement in his voice! Win or lose I’m proud of them, but I was very, very excited,” McHenry said.
Hollen said the ranks will be based on the five biggest largemouth, small mouth and spotted bass caught during the tournament.
“They’re putting 70 teams on one lake this year and it was crowded last year, but this year, it’s going a little bit more crowded,” Hollen said. “I think we’ll be alright; we get two days of practice to go down there to try to find something, so we’ll come up with a game plan.”