WANT TO TAKE a sneak peek at the future of bass fishing? Look no further than The Bass Federation’s Junior World Championship. It’s like any other pro bass tournament you might see on television, except the competitors are all 15 and under (there’s no minimum age limit). Each boat has an adult captain, but it’s up to the kids to do the fishing. They tie their own rigs, run the trolling motor, read graphs, and then give interviews and post their successes on social media when the competition is over. And just as in those pro-level tourneys, the anglers are decked out in logoed jerseys and there’s big money on the line. TBF’s junior division feeds its high school program, where anglers can earn full-ride scholarships to some of the top colleges in the country. “This gives those kids who are not your typical ball-and-stick athletes a chance to compete,” says Joey Bray, TBF’s national youth director. “When these kids fish in the Junior World Championship, they’re proud to wear their jerseys back at school.”

Angler holds up largemouth bass
Carson Bruner shows off one of five fish in his boat’s live well. Tom Fowlks
Landon Gabby ties on crankbait, Bruner polishes engine
From left: Landon Gabby ties on one of his favorite crankbaits; Bruner polishes the Merc before the next day’s start—just as in pro bass competitions, many of these kids fish from high-performance boats and use top-end gear. Tom Fowlks
Prepping bass boat at dawn.
Staging at the launch before dawn. Tom Fowlks
Anglers relax with video game
Bruner and teammate Gabby, from Illinois, unwind after the second day with a little home-run derby. Tom Fowlks
Keeper bass and bringing fish to the weigh-in
From left: West Virginia’s Aidan Crockett with a keeper during the finals; hauling a load of keepers to the weigh-in. Tom Fowlks
Anglers prep for the next day's fishing tournament
A team reviews strategy in the hotel parking lot before the finals. Tom Fowlks
Charlotte and Rayah Thoin fish from a boat
Sisters Charlotte and Rayah Thoin, from New Hampshire, cover water. Tom Fowlks
Wrestling after a day of fishing
Bruner and Gabby getting along just fine. Tom Fowlks
From left: Iowa’s Emmett King celebrates qualifying for the finals; Audrey Hermanson and Sydney Couillard of Minnesota hold up their five keepers after day two.
From left: Iowa’s Emmett King celebrates qualifying for the finals; Audrey Hermanson and Sydney Couillard of Minnesota hold up their five keepers after day two. Tom Fowlks
Two anglers cast from a boat
King and Draper work a log. Tom Fowlks
Jig and reel close-up
Ready to drop a jig. Tom Fowlks
Fishing tournament crowd
A tournament director hands out wristbands. Tom Fowlks
Crankbaits in a box and two kids wait with their fish for weigh-in
From left: A tray of crankbaits ready for battle; young guns wait to weigh their bag of fish. Tom Fowlks
Boating a fish with a net
A bird’s-eye view of King’s father netting one of Draper’s fish. Tom Fowlks
Cullum Brown and Dylan Sorrells with trophies
World champs: Cullum Brown and Dylan Sorrells from Dallas won the tournament by catching five fish weighing a total of 11 pounds 4 ounces in the finals. The team earned a $5,000 scholarship, which will be held until they’re old enough for college. Tom Fowlks

This story originally ran in the Traditions issue of Outdoor Life. Read more OL+ stories.