If camaraderie and teamwork are essential to success, a pair of Payson High School student-athletes should do well in their first attempt at competing on the prep bass fishing circuit.
Layne Chitwood and Tanner Purtill are buoyed by the experience of competing alongside one another for years in both football and baseball and are also close friends.
In their first attempt at high school competitive fishing, in a tournament held Sept. 25, 2011 at Roosevelt Lake, the two finished ninth.
Next on the fishing agenda is the circuit’s second tournament to be held April 7 at Lake Pleasant.
For Chitwood and Purtill to attain their goal of qualifying for next summer’s national finals, the granddaddy of high school fishing, they must finish first at one of the upcoming Arizona tournaments.
There’s a good chance the teens could attain their lofty aspirations because they are no strangers to bass angling and learned skills from their fathers, Gary Chitwood and Ray Purtill. The boys have also added to their expertise by seeking advice from FLW and B.A.S.S. pro Clifford Pirch and former professional angler Mark Kile.
Tanner Purtill’s angling experience includes capturing the youth division championship on three occasions at the Bill Luke tournaments held at Lake Pleasant.
Last year at Roosevelt in the Luke tournament, Layne Chitwood was first all three days.
HPR Ammunition of Payson is sponsoring the team on the high school circuit.
Chitwood and Purtill are not the first team to represent Payson High School in competitive angling.
On July 21, 2011, Kyle Randall and Cameron Geske, both Payson High graduates with the Class of 2011, traveled to Lake Dardanelle, Ark., the site of the National High School World Bass Fishing Finals, hoping to hook a portion of the prize package worth thousands of dollars including college scholarships.
The Rim Country teenagers came up short of a win, weighing in just three bass that tipped the scales at 7 pounds, 3 ounces.
The two qualified for the national finals on May 21, 2011, with a first-place finish at the inaugural Open High School Bass Tournament at Roosevelt.
With the win, the two were added to the Every Kid Counts Arizona Bass Buster fishing team.
In the world finals qualifying field were high school teams from around the country, but predominantly the south and east where tournament bass fishing is a way of life and waterways and lakes are plentiful.
Payson High, however, is a Johnny-come-lately to the high school bass fishing scene.
It was only in the fall of 2010 that interest in forming a PHS fishing club and hosting a qualifying tournament at Roosevelt began circulating through the PHS student body.
In December, PHS counselor Don Heizer hosted a parent-student meeting to see if there was enough interest to form a school bass fishing club.
At the meeting, 10 students signed up to participate and it was decided the first tournament would be held in the spring at Roosevelt Lake.
Heizer and other organizers say they were motivated to jump-start a local club because they staunchly believe that fishing is a sport that everyone can enjoy their entire lifetime and it is a way to keep teens out of trouble. “If we can get them on the lake, we will get them off the streets.”