Waccamaw High grad isn’t sure local knowledge helps in fishing tourney
Waccamaw High graduate T.J. McKenzie doesn’t think he has a home-field advantage this weekend when the Bassmaster College National Championship takes place on the county’s five rivers.
“In the past, knowledge has hurt me,” McKenzie said. “The more I know about a place, the less likely I am to try new things because I know what’s worked for me in the past.”
McKenzie and Seth Jenkins will represent Emmanuel College in the tournament. Both are juniors at the school.
Jenkins said McKenzie’s familiarity with the area might be an advantage, or it might not.
“The way that those rivers change every single day, it’s literally anybody’s guess,” Jenkins said. “There is the advantage of him knowing where we are, more than other people are going to know, but there is an even playing field because the river changes every day and is different every hour.”
McKenzie was the first Waccamaw High student to receive a fishing scholarship. Jenkins is a 2020 graduate of Wren High School in Piedmont.
Fishing for a college team was “more” than McKenzie and Jenkins expected.
“I came to a team that adopted me just like family,” he said. “Me and my partner are as close to best friends that I’ve ever had.”
“We fish a lot,” Jenkins said. “We get to see lands and waters people aren’t able to see every day. I think it’s cool. It’s definitely been a great experience to be with a group of people that want to do well just as bad as you do. To be able to travel and share this experience with everybody is pretty cool too.”
McKenzie and Jenkins arrived in town last weekend and hit the water on Monday. By rule, teams can’t fish the area where a tournament is being held for 30 days until the week of the event.
“I feel like it’s going to be a good tournament, a good even tournament [with] a level playing field,” Jenkins said. “The thing that we have is tidal water experience and how we work together.”
After returning to the Campbell Marine Complex each day, McKenzie and Jenkins will head to downtown Georgetown to have their fish weighed. Large crowds are expected.
“I’m extremely nervous because being the hometown guy, I’ll have a lot people watching me that I don’t know,” McKenzie said. “But I’m so excited to bring the bass fishing industry to Georgetown, at my level anyways. … I’m excited to show the people of Georgetown what the bass fishing industry is all about, especially for us young guys.”
“Considering this is all me and T.J. want to do with our lives, when I walk to the stage with a decent bag, my heart is about to beat out of my chest,” Jenkins said. “Almost every time, I’m shaking. It’s because I love it so much and I want to do good. So when I get the chance to do good, I’m so excited and I can’t breathe.”
Georgetown County hosted a Bassmaster event annually from 2015 to 2019 until the COVID-19 pandemic. The last event was the Bassmaster Elite series in March 2019. This weekend’s tournament is the first college event since 2017.
The Bassmaster College National Championship takes place Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Boats launch every morning at 6:30 a.m. from the Campbell Marine Complex. Weigh-ins take place each day at Front and Broad streets in Georgetown starting at 2:30 p.m.
More than 100 teams from 44 schools – including Coastal Carolina University – will take part.
In conjunction with the tournament, there will be two free concerts – Too Much Sylvia on Friday and The Blue Dogs on Saturday – on the weigh-in stage.
Both shows begin at 8 p.m.