Drake Ofsthun has come a long way since he first launched a plastic boat in the muddle puddles at the end of his parents’ driveway.
The recent Kamiakin graduate now launches bass boats into the Columbia River, then works at trying to reel in “the big one” during tournaments.
His dedication and love of fishing have paid off. Ofsthun, 18, and his younger brother Reed, 15, will represent Washington at the Costa Bassmaster High School National Championship from June 19-24 at Kentucky Lake in Paris, Tenn.
“I’m not nervous,” said Drake, who has been fishing for 15 years. “We could finish dead last — I’m just excited for the experience. If you like fishing, it’s intense. Fishing can be relaxing, but in tournaments, it is intense, especially if you lose a big fish.”
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We could finish dead last — I’m just excited for the experience. If you like fishing, it’s intense.
For Reed, who only started competitive fishing about two years ago, the adventure hasn’t quite sunk in.
“It hasn’t hit me yet,” he said. “There will be about 150 teams. I think when I see everything, it will.”
The Ofsthun brothers have been fishing with their dad, Todd, and the Columbia Basin Bass Club since they were tykes.
While Drake gravitated toward the activity right away, it has taken Reed several years to grasp the nuances of the sport.
“I was more into baseball and basketball,” said Reed, who gave up Legion baseball this summer for the tournament. “He was going fishing while I was shooting hoops.”
And when Reed would tag along with his dad and brother, it wasn’t all about fishing.
“They would fish for hours,” Reed said. “I would play with the fish and eat everything in the ice chest. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I really got into it.”
You can’t just drop a line in the water and haul in an invite to nationals, which is touted as the biggest high school fishing tournament in the world.
The Ofsthuns were part of the Washington State B.A.S.S. Federation High School bass fishing circuit for the 2016-17 season. That included four one-day tournaments to try and catch your limit and hope your fish were nice and plump.
They finished first, third, sixth and second at the events, held on the Columbia River and at Potholes Reservoir near Moses Lake.
Teams hope to catch their limit of five fish each day. Once caught, fish are kept in live wells in the boat. Once they are weighed, they are released back into the water. If a fish should die, you are assessed a small penalty.
The Ofsthun’s final haul April 30 was 15.34 pounds of largemouth bass, which included a late fish caught by Reed that helped punch their ticket to Tennessee.
“We wouldn’t be going if not for Reed,” Drake said. “He caught the last fish we needed. I don’t think I have ever been that excited about a fish that small.”
The key to a good day of tournament fishing is education.
“First, you have to understand the time of year where you are fishing,” Drake said. “If you don’t have any bites in 30 minutes, you have to move. And you have to have the right lures for where you are going.”
The Ofsthuns will rent a bass boat at nationals, and will have two days of pre-tournament fishing before competition begins June 22.
The full field will compete on the first two days, after which the field will be cut to the top 10 teams on the final day.
Cast a helping hand
If you would like to help the Ofsthuns with their trip to nationals, there is a temporary savings account at Gesa under Drake Ofsthun, account No. 4003018367.
There also is a gofundme account under Kennewick Bass Angling Brothers. So far, that account has raised more than $2,400.