By John Zaktansky
The Daily Item
Think fishing is a no-pressure sport? Fifteen-year-old Nick Osman, of Beaver Springs, and 13-year-old Austin Gaab, of Montoursville, would like to argue that point.
The two young anglers were joined by five other area youths in a once-in-a-lifetime experience. They were invited in late September to fish alongside nationally renowned pros at the Three Rivers Challenge in Pittsburgh. The event was televised last weekend on NBC Sports and an encore presentation will be televised today at 1 p.m. on WPXI-TV.
Osman and Gaab admitted that boarding a bass boat with the best in the business was a little intimidating.
“I kept worrying I would mess up. I wanted to catch more fish than anyone else,” Gaab said. “I didn’t want to screw up.”
Neither did Osman.
The two won the bass and walleye competitions, respectively, in their age group. Gaab landed three bass, a three-pounder and a pair of two-pounders. He fished with bass pro Johnathan Newton, of Rogersville, Ala.
“It was exciting that we got to be there, although scary that everyone was there staring at you and seeing what you had,” Gaab said of the weigh-in. “I’ll always remember pulling out the fish and everyone cheering.”
It was a similar experience for Osman, who was paired with walleye pro Scott Geitgey, of Canton, Ohio. Osman’s two 20-inch walleyes combined for five pounds, 12 ounces.
“This was the best experience of my life,” Osman said. “I’ve been fishing my whole life. You learn by hands-on doing, seeing pros on television and reading magazine articles. No one expects to have an experience like this.”
According to local Bassbusters director Tom Prowant, the youth were selected after he sent in fishing bios of each of the boys. Surprisingly, seven of his boys were selected to attend. Joining Gaab and Osman were Hunter Fedder, of Milton; Garrett Enders, of Mifflinburg; River Mertz, of Montandon; Brent Engleman, of Milton; and Sam Allen, of Lewisburg.
“This was my best day of fishing ever, and I never had to cast a line,” Prowant said. “This was just a great experience for everyone. The kids learned so much from the pros — but I also believe the pros got a lot from our kids, too.”
So much so that the seven local youths still keep in contact with the professional anglers. Gaab said he talks daily with Newton on Facebook. The pros also have promoted photos from the Three Rivers Challenge and have just recently paved the way for the local youths to participate in a FLW bass tournament on Lake Okeechobee, Fla., in February.
Prowant said that the group has already started brainstorming fundraising activities for the Florida invite and will soon be talking T-shirt sales with local businesses, possibly hosting a wing night at Ards Market near Lewisburg and possibly holding a pancake breakfast fundraiser at Applebees.
“We never expected any of this,” Prowant said. “This has been so awesome.”
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