Ben Dodson and Tyler Feddersen never attended high school together, but that didn’t stop them from forming a competitive high school fishing team.
They’ll soon go their separate ways, at least for college. But before Dodson enrolls at The University of Tennessee and Feddersen heads off to Texas Tech, they’ll fish together on high school’s biggest stage when they compete in the National Jr. Bassmasters Tournament on Kentucky Lake in Paris.
The tournament opens Aug. 2 and Dodson, a recent Farragut High School graduate, and Feddersen (who recently picked up his diploma from Knoxville Catholic High School), will fish together for the final time.
Following the event, Dodson will fish at Tennessee but before he moves on to Rocky Top he’ll help his longtime friend and fishing partner move
to Lubbock, Texas, where Feddersen will compete for the Red Raiders.
“He will leave for Texas almost as soon as we get back from the nationals,” Dodson said of Feddersen. “I’m going to help him move there and it’s going to be tough.
“We’re best friends. He’s my best friend and we’ve fished together for years. In college, it’s going to be hard when I’m fishing with somebody else.”
Feddersen also will have another partner at Texas Tech.
“It will be different,” Feddersen said. “He’s my best friend. I’ll miss fishing with Ben but there’s always room for change.”
The duo has competed on the water together for nearly a decade. But they took different roads to find pleasure and success in the sport that they love.
“My dad took me fishing when I was 4 years old,” Dodson said. “We fished in Greenville, S.C., and I was hooked.
“I fish in Kentucky and Alabama but Tennessee probably has the most diversity in its lakes. You can fish Norris Lake and it’s 40-feet deep and you can fish at Chickamauga and it’s about 3-feet deep.”
Feddersen, on the other hand, learned to fish in the Lone Star State.
“My family was never much into the outdoors. My dad was always working and my mom was a stay-at-home mom,” Feddersen said. “In the summer, I would go down to Texas and my uncle used to own a small ranch there. It had three ponds on it and I learned to fish in those ponds.
“I fell in love with it and I think I was probably about 10 years old.”
Together, Dodson and Feddersen took the opportunity to fish in high school and each received full scholarships to compete in college.
“Most colleges have fishing programs,” Feddersen said. “Bryan College in Dayton, Tenn., has a program and they host big tournaments.
“When you fish [competitively], you can win $10,000 scholarships.”
Dodson said that high school anglers could win other prizes.
“When you fish in high school, you can get scholarships and you can win boats,” he said. “When we compete at the nationals, we’ll be going up against 150 or 175 anglers from all over the United States and Canada.”
Dodson noted that competitive fishing is relatively big in the Volunteer State despite the fact that many students may not realize that the opportunity to fish exists.
“High school fishing in Tennessee is pretty big,” he said. “There are more anglers pulled out of Tennessee than from any other state.
“More anglers go to college from Tennessee than from anywhere else.”
Both Dodson and Feddersen have a passion for fishing and both fish for fun. But competitive fishing is intense.
“Fishing competitively is different than just fishing for fun,” Dodson said. “When you fish competitively, it’s intense. But I still enjoy fishing for fun.”
For Feddersen, fishing also is a passion.
“It’s like any other sport,” he said. “In order to really be good at it, you have to enjoy it.
“The competition is tough but you can’t be overwhelmed. In the end, you just have to look at it as fishing.”