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Cookout celebrates Phil Campbell's championship anglers

As the ten young men representing Phil Campbell High School entered day two of the Alabama Student Angler Bass Fishing Association (ASABFA) state classic, they thought they trailed the first place team by 30 points.

Day one on Lake Eufaula brought rain and high winds, and a sub-par result for the five Phil Campbell boats. But the team decided to go out fighting and spirits were high for day two. As it turned out, team adviser Elisha Mansell didn't have all the scores from the previous day and her Bobcats were actually in first place.

The parents kept that information from the team, though, and that turned out to be a good idea as Phil Campbell fished its way on day two to maintain first place in the state classic held May 5-6.

The result was a team championship for that tournament and the overall state championship for the season, both firsts for a team in its fourth year of competitive fishing.

Team members include: Levi Rodgers, Joshua Burcham, Isaac Cummings, Dakota Mansell, Easton Cummings, Cade Baker, Eli Jackson, Eric Allen, Seth Hall, Trey Benford, Pierce Dolan, Rhett Benford, Trent Gonzalez, Brent Gonzalez, Logan Hill, Ashleigh Berry, Tyler Weeks, Abby Davis, Kendric Baker, Jo Morgan, Bynum Franks, Joshua Morgan, Ryan Rackard and Harrison Riley.

A special congratulatory dinner was held for the team Tuesday evening. The young anglers received certificates from Phil Campbell Mayor Steve Bell and the town council, as a crowd of 125 showed up to support the team's title. Tuesday's cookout was hosted by Johnny Bowen along with several community members and businesses.

According to its website, the ASABFA has as its mission, “to promote the sport of bass fishing among Alabama's youth in a supportive, positive, and educational environment in which every student angler may develop angler skills, a healthy sense of competition, ethics and an appreciation of Alabama's natural resources in a team environment.”

Mansell said team members must do more than just fish to be active on the team. The kids take part in several community and civic events throughout the year and receive points for each event they participate in. These include the Beast Feast and Tim Horton's Fishing for Kids. Students also earn points fishing in the qualifier tournaments and district tournaments. The students with the top points are selected to fish in regional and state tournaments, she explained.

“Community service is part of it. They have to show dedication to their community. You don't just show up at state and fish. Being active and giving back is part of being on this team,” Mansell said.

The team won its first regional tournament earlier this year on Neely Henry. The Bobcats also took home fourth place on the Smith Lake Regional Tournament this spring.

Professional angler Tim Horton spoke to the team Tuesday evening and told them their state title will be a lasting memory in their lives.

“I'm honored to be here tonight. This is something you'll remember all your lives. That's the cool thing about our sport—it's about what's in your heart and how hard you work for something,” Horton said. “When you come together as a group you can accomplish great things.”

Mansell also expressed her appreciation to the 15 boat captains who work with the team.

“They are very important. Without them, there's no team,” Mansell said.

Community members and businesses who supported Tuesday's cookout included: Piggly Wiggly, Dr. Keith Morrow, Barry Pounders and Ambulance Billing Service, Greg “Animal” Williams, Tony Cole and Tony's Diesel & Gas Repair; Randy Lindsey and Rick's Produce, Ray Smelser, Billy Wilson, Mike and Craig Madden and Inside Stone, Heath Ayers, Sue Bowen, Dennis Sherer, Paul Swinney, Danny Brown and CB&S Bank, Tim Horton, the Town of Phil Campbell and the mayor and council, Franklin County Schools, Amy Gunderman, Elisha Mansell and David Wyatt.

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