Published Sunday, March 10, 2013

Local West Georgia student heads to national bass championship

By DOUG GORMAN

dgorman@newnan.com

Newnan High School graduate Kenny Johnson loved baseball.

However, a shoulder injury derailed his career after his freshman season with the Cougars.

Johnson didn’t sit around feeling sorry for himself. He turned his competitive fire from the baseball diamond to the water. These days Johnson spends a lot of time fishing in local tournaments.

His love of the sport also gave him the idea to form the University of West Georgia Bass Club.

“When I am not in class, I can usually be found on the water,” said Johnson, a freshman economics major.

Johnson admits fishing fills the void he has since having to give up baseball.

“I know there are a lot of former athletes who love fishing who for one reason or another that aren’t playing sports in college,” Johnson said. “This gives them a chance to still compete and have some fun.”

It didn’t take long for the University of West Georgia Bass Club to establish itself as a national power.

Competing in its very first College Series Regional Tournament, the West Georgia student anglers finished 10th out of 120 teams during the competition held on the Harris Chain of Lakes near Orlando, Fla.

Now, one of newest teams on the college bass fishing circuit has qualified for the Carhartt Bassmaster College National Championships to be held Aug 1-3 at the Chatuge Reservoir near Young Harris College.

Johnson and Brandon Larry led the way for West Georgia during a three-day tournament that included a slow start.

After the first day of competition at the Regional, West Georgia caught just one fish. The second day the anglers struck out, failing to land anything in their boat.

Things turned around for West Georgia in the third day of the competition, as it moved from 37th place to 10th place after finishing with a three-day total of 27 pounds.

West Georgia found itself fishing against more established clubs, some from Division-I schools, with big budgets and fancier equipment.

Although the University of West Georgia Bass Club gets some sponsorship money, a large portion of their expenses come out of their own pocket.

“It is tough some times to go up against those bigger schools,” he said. “Many of them are given boats by their sponsors. Some even have scholarship money. We just go out there and do the best we can.”

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