Lynn Burkhead — Pottsboro angling team hopes to win state on home lake
Tyler Farris, an 18-year old senior at Pottsboro, is certainly no stranger to pressure packed moments.
After all, he was a cornerback in the end zone with less than a minute to play during the 2019 3A D-I state semifinals as the outcome hung in the balance while a trick-play pass spiraled through the air.
When the play was over Farris had wrestled the ball away and stood in the end zone with an interception that had just helped send Pottsboro to the state championship game for the first time in school history with a 36-35 victory.
Farris experienced a similar moment of déjà vu a few weeks ago as he and fellow Cardinals senior Charlie Holder occupied the bass rig of Bob Hawkins, the boat captain for their high school bass fishing team.
With a trip to this weekend’s Texas High School Bass Association state tournament on Lake Texoma riding on the outcome of their performance during the regional competition at Lake Lewisville, the angling team stared down their final chance to qualify for state a year after COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the 2020 state tournament last May.
As the recent afternoon wound down, they had caught no fish and were in danger of missing out on the state title derby in their own backyard.
But that’s when the magic of the Cardinal’s fishing “Dream Team” surfaced, thanks in part to Farris, and in equal part, to Holder as well.
“We had one bite all day,” said Holder, 17, who will attend Southeastern Oklahoma State University after he graduates.
Determined to persevere to the end and find a way to make something good happen, the pair kept grinding away until the moment when everything changed.
“I was throwing a jig and threw it into a tiny opening between two trees that had fallen and laid over each other,” said Farris. “It wasn’t a very big spot, maybe the size of a volleyball. I felt some weight at the end of my line, pulled hard and tried to set the hook, and had the jig come flying back at me with the pincers of the soft craw trailer eaten off. I told Charlie to throw right back in there and he quickly did.”
This time, it was Holder coming up with the miraculous catch as the clock wound down. When the angling play was complete, Holder had plenty to talk about.
“I was fishing a Texas-rigged Strike King Rage Tail Craw, a four-inch soft plastic in black and blue,” said Holder. “I threw in there and felt that initial thud as the bass about took the rod out of my hand. It dang sure wanted it and I set the hook pretty hard.”
So hard, in fact, that the small bass came flying up out of the water and into Hawkins' bass rig.
“It only weighed 1.86 pounds, but it was the most beautiful sight I’ve ever laid my eyes on,” said Holder.
Farris added: “It was pure fishing instincts and perfectly executed teamwork on that crucial catch."
Indeed, it was, although the two friends didn’t know it at the time.
“We were both stressed out on that ride back, and honestly, I didn’t think we were going to do it (qualify for state),” said Holder, who plans on majoring in fisheries and wildlife science at SOSU, going to law school, and practicing environmental law someday. “I’ll admit that we were pretty down, thinking about it being our senior year, not getting to fish last year despite qualifying for state, and then potentially missing out this year on our home water.”
As it turned out, Holder and Farris did have reason to sweat it out at the final weigh in. But when the final scores had been tallied, they also had reason to celebrate a state tournament berth by only 2/10 of a pound.
“Yeah, it was definitely a roller coaster of emotion, from thinking we hadn’t qualified on the ride back to finding out when the weigh-in was over that we had qualified by only a couple of ounces,” said Holder.
“Yes sir, we couldn’t have asked for anything better,” said Farris, who along with Holder, has fished consistently enough this season to earn a ninth-place finish in the regional standings and a berth in the THSBA’s Angler of the Year tournament on Lake Grapevine in a few weeks.
While the Cardinals football team ended up falling short in a thrilling loss to Grandview in the 2019 state title game at AT&T Stadium, Farris and Holder both plan to put a state championship trophy into the school’s trophy case this weekend and secure a title for those who came before them.
“That’s the plan,” said Farris, who has already passed his dual credit EMT training and hopes to become a paramedic after graduation. “We’re going to approach it with the mindset of fishing off the current water temperature at Texoma, the current water clarity, and the shad spawn. We’ll base our decisions off what we find on practice day (today) and adjust accordingly.”
With Texoma changing almost daily due to the recent rainfall and wild temperature swings — and the lake being off-limits all week to fishing and intel gathering — today’s official practice session is crucial to the pair’s success this weekend. If Farris and Holder want to triumph over the 270-plus qualifying teams at Texoma, they’ll need their A-game on the 89,000-acre reservoir.
“We feel like we need to find some clear water to find some fish,” said Holder. “But with the recent inflow and stained water, that’s going to be a tough assignment.”
Tough assignment, yes, but as the pair has learned, not an impossible one either as their team — along with the other qualifying team from Pottsboro and several others from the Texoma area — seek to hold up the coveted state championship trophy.
After all, such lessons of turning lemons into lemonade have defined the angling team of Farris and Holder through their four years of competition together, a team they admit got off to a bit of a rocky start.
“Yeah, they actually got into a bit of a skirmish one time,” chuckled Holder’s dad, Justin. “As I recall, it had something to do with a basketball that got taken in the sixth grade. They didn’t talk to each other for a couple of years after that. But since then, they’ve gone on to become lifelong best friends.”
That friendship got its reboot in the eighth grade shortly after the pair finished taking the Lone Star State’s mandated STARR testing. With the bass fishing team program newly formed at that time by interested parties and Pottsboro High School principal Dr. Danielle Curry, the pair of friends found the pathway paved for a high school experience of fishing, friendship and fun that that will culminate this weekend on Texoma.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” said Holder. “We were sitting in Mrs. Chambers’ 8th grade science classroom after the test and I was talking about fishing with a friend. Tyler was sitting behind me and he asked if I liked to fish and if I’d like to go fishing with him that summer.”
“We went fishing, met Colton (Creswell) and Landon (Dunaway), another bass fishing team from Pottsboro,” said Farris. “Our friendship restarted and the Dream Team was born. And this weekend, Texoma, here we come.”
After today’s practice run and the following two days of competition on the local reservoir, don’t be surprised if the team of Holder and Farris are on top of the state championship bass fishing podium come Sunday afternoon, holding the big trophy up in the air for all to see.
And maybe, after securing a last second victory by a few very small numbers, making some lifelong wishes come true in the process. Because for this Texomaland fishing team, that seems to be what they do best.