Vandagriff earns national recognition capping outstanding high school career
A McMinnville student who considers Center Hill Lake his home waters has been named to the 2018 Bassmaster High School All-American Fishing Team.
Samuel Vandagriff, a senior at Warren County High, is among just 12 young anglers from the around the country — one of only two from Tennessee — to earn the prestigious recognition.
He landed the All-American designation after his name rose to the top of a nomination pool consisting of more than 465 names. The Bassmaster organization executives who made the selections said their criteria included not just on-the-water skills and success, but also dedication to academics and good citizenship.
“Samuel also leads off the water in his school, church and community, participating in things like hurricane relief, Habitat for Humanity and Relay for Life,” said David Lowrie, Tennessee B.A.S.S. Nation High School state director. “Samuel provides leadership for Warren County’s fishing team and sets an example for other Tennessee B.A.S.S. Nation high school and junior anglers.”
Samuel will now get to compete against other Bassmaster All-Americans at a special high school tournament being held in conjunction with the professional 2018 Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest beginning May 17.
J.W. Holt, a teacher at Warren County High who serves as the school’s fishing-club faculty advisor, described Samuel’s All-American award as “a very huge accomplishment” that has been terrific both for the school itself and building youth enthusiasm for competition fishing.
“It’s brought us a lot of attention, and put us in a good spotlight,” said Holt, who helped organize the Warren County High School bass club’s launch six years ago. Holt said the fishing club, for which Samuel serves as president, has been growing every year.
“It’s really unbelievable and amazing how it has taken off,” he said.
Holt said Samuel, who turns 18 this summer, has been a tournament standout since he started fishing with the club as an eighth grader, when he was part of a nationally ranked duo with another astute young Warren County angler, Hunter Bouldin, who’s now on the FLW circuit.
“Samuel is very persistent and he practices a lot — he just has a knack for it,” said Holt. “He’s really good at what he does, and he’s one of these kids that can handle pressure. It always seems like he’s on top of things.”
Learning the Ways of Lunkers
Samuel said he’s been fishing for as long as his memory serves. He credits his dad and grandfathers for teaching him tricks for tracking down and hooking fish early on that have continued to serve him well.
One of the keys to tournament fishing success is versatility, said Samuel. He advises youngsters who want to make a name for themselves boating big bass to get comfortable with all kinds of angling tactics and techniques.
“Putting your time in is pretty much the biggest thing,” he said. “Figure out what you’re best at, and then once you figure that out, work on learning new stuff.”
A big secret to consistent tournament success is “getting good at fishing everything,” he said.
“I catch a lot of fish shallow, but then again I like catching them deep just as well,” said Samuel. “Most people can either do one or the other — they’re either out there deep or up in the trees. They don’t go back and forth. But not every tournament is going to be won shallow and not every tournament is going to be won deep. You’ve got to be able to fish all of it.”
Family Values Fishing
Samuel’s parents, Barry and Shannon, obviously have a lot to boast about these days — and not just because of Samuel’s successes. Their younger son, Matthew, is Samuel’s fishing partner and a rising star himself. Samuel and Matthew have qualified for nationals every year they’ve been fishing together. Last year they placed fifth in the Bassmaster National Championship tournament.
Barry also serves as their coach and manager. “I buy the gas and drive the boat,” he said. As Samuel puts it, “He’s always our boat captain.”
It never took much coaxing to interest the boys in wetting a line when they were little, Barry said. Both got pretty serious about it “as soon as they could hold a pole.”
“I guess it’s in their blood,” he said.
In the fall, Samuel is planning to attend Tennessee Tech in Cookeville. Ironically enough, the only other 2018 Bassmaster High School All-American from Tennessee — Jacob Woods of Lenoir City High School — intends to go to TTU as well. Samuel said he and Jacob have become good friends over the years and expects they’ll be fishing partners in the college tournaments.