Fort Mill Times

A Lake Wylie angler fished for state pride. He didn’t let South Carolina down.

Lake Wylie angler Chris Carnes brings his fish to the scales, where he led team South Carolina in fish caught and weight.
Lake Wylie angler Chris Carnes brings his fish to the scales, where he led team South Carolina in fish caught and weight. Courtesy of B.A.S.S.

Some fish for largemouth. Some fish for crappie, catfish or bream. Chris Carnes fished for the entire Palmetto State.

Turns out, he wasn’t half bad at it.

“It qualified me to fish the national championship,” said Carnes, 19, from Lake Wylie. “That'll be in October on Lake Hartwell in South Carolina. I’ll be the hometown guy, I guess. It’s coming back to the house.”

All because of an impressive weekend at an unusual tournament. The Academy + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Eastern Regional ending June 16 put a new twist on team fishing, bringing anglers from various states to the Upper Chesapeake Bay both for individual glory and state pride.

Most fishing events are solo results. There are some team tournaments, usually with two anglers amassing a combined weight of fish caught. The Upper Chesapeake Bay event brought teams of 20 — 10 anglers and 10 co-anglers — who qualified through local club results.

“It is an individual tournament but it's also a team tournament,” Carnes said. “All throughout the year there's different qualifying tournaments to make this tournament. They put together a South Carolina state team."

After the first day, South Carolina anglers led the field with a combined 162 pounds, 3 ounces. More than five pounds clear of second place Delaware and 14 more states, plus a team from Canada. Carnes led all South Carolina anglers with a 17-pound, 14-ounce haul. Good for the sixth biggest bag among all anglers on day one.

The second and final team day didn’t go as well for South Carolina. The sandlapper anglers dropped to third with 263 pounds, 15 ounces. Florida jumped from third to first with a 330-pound, 7-ounce total, while Deleware held second. The dip in team standings wasn’t on Carnes, who brought in a second straight limit at 13 pounds, 12 ounces.

His two-day haul of 10 fish at 31 pounds, 10 ounces was a state best by 11 pounds. No other South Carolina angler caught more than six fish.

Only nine of 350 total anglers, including Carnes, brought in back-to-back limits. His two-day total was good for seventh overall heading into the third day, an individual competition.

That third day wasn’t as kind. Many anglers struggled for a catch, with only three from the full field bringing in a third straight limit. Carnes couldn’t add to his two-day total. His 10 best fish still put him 22nd overall.

“I kind of slipped on the third day,” Carnes said.

Still, his best in state showing sends him to the Oct. 19-21 championship. An angler from each of the continental 48 states, plus eight or 10 foreign anglers, will fish it.

It will be the latest new venture for an angler who, despite his age, is accustomed to them.

"I fish just about everything that's out there," Carnes said.

While at Clover High School he fished with the club there, earning three state titles. He now fishes college events as a student at UNC Charlotte. He fishes all the major bass series. He fishes three or four events a week, from big money contests to local Lake Wylie groups.

Carnes even is accustomed to the state team format, despite there only being two such tournaments he can recall. Both B.A.S.S. and FLW Outdoors have their own such event.

“This was actually my fifth year making it,” Carnes said. “My best finish prior to this was second, as a high school angler. As an adult, fishing against everybody else, this was my best finish.”

The old format had two high school anglers with each team. An angler had to win a state championship to make it. Carnes actually qualified and competed with team North Carolina three times.

Because he fishes anywhere and everywhere and under whatever format he can find, Carnes can be known for fishing beyond his years. He doesn’t get too much grief from older anglers when he sinks the scales.

“Most of them have been fishing twice as long as I've been alive,” Carnes said. “I get a little bit of grief, but I've known a lot of those guys for a really long time. They treat me like that their own.”

As the weekend event turned into Monday morning, Carnes was back at the lake fishing again. Thinking of the national event upcoming, but also for the next bite. Whenever and wherever it may come.