May 13—Camden Harris and Lane Tooley knew they were in contention, but first they had to sit and wait.
The Muhlenberg County High School senior duo had just wrapped up two days at the KHSAA State Bass Fishing Championships on Saturday at Kentucky Dam Marina — reeling in 10 fish that totaled 30 pounds, eight ounces.
The Mustangs were in first place after the first day, with a haul of 15 pounds, three ounces, and brought in a near-identical weight on the second day. Being one of the earlier boats in, however, Harris and Tooley sat and watched as the rest of the field weighed in.
“It was nerve-wracking, I know that,” Tooley recalled, laughing. “We got back and knew that the teams in second and third didn’t have as good of a day (on Saturday), so we felt pretty good. We didn’t know for sure, though.”
One after another, competitors brought their catches to be weighed. And one after another, they fell short of the Mustangs’ mark.
According to Harris, the realization didn’t set in until the very end that they’d won the state championship.
“It didn’t hit me that we had won until the announcer said it,” Harris said. “We knew, waiting, that all the other boats that had a chance were through. You never know though, anyone can suddenly bring in a lot.”
In the end, though, Muhlenberg County was never truly challenged. The focus-driven Mustangs were one of the most consistent pairs on the lake — claiming the win by more than four pounds.
“They gave it all they had both days,” said Muhlenberg County coach Cody Napier. “I’m so proud of these boys. Every opportunity they had, they made the most of it.
“I felt very confident in their ability to perform and go out there and fish hard. Fishing’s different than most sports. Everything depends on the fish and figuring out how they bite.”
This season was the first time that the two had been paired up since they fished together at the KHSAA Region 1 Championship as freshmen.
After that, they had different partners — and Tooley even finished runner-up at the state championship in 2019 — but being back together was an experience they both enjoyed.
“I’ve known Camden for years,” Tooley said. “We grew up playing basketball together. We’ve always been buddies. It was kind of cool that we fished our first KHSAA tournament together and then we got to finish it out together.”
Harris, who said he’s “been on Cloud Nine” since the win, shared that sentiment.
“We were reunited, you could say,” Harris added.
As it turned out, the two brought the best out of each other when it mattered most.
“It’s so hard to go down there and consistently catch fish for two days,” Napier said. “You really find out about yourself. You can get lucky and go out there and catch them one day, but to go out there and do it two days in a row is really something.”
One of the biggest keys was their mental approach.
“Heading in, we knew we had a good shot, we just had to really focus and fish hard the whole time,” Harris said. “We knew we had to keep that mindset — go in, fish hard.”
And now, because of their effort, they can call themselves state champions.
“It’s unbelievable,” Tooley said. “I got within a pound and two ounces two years ago, and we didn’t get to fish last year because of the virus. So for two years, that’s all I thought about. I worked hard practicing and learning new things, and it paid off.”
Although only the two were recognized as state champions, Napier considers it a team-wide achievement throughout the Muhlenberg County program.
“I always give thanks, first and foremost, to God and give Him glory, and I want to thank all of my assistant coaches, boat captains, volunteers, parents, sponsors and our community,” Napier said. “Yes, Camden and Lane won the state championship, but it was a group effort from everybody involved.”