On Thursday, Harris County fishermen Mason Waddell and Cal Culpepper saw their dreams realized when they signed scholarships to the University of Montevallo.
Waddell and Culpepper made their plans official in a ceremony at Harris County High School. The two signed in front of an audience not only made up of family, friends, teachers and teammates, but also Montevallo president Dr. John W. Stewart III and director of outdoors scholars program William Crawford.
“That was always the goal — through high school fishing to hopefully get a scholarship to go to college and fish,” Culpepper said. “Luckily, we did well enough in high school tournaments to make something like this happen. It’s a huge opportunity, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Waddell and Culpepper have been fishing together on the school’s team for one year, during which time the duo has achieved a tremendous amount of success. Their achievements include winning the state tournament at West Point Lake and finishing second at the Fishing League Worldwide’s high school national championships.
Waddell and Culpepper were first connected to Montevallo through Crawford, who reached out to the duo via Instagram. Crawford came to Harris County’s team banquet and spoke to the group about what the university’s program had to offer.
Once Crawford was done speaking, he came to Waddell and Culpepper with a surprise: scholarship offers for both seniors. After considering their other options, it became clear Montevallo provided the best situation.
“We came just as anglers who wanted to hear what William had to say about the outdoors scholars program,” said Waddell, who is the son of TV outdoorsman Michael Waddell. “It was just crazy and beyond our wildest dreams.”
Culpepper stressed that competitive fishing isn’t sitting on a bank waiting for a fish to take the bait. The last several months have included a tremendous amount of hours on the lake and on the road, as the duo has travelled to tournament after tournament.
Culpepper and Waddell’s status as a duo cannot be overstated as far as their triumphs go, either.
“Chemistry is actually very important if not the most important when you talk about bass fishing,” Waddell said. “On the boat, we both have different styles of fishing and like to do different things. Between the two of us in a tournament, we’re like yin and yang.”
Culpepper and Waddell have been part of the first wave of high school fishermen in the area. Their triumphs have certainly put Harris County fishing on the map, and their ability to turn their work into scholarships may draw even more interest in the sport.
Waddell said it’s very gratifying for he and Culpepper to be the first Harris County fishermen to receive scholarships. The two have accomplished a lot in their time on the lake, and their efforts may prove to pave the way for younger teammates to follow in their footsteps.
“Harris County will never be the same,” Harris County coach Mary Jones-Hudson said.
Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports