Lafayette has only one boat in the fourth KHSAA State Bass Fishing Championship, which begins Friday, but that isn’t keeping the program from making the most of a trip to Kentucky Dam Marina in Gilbertsville.
Coach Jonathan Mobley has instilled a team-first attitude in his program, which sent a group to the first bass fishing championship in 2013 but was left at the dock the previous two seasons. Cameron Buchignani and Landon Orr will be the only Generals out on the water this weekend, but the majority of their teammates will join in on the trip. Mobley, who helped with the team its first three seasons and became its head coach this year, knew that for many of his fishermen the regional would be their only shot to participate in a big competition.
“That’s why I’m very much of the position that we were gonna start this together and we’re gonna end it together,” he said, “because I want everyone involved the whole way through.”
Buchignani is Lafayette’s alternate in place of Riley Cobb, who was in the boat with Orr when the pair qualified for regionals but will remain in Lexington to catch up on classwork.
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Orr, who along with his father has defeated his coach in non-high school tournaments, described the most exciting part of his chosen sport. “It’s just the thrill of catching a big one,” he said.
I’m very much of the position that we were gonna start this together and we’re gonna end it together because I want everyone involved the whole way through.
Jonathan Mobley, Lafayette coach
The sophomore’s last name seemingly would be the team’s most apropos for an angler, but senior teammate Fisher Mobley — one of Coach Mobley’s two sons on the team — has him beat. And it was no accident; Jonathan has been a tournament fisherman since he was 16.
“I have fished my whole life. My dad started me when I was young,” Jonathan said. “ ... When I caught my first bass I was hooked forever.”
Anglers pair up in boats and vie for 16 state-tournament berths during each of the four regional events, which were held in late April. Lexington’s teams — Bryan Station, Henry Clay, Lafayette and Tates Creek — all compete in the 2nd Region and have been bit players in bass fishing since the KHSAA began officially sanctioning the sport in 2013.
Other than Lafayette, the only city school to have sent a boat to state is Tates Creek. Between the two schools they’ve combined for three state-tournament boats in four seasons (Lexington was shut out last year). For comparison: Madison Southern, which also competes in the 2nd Region, will send three boats this year alone.
Mobley would like to see more local tournaments organized to help Lexington anglers get better prepared for the regional competition. He’d also like for the KHSAA to hold district-type competitions before the regional events.
“One regional tournament and it’s over. That’s kind of a tough pill to swallow for kids when they go out and fundraise and beat the bushes for money and stuff like that,” Mobley said.
Still, bass fishing has given kids who might not have otherwise joined a sports team an opportunity to become part of a unit. It’s also a co-ed sport, giving girls like Lafayette junior Alyssa Boggs an opportunity to build new bonds and show out in a friendly battle of the sexes.
“A lot of guys don’t think that girls can fish and it’s kind of weird for them to see girls out,” Boggs said. “But once you earn their respect they’re usually really cool to hang out with. I know on our team we all respect each other, so that’s nice.”
Uninformed bystanders think bass fishing involves no more than luck, but dozens of factors — from water temperature to overcast skies to knowing what kind of lure best matches what fish are eating at that time of year — have to be considered each time an angler tosses his or her line into the water.
It’s easy to identify the competitive aspects of sports like basketball and football, but in fishing much of the game is played out in the minds of players who often don’t see one another until the final weigh-in.
“You’re competing against people who know all that stuff as well or better than you, too,” Fisher Mobley said. “So it gets very difficult sometimes.”