Take a look into the championship approach of Vidor sophomore anglers

Published 12:20 am Wednesday, March 1, 2023

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Caden Williamson and Braden Norton come off the weigh-in stage at Umphrey Family Pavilion on Lake Sam Rayburn all smiles on their way to being photographed with the fish they caught.

Holding them up, grinning ear to ear, the two Vidor High School sophomore students strike a pose showing off largemouth bass weighing in at a total of 15.84lbs

They won the single-day tournament in early February out of more than 450 teams, part of the Southeast Texas High School Fishing Association Tournament Schedule series.

Needless to say, this sophomore pair is thrilled.

“We had a tough practice, so we eliminated a lot of water and knew what baits not to throw going in,” Williamson says.

Both boys have more than a dozen rods and reels, any of which can be used, along with a myriad of baits: crankbaits, spinners, soft plastics, but Norton says they didn’t have a strategy going into the competition.

“We just knew areas we have caught them in the past and just hoped for the best,” Norton said.

There is a reason anglers call it “fishing” and not “catching,” as nothing is guaranteed.

“We tried out some areas where we normally catch them during the winter months and we only caught one fish,” Norton said. “But there’s a saying — a bad practice day means a good tournament day.”

This pair should know. Friends since kindergarten and fishing buddies, each have been hooked on the sport since they were toddlers.

“One of my earliest fishing memories is going after catfish with my Dad and crappie fishing with my Mickey Mouse pole,” Norton said.

Braden Norton and Caden Williamson hold up their first place-winning fish. (Courtesy photo)

This duo has competed in 20 tournaments since joining Vidor ISD’s fishing team in the seventh grade.

“It [was] my first win. It felt pretty good to beat 450 plus teams especially when the same ole people are up there every weekend. It feels amazing,” Williamson said.

For their win, the boys received a large trophy, each got a plague, rod and reel and boat bag, and boat captain Eric Williamson earned a fishing backpack.

Eric is Caden’s father, and has served as their captain since the boys initially joined the team witnessing them grow as anglers.

“They both love fishing and competing,” Eric says. “They take care of their gear and rig their own tackle. I never have to motivate them to go.”

Though the anglers don’t need motivation, they say staying focused all day can be a challenge.

Eric helps keep them focused, while netting fish and providing a sense of humor when they are struggling to hook their next catch.

“The biggest thing is he encourages us all through the day, and I’m so thankful he does that. We couldn’t do it without him,” Norton said. “I feel like boat captains don’t get enough credit for what they do. If people do bad, they blame it on their captain. If they do good, it’s all about themselves. I’m very lucky to have him as captain.”

Sponsor Robin James feels lucky to have this pair of anglers on Vidor’s fishing team, which began in 2013 and now has 94 anglers.

“We have one of the largest teams in our area and we not only have phenomenal anglers but high academic achievers,” James said. “These two young men are no different. Top-notch students, amazing anglers and are honorable and respectful young men.”

The two anglers are just getting started competing in tournaments in the SETX HS Fishing Association, which has a mission to promote the sport of high school fishing, enable youth to become better students, anglers and people while exposing them to the opportunities that competitive bass fishing offers. The are also scholarships for continuing education.

“I’m a very competitive person and like to compete against others. Bass fishing tournaments are a good way to enjoy the outdoors and compete against other anglers that enjoy the same things I do,” Norton said.

Williamson said fishing gets me outside where he doesn’t have to worry about anything else but fishing.

“I’ve learned you have to keep good grades and stay on top of everything,” he said.

Eric says the two learned not to quit early, noting in a recent tournament, they caught their biggest fish of the day with three minutes left.

Being on the team and fishing, Norton learned to be patient and persistent.

The two also have some tips for new anglers.

“Spend as much time on the water as you can,” Williamson said.

Besides joining a fishing team, Norton has some advice of his own: “Go out and try whatever you want and experiment with different techniques.”

Williamson and Norton admire Major League Fishing pro Jacob Wheeler and hope to follow a similar path.

“That would be the dream,” Norton says. “I would be very happy.”

“I’ve liked fishing all my life. Maybe it would be a career, so if I did good, my name would be out in the industry,” Williamson said.

These anglers have a few years to decide whether or not to go after their professional dreams so for now, the two have their sights set on college, where they hope to fish together.

Upcoming Tournaments

March 18, Rayburn-Umphrey Family Pavilion

March 19, Rayburn-Umphrey Family Pavilion

SETX Championship Weekend

April 29 – 30, Sam Rayburn-Umphrey Family Pavilion

— Written by Chrissie Mouton