Over and over, Colby Pearson casts a lure meant to imitate a blue-back herring into Expo Ponds — not intent upon catching a bass in White City's urban waterway but to envision a strike and a hook-set in waters 2,300 miles away.
It's been five months since he's cast jerk baits like this for bass, but he needs to be on top of his game by Sunday on a South Carolina lake if he expects to set high-school bassing history.
The Crater High School senior will join teammate Jacob Wall of Jacksonville in an attempt to win the inaugural High School Fishing National Championship, and it's not something even confident teenagers can just wing.
"I'm focusing on the jerks, the pauses, the casting," says Pearson, 18. "I want to feel comfortable. So much of fishing is a mental game."
The game reaches its apex for them Sunday at South Carolina's Lake Murray, where they'll face off against four other regional champion teams in what The Bass Federation bills as the largest student-angler initiative in the sport's history.
The pair already have won Oregon's first high-school bass championship, and last fall they won the West regional tourney in Arizona for the right to fish in Sunday's national finals against four other regional winners.
"They're all good teams," says Wall, a junior at St. Mary's High School. "They won their regions, just like us. This should be a good tournament."
It also could mean more than $10,000 in scholarships and having their names etched into the first such trophy of its kind.
A win Sunday could provide a huge boost to their hopes of working their way up the bass anglers' ladder to rock-star status on the pro bass tour.
"It'll get them the exposure they'll need to take it to the next level," says Julie Huber, the tournament's communications specialist.
That could be anything from a possible bass-fishing scholarship to colleges like Bethel University in Tennessee or introductions to potential sponsors for future club tournaments at levels short of top pro tourneys, Huber says.
"It's a business, and it's a business they'll have to learn," she says.
It's also a business they've been working toward since early age.
Pearson, of Central Point, gained wide acclaim among bassers nationwide in 2006 after he caught, photographed and released what likely would have been a state-record largemouth of at least 12 pounds from Hyatt Lake, saying he didn't want to see the bass die just for a record.
Wall is a two-time finalist in the Bassmasters' CastingKids competition held in conjunction annually with The Bass Federation's national championships.
Wall has fished tournaments since was 13, while Pearson has competed since age 11.
They have known each other for years, but they didn't start fishing together until late 2010, when Wall recruited Pearson as a teammate for these championships.
The duo are a natural team, largely because their fishing styles complement each other.
Wall, who fishes up front, gets the first pass at each bass and often fishes plastic worms and grubs. It's a technique that helps garner a five-fish limit for the tourney but doesn't exactly put him in place for catching really big fish.
While Wall goes for quantity, Pearson goes for quality. He fishes large swim baits, imitating large baitfish, in hopes of putting a few big bass in the live well.
When the pair learned they were headed to Lake Murray, they immersed themselves in the Internet looking for information. And what they found shows that two kids from the Northwest's Salmon Nation won't be out of place in the Deep South.
Lake Murray's not the weedy and grass-laden lake that's common in the South and somewhat unfamiliar to Pearson and Wall.
It's more like the clear and rocky reservoirs the pair are used to fishing.
"It's kind of similar to some of the lakes around here, so we shouldn't be out of our element," Pearson says.
They will be targeting largemouth over smallmouth, strictly for the poundage. And Pearson will be tossing baits that look like the blue-back herring — the lake's main food source.
And all that practice at Expo Pond could translate well into a Southern drawl.
"I feel confident in my fishing skills, and I feel confident in Jacob's fishing skills," Pearson says. "Winning this tournament would put us in the national spotlight.
"We're going to have the mentality of going out and doing our best," he says. "That's all you can hope for."