By MICHAEL FRETT
SOUTH HERO – Competitive fishing skills learned on Lake Champlain helped bring a local high school angler to a national competition last month.
Andrew Goodrich of South Hero competed at the Bass Federation’s National Championship, trading the familiar waters of Lake Champlain for a Louisiana stretch of the Red River for a week in March.
Goodrich, an Essex High School junior, ultimately came in fifth in his division, making him ineligible for the competition’s championship round. The South Hero angler said, however, that despite “not doing as well as we would have liked,” the experience was great.
The competition’s structure, which pairs a “boater” with a “co-angler” depending on whether they piloted the pair’s boat or simply fished from the boat, meant Goodrich spent a significant amount of time with other anglers from across the U.S.
The time spent with other anglers, hailing from locales as widespread as Oregon and West Virginia, gave Goodrich a chance to learn new ways to fish in a sport that can seem to have as many different approaches as there are unique waterways.
“I definitely learned a lot,” Goodrich told The Islander. “I was able to pick up a lot of new techniques and learned knew ways to fish and new ways to think about fishing.”
Goodrich’s coach, Essex High School educator C. R. Wood, seemed to share Goodrich’s positive feelings about the competition. It was the first time a member of Essex’s angling team managed to compete at a national level since the team’s creation several years ago, according to Wood.
“It was great to see someone take their skills and their passion and succeed like Andrew did,” Wood said. “It’s also good for other students to see what Andrew accomplished.”
Goodrich traced his interest in competitive angling to growing up fishing along the Champlain Islands’ shores. He recalled spending time fishing in both South Hero and with grandparents in nearby Alburgh, creating what Goodrich called a “passion for fishing.”
“I’ve always fished,” Goodrich said. “I grew up fishing.”
That passion naturally mixed with a love for competition.
In an interview this week with The Islander, Goodrich described himself as a “competitive person” who could also be found representing Essex High School on both the basketball court and volleyball court, as well as the baseball diamond every academic year.
During his interview, however, Goodrich seemed to hint toward fishing being the likely favorite among his different athletic outings, comparing a great day on the water to the rush of hitting a homerun during the baseball season.
“You have so much drive to do better each day,” he said, “and coming home with a 20-pound bag feels better than a homerun.”
As a competitive sport, Wood and Goodrich said fishing becomes more of a game of patterns for its respective anglers. Competitors have to be quicker and react more immediately to conditions on the water, the two said.
“It’s all about figuring out a pattern,” Goodrich said. “You have to be quick.”
Goodrich also had special praise for the lake where he first learned to fish, calling Lake Champlain one of the “greatest fisheries in the world” during the interview.
“I just think people should know how great of a fishery Lake Champlain is,” he said.
To qualify for the Bass Federation competition in Louisiana, Goodrich had to win locally. The South Hero angler qualified after winning a regional competition against fellow Vermont anglers held last September off the coast of South Hero’s own John Guilmette Fishing Access Area.
Goodrich said he expected to compete again in those same tournaments this coming fall. If all goes according to plan, the South Hero athlete said he hopes to return to the Bass Federation’s national competition next year.
“Hopefully, I’ll be back next spring,” he said.