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Young pair reaches fishing championship

Submitted photo A.J. Bouch, left, and Garrett Dean hold up their fish after competing in the Ohio BASS National High School Championship at Mosquito Lake.

A.J. Bouch of North Jackson and Garrett Dean of Beloit made the most of their first time fishing together and now have a chance to win a national championship.

The two young anglers were paired up in the recent Ohio BASS National High School Championship at Mosquito Lake. They finished second overall and earned berths in the Mossy Oak High School National Championship in October.

The Mosquito tournament was Bouch’s first competition after joining the Student Fishing League operated by Harry Emmerling of East Liverpool. Dean has been a member for several years. When Emmerling learned Dean needed a partner for the Ohio BASS Nation tournament, he recommended the two high school seniors team up.

The student anglers were aboard the boat of tournament veteran Mark Franko of Cortland, who has been Bouch’s bass mentor. It turned out to be a formidable combination.

Dean and Bouch brought a limit of five bass to the scales during the first day of competition. Their first-day catch weighed 9.90 pounds. Their fishing on Day 2 netted another limit, weighing 11.60 pounds, and the day’s biggest bass, but the fishing was not without drama.

The Bouch-Dean team had fished acres of Mosquito’s massive grass mats during the first round under a cloudy sky, pounding the vegetation with a one-two punch featuring a buzz-toad on the surface and follow-up stick worm and tube.

Day two was sunny, however, and the buzz-toad bite faded. They adjusted their tactical approach and in the final 90 minutes of fishing boated eight bass, most of them falling victim to the Bandito Bug from Googan Baits. They flipped the lures into holes in the weeds in 3 to 5 feet of water. They also scored the day’s biggest bass.

The new teammates weren’t familiar with each other prior to the Mosquito tournament, but they quickly figured out how to work together to capitalize on their strengths.

“I wasn’t sure how we would do at first,” said Bouch, who will be a senior this fall at Jackson-Milton. “After the first day, I felt confident going into the second day, and now I’m pretty excited to be going to the national championship.”

Dean, a senior at Mahoning County Career and Technical Center in Canfield, said Bouch ran the trolling motor and worked the surface lure.

“When he’d get a blow-up on the buzz toad, I’d follow up with a Senko,” he said.

Dean also used a blue and green pumpkin tube. He is the son of Rick and Julie Dean of Beloit and plans to start his career as an electrician after graduation.

Bouch is the son of Andy and Angela Dean of North Jackson. He will study at Hocking College for a career as a game warden. He also gives a lot of credit to Franko for helping grow his interest in bass fishing, including giving him his first baitcasting reel.

“He’s the reason I started bass fishing,” Bouch said. “He teaches me about patience, and that if things aren’t going well I need to knuckle down.”

Emmerling is impressed by the success of the young anglers and their work ethic.

“My impression of Bouch is he’s a real good kid with a passion for the outdoors, especially fishing,” Emmerling said. “Dean is a great kid, always easy-going, and has really done well. He consistently catches fish in our Student Fishing League events.”

The national championship tournament is scheduled for Oct. 3 and 4. The host lake has not been announced yet.

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