Lycoming County provides many great fishing opportunities. It doesn’t matter if you throw bugs, chuck metal or use live bait – our area is blessed with several different types of water to target all kinds of species. Fishing has always been my passion and my lovely bride would say that I am somewhat obsessed. OK, I am. I would fish every single day if I could. "You do." Valid point, teach.
So I first met Austin Gaab some ten years back. His mom and older sis used to man the Jules Artwear kiosk in the center court of the Lycoming Mall. Austin would often visit and I enjoyed my conversations with my then seven-year-old chum. We started a tradition of exchanging lures during the holidays. He too was obsessed with fishing at an early age.
Seasons passed and we grew slightly apart, but I did my best to watch Austin grow via Facebook. The soon to be junior at Montoursville Area is now a great fisherman. He and his mate, Jake Jones of Jersey Shore, are masters at catching smallies and largemouths. They recently took second at a huge national junior BASS qualifier on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. These two local kids bested over 50 other boats to advance to a sectional tournament on Lake Champlain later this month. Props. Both already have rather impressive resumes.
I've wanted to do a story on Austin and Jake for some time. So I tracked them down via Twitter. But instead of the usual 30-minute phone call – I told the boys to meet me on the river. I was so excited for this opportunity and we decided to fish below the Market Street Bridge. I even showed up an hour early and made some casts along the shore. Austin pulled up with a new boat and trailer. Dude? You like drive now? Oh where does the time go? He backed it into the water like a champ then parked the truck. Jake and I exchanged some pleasantries and then hit it off by taking salted tubes and Zara Spooks. I loved these two kids immediately and we were off.
"Austin and I have been fishing together since we were ten," Jake explained while he started the engine. "We are both members of the Susquehanna Valley Fishing Club. I'd say there are 30 of us. Austin and I have competed in junior tournaments all over the country. From Florida to Vermont. Fishing is what we do."
I showed up to the Greevy launch with my normal Lycoming Creek Chronicles gear that evening. My two spin rods armed with my favorites lures. I was prepared. Well until I saw their "stuff." These two kids had everything. I was in awe of their fancy Rod & Reel combos alone. Could I touch one? I couldn't believe it. It was like they had something from all 140 pages of a Cabelas catalog. This was going to be so much fun.
So I’ve fished this stretch a hundred times before but never quite like this. When I was their age, my friends and I would chuck topwater plugs from our canoe, but tonight I got to ride in style with two young fishing pros. They took great care of me and introduced me to several new ways to catch Smallmouths on the Susquehanna. These high schoolers are simply fishing phenoms. Do you have any Chug Bugs Jake? Sure. What size and what color? Dude. This was a totally different world of fishing. Austin even offered his old buddy an ice-cold Coke!
"I love fishing," Austin continued. "Our goals are to hopefully get noticed someday. All of the major colleges and universities have Varsity fishing teams. Some of the smaller ones down south do too. Believe it or not. Scholarships and grants are even available. If Jake and continue to fish well on Lake Champlain and advance. That should put us both on the map."
"Fishing is rather expensive and we are blessed with so many local sponsors that help pick up the tab," Jake thankfully said. "Our corporate friends allow us to travel all over doing what we love. Gas and lodging are our two biggest expenses and without their financial help you can forget about it." (Both Austin and Jake gave me a long list of names of sponsors they wanted to thank, but my editor told me I didn't have enough room to mention everyone)
"Jake and I are hoping to give back too. We've decided to hold our own tournament on September 17th in Linden. Boat check in and registration is from 5:30-6:30 a.m. Entry fee is $70 for a two-person team. There is also a lunker fee at $10. Lots of great prizes, hot dogs, drinks and some serious fun. All proceeds will benefit the Lycoming County Veterans Transition Center. Those interested in more information should call us at 570-337-3723. We are always looking for more sponsors too."
Man I enjoyed a great night on the water with my new best friends. I held my own and managed to land a few decent smallies, but my game is nothing compared to these two kids. Both landed several fish over three pounds in several different ways under less than ideal conditions. Austin and Jake are constantly in communication and work so well together. If one misses a fish- the other is quick to cast in the same spot resulting in a hookup. They have this thing down to a science. They make a great team and this long time fisherman was quite impressed. Same time tomorrow boys?
Austin Gaab and Jake Jones are two great lads and their rents should be proud. Not only can they fish but they are both extraordinary young men. It's awfully tough to find such qualities in this generation. Austin works part time at Hulls Marina and Jake is gearing up for another football season for the Bulldogs. Both enjoy school, but admit it gets in the way of their hunting and fishing. Just you wait boys. Great kids. I wish my friends the very best in their remaining fishing tournaments. Tight lines boys and continue to make this area proud. Sporting matters. Cheers.