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Anglin' for the future: Camdenton High School fishing duo set to compete in national championship

MICHAEL LOSCH, Lake Sun Sports Editor
Camdenton sophomores Caden Kowal (left) and Reece Waters (right).

Camdenton sophomores Reece Waters and Caden Kowal call Lake of the Ozarks home. The body of water may also be the catalyst for their futures. 

Waters and Kowal teamed up and started fishing competitively together last year and the Laker duo got off to a fairly good start after winning the 2019 Bass Pro Shops FLW (Fishing League Worldwide) High School Fishing Lake of the Ozarks Open in October. Winning that tournament featuring 56 different teams with a five-bass limit of 11 pounds and seven ounces automatically qualified the pair of anglers in the 2020 FLW High School Fishing National Championship that is set to take place June 23-27 on the Mississippi River in La Crosse, Wisconsin. 

The duo gave themselves a decent amount of slack as well as the top 10 percent of any team event for students in grades 7-12 at schools affiliated with the Student Angler Federation (SAF) qualify for the championship. Not a bad start in the world of competitive fishing where another tournament win next week will result in each angler receiving $5,000 in scholarship money to the school of their choice. 

“It means a lot because you can actually win scholarships so we want to do really good to get all that, just make Camdenton proud and help our sponsors get their name out there,” Waters said of the opportunity.

Since the tournament in October, Kowal and Waters also competed in another tournament at Table Rock Lake in Branson on March 7 where they placed sixth with a five-bass limit of 13 pounds and two ounces. They also placed second in a recent local tournament last week. 

Having a body of water like the Lake of the Ozarks to use may have something to do with that kind of successful track record.  

“It helped us grow because we can go practice and keep our skills up to date and not get rusty,” Waters explained. “It helps us because we can go fishing every weekend together and go fishing as much as we want because the Lake is right there.” 

Considering the opportunity ahead next week and the future bass fishing can provide, Kowal was certainly glad that his father encouraged him to start fishing in the first place. 

“When I started fishing I loved it and then I met Reece,” the sophomore remarked. 

“Just hope we keep it going, get some good scholarship offers and go from there.” 

Kowal and Waters noted they both have been fishing overall for about five years and their relationship began before they entered the competitive ranks. It is a bond they continue to enjoy as they see what the sport has to offer. 

“The bond is pretty good. Sometimes we get mad at each other and have little fights about stupid stuff,” Waters said with a smile, “but it has just been great. It is a good partnership.” 

Now, that bond will take the duo to a new body of water they have never fished before. The tournament, located about eight hours and 474 miles from Camdenton, should provide a good challenge and the duo will look to rely on past experiences to find the bass they are looking for. 

“We’ll just have to go out and throw different lures and see what is going to work and not going to work,” Kowal explained.  

Whatever happens next week, there should be opportunities in the future to qualify for the national championship should they not get the results they are looking for. 

“Hopefully we qualify for it again,” Waters stated. “I think there is another one here next year. If we don’t do good in La Crosse and it is there again- which it probably is going to be- then we’ll qualify and have things in the back of our minds in terms of what to do.” 

FLW also announced that the winning team at the national championship will advance to the 2020 FLW Series Championship to compete as co-anglers and fish for the top prize of $30,000. But the national championship will not be the only event where anglers can win scholarships or prizes. All high school anglers nationwide automatically qualify for the world’s largest open high school bass tournament, the High School Fishing World Finals, that is held in conjunction with the national championship. At the 2019 World Finals, anglers competed for more than $2.8 million in scholarships and prizes. 

Plenty of incentive for Waters and Kowal to cast a line and see what they catch. It will be important for them to remember what the bass have taught them, though. 

“You have to be patient because bites are not going to come every second that passes. You have to really be patient for what you want,” Waters noted. 

“If you don’t do good the first time, just keep trying because it is trial and error so just keep pushing and fishing.”