St. Croix Central's Hessler and Nauss compete at Bassmaster national fishing contest
St. Croix Central students Gavin Hessler and Tucker Nauss competed for the second straight year at the Bassmaster High School National Championships June 22-24 at Kentucky Lake in Tennessee.
Last year, Nauss and Hessler placed 26th out of 178 teams finishing at the tournament. This year, there were 231 teams and the St. Croix Central duo place 36th.
Hessler and Nauss have been competing together for all four years of their high school careers and they fished at the state level all four. As freshmen they placed third at state and as sophomores they took seventh. They were state champions in 2016, which earned them their first trip to the national tournament. They placed third at state this year. But the state championship team wasn’t able to compete at nationals, so as the third-place team they were asked if they’d like to go again.
Before competing at nationals, Hessler and Nauss spent several days pre-fishing the lake to try to find spots that would bring in the big bass. On the first day of the tournament, they caught nearly 40 fish. Their five keepers totaled 17 pounds, 10 ounces. That ranked them 28th in the team standings.
The second day of the tournament was wiped out by Hurricane Cindy. The second day is usually cutdown day, with only the top 12 boats advancing to the final day. With that wiped out, all the teams got to compete in the finals.
In less than optimal weather conditions, Nauss and Hessler weren’t finding the big fish.
“We had to scramble at the end of the day,” Hessler said, to find five good-sized fish for their limit of the day. They ended the day with 14 pounds, 10 ounces, which dropped them back to 36th in the overall team standings.
The Central team did hook into some big fish at the tournament. Hessler caught a 5 pound, 9 ounce bass the opening day and Nauss caught a 4 pound, 10 ounce fish on the final day.
Hessler said the area fishing teams are a close-knit group, with many of the teams getting their start through the junior program of the Indianhead Bassers, which is the oldest active bass fishing club in the state, having gotten its start in 1973.
“It’s a passion for all of us,” Hessler said.
Jesse Heinecke coordinates the Indianhead Bassers youth program and is also a leader for the state junior program. Hessler said that when the younger fishermen reached high school age, Heinecke is the one who steered them into the high school competitions.
Hessler plans to continue fishing competitively at the college level. He will fish at University of Wisconsin-Stout, teaming with his cousin Noah Lindus, who competed for Baldwin-Woodville High School.