- Lynn Burkhead
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. The final day of the 2008 Elite Series tour brought a mixture of rain, sunshine and plenty of bass.
Except all the action wasn't on Oneida Lake, where the final 12 cut of pros were vying for the Champion's Choice title presented by Ramada Worldwide.
Before the pros made their way to the weigh-in stage, 93 youngsters from across America and around the world weighed in for the fifth annual Junior Bassmaster World Championship.
As was said plenty of times before the rowdy Syracuse crowd, today was about the kids.
"You're darned right," BASS founder Ray Scott said. "This is the proudest thing that I see.
"There is nothing more exciting to me than to see kids come in with bags of bass that are bigger than the pros are weighing in and that happened today."
Kyle Harrigan, an 18-year-old recent high school graduate from Bradley Beach, N.J., endured a long sit on the hot seat to claim the world junior title in the 15-18 age bracket.
After a drop-shot lesson during Saturday's practice session from his boat captain, West Virginia Elite Series pro Jeremy Starks, Harrigan weighed in five fish that weighed 16 pounds, 1 ounce.
For anglers 11-14, Jordan McMorris (now 15 after qualifying earlier) from Bloomington, N.M., claimed that junior world title after weighing in five bass at 15-3.
For their efforts, the pair won impressive JWBC trophies, scholarship money, and a boat/motor package from Triton Boats and Mercury Motors.
"I was nervous," Harrigan said of his hour-plus wait in the hot seat as more than 40 young anglers attempted to take his perch.
"They gave me three bottles of water, but I think I only drank one. I poured the other two on top of my head."
Harrigan gained the seat after catching upward of 40 bass, keeping the three-pounders, culling the two-pounders. But despite such success, he really didn't think that he'd have a shot to win the junior world title as he walked to the stage.
"No, I thought I'd place at least somewhere in the Top 10, but I didn't think that I'd win," said Harrigan, who dreams of a pro career.
But he ended up doing just that, riding gray and white Gulp Minnows fished drop-shot style en route to his winning tally.
"I saw that big bag from the last kid and when they said 12 (pounds) and change, I jumped up and screamed," Harrigan said.
That wave of raw emotion came as Harrigan's dream came true.
"I thought it was pretty cool to be just a state champ, but I never thought I'd be a world champion."
But now he is.
In contrast to Harrigan's uncertainty, McMorris was confident in his chances to win the junior title.
"Yeah, I thought that throughout the day," the high school sophomore said. "After I got a limit, I was able to spend time culling.
"I caught plenty of fish, probably about 100."
While McMorris also used the drop-shot technique using a five-inch watermelon Gulp Wacky Crawler he also fished a couple of other baits as he targeted grass and a big flat on Onondaga.
Those baits were a Lucky Craft chartreuse shad crankbait in 20 feet of water and a green SPRO Frog.
For McMorris, today's win while fishing with boat captain Yusuke Miyazaki was a dream come true and a step toward a possible pro career.
"I couldn't ask for anything more," he said. "I've dreamed a long time of this."
As he clutched his JWBC championship trophy, McMorris appropriately summed the day up for both himself and for Harrigan.
"I feel like I'm on top of the world," he said.
And for the upcoming year, McMorris and his New Jersey counterpart Harrigan are indeed just that – on top of the junior bass angling world.
Kyle Harrington, Jordan McMorris land dozens en route to titles