A day on the lake can be both relaxing and intense, but for junior angler Hank Lowrie, three days on Illinois’ Lake Clinton was nothing short of nerve-racking. The Palmer native and his father, David, hit the water June 26-28 for the sixth annual NBT National Championship in search of his first national title. The 16 year-old fisherman set the hook on the 2012 honor, along with his first “National Angler of the Year” title, amidst two down-to-the-wire catches.
“There were two days I didn’t have anything in the live well until late in the day,” Lowrie said. “Then there were a couple of times I didn’t land my fifth catch of the day until we had to head toward the marina for weigh-in.”
While the father/son duo dropped the boat into the water at sunrise last Wednesday, insurance didn’t come for the Lowrie boat until later in the day – way later. For the champion’s animated father, those last-minute minute catches were overly suspenseful.
“We needed to be in our life vests and moving as soon as the clock struck 1:50 p.m. to make sure we were back for check-in at 2:00 p.m.,” David said. “Hank didn’t reel in his fourth fish until 1:40 p.m. and he snagged his fifth right at 1:50 p.m. He was standing on the front of the boat cracking jokes while I was in the back about to have a heart attack.”
Upon returning to the marina, Lowrie was surprised to find he was the only boat to bring back the allotted five-fish-limit with three fish representing the second-highest total. After one day on the lake, Lowrie led the six-boat field by just over two pounds and the dramatics continued into the second day of the tournament.
Lowrie cruised through the second day of the tournament, catching his fifth fish of the day in record time by 11:30 a.m. His Day Two total registered a tournament-best 11.97 pounds and his overall lead stretched to over six pounds. Lowrie and one other boat returned to the weigh station with five fish.
With the third and final day of the tournament upon him, Lowrie bagged five more fish but with nearly the exact intensity of day one.
“It was another day where I didn’t net anything until 10 a.m. and didn’t bag my last bass until 1:40 p.m.,” Lowrie said.
While calm in demeanor while on the boat, the junior was racing to find bait the bass were itching to bite.
“We ended up coming back to the same spot twice,” Lowrie said. “We had a little success in front of a tree earlier in the day and came up big. There was one point I found a sweet spot and reeled in a catch on back-to-back casts.”
The six-time NBT National Tournament participant had claimed his first title Thursday and secured his first “National Angler of the Year” honor with a three pound bass – his biggest catch of the week. Despite having the lead from the first day, Lowrie held his breath throughout the three-day venture.
“There’s never a safe lead,” Lowrie said. “It was a tough lake for everyone to fish, and that was shown with only one other boat coming in with limit for the entire tournament. One fish could have changed the leader board easily through the first two days.”
Much different from local lakes and rivers often fished by the junior angler, Lowrie said adjusting to Clinton’s colder waters and terrain posed the biggest threat to his title run. Despite the challenge, an old, reliable tacklebox-must was what Lowrie relied on when the chips were down.
“I just rigged up a finesse worm,” Lowrie said. “I was throwing near the bank and they were hitting about halfway to the boat. I wasn’t doing anything too special or complicated with it.”
The basics helped lead Lowrie to his first national title, and the young fisherman learned the basics at an early age with his father by his side in 1998.
Lowrie snagged his first fish when he was just over two-years-old and landed a five pound largemouth when he was just four-years-old. It was at that point that Lowrie called it quits on the baseball diamond because Little League was “cutting into his fishing time.”
Lowrie won his first “Take a Kid Fishing” Rodeo when he was five-years-old in Winchester, Tenn., and proved his love for the sport when he traded his first place prize – a bicycle – for the second place winner’s prize – a brand new rod and reel.
He fished his first associated tournament when he was six-years-old as part of the American Bass Fishing Club until the “ABC” became the National Bass Fishing Trail – his current fishing club – in 2007.
Six years and six national tournaments later, Lowrie is the only junior angler on the circuit to have fished in every NBT National Tournament. Lowrie has traveled to five states in six years as part of the five-state circuit and has not only his father to thank for his fishing career but also his sponsors.
“It takes around $1,200 each year for him to be able to do what he loves to do,” David said. “We are very blessed to have the support of so many friends, family members and local businesses who donate money to Hank for his trips. That includes gas for the truck, gas for the boat, food, hotel and whatever supplies we need to go fishing with – and that’s not including if something tears up on the boat.”
Lowrie currently fishes for the Grundy County High School Bass Fishing team and was a founding member of the club, bringing GCHS its first angling team in 2011. Hank looks to continue his career into college by earning a spot on a collegiate club. Many institutions now feature bass fishing teams, sanctioned by the FLW and Bassmasters as part of the College Bass Trail, and offer scholarships to their anglers.
Lowrie currently boasts a 3.25 high school GPA and looks to major in Fisheries Science and Marketing.
While building his own resume, the 2011 District Angler of the Year is also a driving force in promoting his sport. Hank has played an active role in helping direct NBT associated events as part of the Tennessee District and serves as a positive role model for younger anglers looking to break into the sport.
For more information and photos, visit Hank’s Facebook fan page, “Hank Lowrie Tournament Bass Fisherman,” and to learn more about the NBT and how to get involved, visit NBTBass.com.