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Fishing skill lands a scholarship

Sixteen hours south of his hometown of Esko, Noah Wells entered a combine excited to showcase his skill set to the coaches gathered around. Unlike the NFL combine, his 40-yard split time or vertical jump were not on display. The coaches were taking note of his pitching, flipping, and knot-tying prowess at the Bassmaster High School Combine at Wheeler Lake in Decatur, Alabama.

For the high school senior, the combine, held last summer, was a culmination of years of hard work. He walked away with several scholarship offers, ultimately deciding to take his talents to Drury University in Springfield, Missouri.

I caught up with Noah as he was returning from a bass tournament on Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri earlier this month.

Baker: First off, congratulations on all your success, can you tell the readers a little bit about your fishing background?

Wells: I'm originally from the Kansas City, Missouri area, and I moved up here when I was in second grade. Already heavy into fishing, I entered my first tournament when I was in sixth grade. I competed against 60 adults and was able to wrangle a sixth-place finish. Ever since, I've been addicted to tournament fishing. As I grew older I searched for any competitive team that would take me. During my freshman year, I fished with the Duluth Marshall team. Covid took a toll on my sophomore season, but it gave me the time to plant the seeds that would grow into the Esko High School fishing club.

Baker: Can you tell me about the Esko team?

Wells: My dad, Bill Wells, is our coach. He was instrumental in helping get our team up and running. I'm so appreciative of all the support both my mom and dad have given me over the years. You don't end up fishing all over the country as a high school student without a tremendous support system. I'm also thankful to the community of Esko, along with all the businesses that have supported us. The Esko team is going into its third season. Our numbers are growing and we've already tasted success. In our first two seasons, we've qualified three teams to compete at the state tournament.

Baker: Whom does Esko compete against?

Wells: We are a member of the B.A.S.S. Nation program, Greater North Conference. We compete against teams from Carlton, Grand Rapids, Rock Ridge, Wrenshall and Ely, along with any other teams that join our division. We have competed on Island and Fish lakes north of Duluth, Lake Vermilion, and Minnewawa over by McGregor. Additionally, Ely Lake in Eveleth is on the 2023 schedule. The state tournament often takes us to less-familiar waters in the Alexandria or Brainerd lakes area.

Baker: What accomplishments have you attained through competition?

Wells: Besides qualifying for state, my tournament partner, Bryce Hipp, and I have placed fifth at Island Lake, and third at Vermillion. In our second tournament on Lake Vermillion we bested the field and took first place. I can't thank my partner enough. Bryce and his parents have greatly impacted my success. I would like to also give a nod to all the members of the Esko fishing team. We push each other to become better anglers, and I'm excited to see how the program grows over the years. I was also an honorable mention as a Bassmaster All-American. The scholarship I earned to Drury University will allow me to work towards my degree in accounting, while I continue to pursue my fishing dreams.

Baker: While attending Drury, where will you get a chance to compete?

Wells: Locally, Lake of the Ozarks, Table Rock, and Stockton are nearby. Additionally, Lake Fork, the Tennessee River system, the St. Lawrence River, and Lake Okeechobee in Florida are all a possibility. I look forward to challenging myself and honing my skills all over the country.

Baker: Have you developed a preferred method to target bass?

Wells: Ultimately, I will do whatever it takes to stay competitive. However, I always have a punching rod tied up. I like to go face to face with fish in the weeds. Rearing back on bass in heavy vegetation and pulling them skyward is thrilling. One of my favorite parts about fishing is there is always something new to learn. Whether I'm on a lake, river or reservoir, I need to be able to monitor and adapt to the weather, wind, and other factors that will increase my catch rate.

Noah said his parents have taught him to live by the adage, "You can't always expect to be the smartest person in the room, but you can promise to be the hardest-working." Noah's nose-to-the-grindstone attitude and humble manner will certainly serve him well in his education, both in the classroom and on the water. The hard work that brought him to the combine was just the beginning of his story.

Bret Baker is an award-winning outdoors columnist and lifetime resident of Cloquet. He is a proud husband, father, educator and outdoorsman. Email him at [email protected] with fishing questions or story ideas.