Lake Creek High School seniors Fallon Clepper and Wyatt Ford of Montgomery, Texas came out charging and never relinquished their lead in winning the 2022 High School Bass Fishing National Championship. The event took place June 22-25 on Pickwick Lake near Florence, Alabama.
The pair weighed nine bass over three days of competition weighing a total of 39-9 to best a packed field of 416 boats. In doing so, Clepper, a St. Croix Rod staffer, became the first woman to ever win high school bass fishing’s highest title. She says she and her partner were dialed in throwing 3/8- and 5/16-ounce shakey head jigs and Zoom trick worms throughout most of the competition. “I was using Mojo Bass MJC68MF and BassX BAC66MHF rods for my shakey head presentations and also caught some cranking with a Legend Glass LGC610MHM,” Clepper recounts.
Carrying a mere one-ounce lead into Day 3, Ford would feed his shakey head to a 7-8 largemouth early that morning. “I was thinking that we had been here before,” he says. “I knew if we got it in the boat that we might have a shot.” When Julian Clepper – Fallon’s father and the team’s adult boat driver – netted what turned out to be the largest fish of the competition, it would solidify the team’s position at the top of the podium.
MLF / Joe Sills photo
“The feeling of being a National Champion is one that I can’t really even put to words,” the 17-year-old Clepper says. “I feel like this is all a dream because I’ve dreamed about this day for years. Winning this tournament means to me that I can do it and to never listen to anyone who says I can’t.”
Fallon started fishing at age two with her dad at their family ranch. “We would go down to the pond and catch perch,” her father, Julian, recalls. “By the time she was five she was on our home water at Lake Conroe catching bass, catfish, crappie… basically anything that would bite. At age of 11 she started competing in some team events with me and her tournament fishing career just took off from there.”
Fallon says she does anything she can to inspire other girls and young women to get into bass fishing. “I just want to tell all the girls out there that if you want to get into fishing, do it. This has been one of the best experiences of my life… not just winning this championship but making the decision to fish competitively and then investing all the time and effort and sacrifice necessary to enjoy success. I wouldn’t want to change a thing about it.”
MLF / Joe Sills photo
Fallon’s dad says he feels blessed to be the father and boat captain of the first female National High School Champion. “Fallon has proved to herself and others that hard work and dedication pay off. What I love and admire most about my daughter is that she has a heart of gold and a beautiful personality,” he says. “She is absolutely beautiful inside and out… and her competitiveness is over the top! I couldn’t be any prouder to be her father.”
Clepper says she’s grateful to all her family and friends for the incredible support they’ve extended to her throughout her fishing career, and also to her partner, Ford. “Wyatt and I have known each other for a long time and have been fishing partners for the last three years. I couldn’t be happier to share this experience with him… and, of course, my dad, who has given me so much love, encouragement, inspiration and knowledge over the years.”
For their winning efforts at the High School Bass Fishing National Championship,, Clepper and Ford were rewarded with over $250,000 in prizes and scholarship opportunities. The “Dynamic Duo” also earned a bid to fish as co-anglers at the 2022 Toyota Series Championship, scheduled for November 3-5 on Lake Guntersville in Guntersville, Alabama.
Photo by Garrett Davidson
Clepper says she’s also grateful for the support of her sponsors, including St. Croix Rod of Park Falls, Wisconsin. “It’s definitely a privilege to be working with a great, family-owned American company that produces such a great product,” she says. “Top technology, the best materials and components and handcrafted workmanship – along with their people – are what make St. Croix number one. Their rods, customer service, warranty, and product support are top notch, and I know they give me advantages on the water.”
What’s next for Clepper after having hoisted the most coveted trophy in high school bass fishing?
“My short-term goal for fishing is to accomplish my other dream of becoming a THSBA state champion and AOY for my division in Texas,” she says. “I’m going to press hard on that goal and am also looking forward to fishing my best on the co-angler side at the Toyota Series Championship on Lake Guntersville this fall. But from a greater perspective, I’m just going to continue to try and fish to my potential at every event I enter and hopefully inspire more young women to pick up a fishing rod.”