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Reelin’ ‘em in and swingin’ for the fences

Essex duo chasing state titles on the water and diamond
Published: Jul. 30, 2021 at 7:52 PM EDT
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SOUTH HERO, Vt. (WCAX) - Essex High School rising seniors Andrew Goodrich and Matt Safer are a lot like most kids their age. Busy.

“Football’s going to be every night throughout the week, and so’s school,” Safer said looking ahead to the Fall. “School’s gonna be every day so we’re gonna have to really get out on the weekends.”

The two are members of the Post 91 legion and EHS baseball teams, with Safer also a member of the Hornet football squad and Goodrich starring in volleyball and hoops. But there’s a decent chance none of those are their best sport.

“My grandparents’ neighbor taught me most of everything I knew,” Goodrich said of his fishing experience. “Every time I was up there, he’d take me out graciously.”

“I started around my early years of middle school, started watching a lot of Youtube videos about bass fishing,” Safer added. “And I didn’t even really realize it was a sport.”

There isn’t a whole lot of overlap in skills from baseball to fishing...but superstition certainly crosses over.

“You know I usually always try to eat Chinese before every tournament,” Safer said.

“It’s all about whatever keeps your mind set right,” Goodrich added. “If I do well one day in one set of clothes, shoes, socks whatever, gotta put it back on for the tournament because it worked.”

The two have honed their craft over the years, figuring out the best techniques, equipment, and spots to try and reel in the big ones.

“All throughout Lake Champlain, you’ll catch fish,” said Goodrich. “And big ones and good ones. But when you look at pro tournaments, it’s primarily up North (for small mouth bass). And then you’ll also see some people make a run down towards Fort Ticonderoga, and that’s a very popular large mouth area.”

And it has paid off for them. Vermont is one of just a handful of states to sponsor a high school bass fishing competition, and Goodrich and Safer are two of the best for Essex. But last Summer in the TBF Youth Angler Federation State Championship is where they scored their biggest win.

“Me and Andrew fished the week prior in practice,” Safer said. “We knew we had a good chance to win, we found the fish, and everything just came together on that day.”

That victory earned them a trip to South Carolina this Summer for the High School Fishing World Finals and National Championship on Lake Hartwell.

“We fished for a week straight,” Goodrich said with a grin. “It was a 3-day tournament and we did alright. We didn’t win it or win any scholarships, but I’d say we held our own.”

“398 boats is a lot of boats, which, that was by far the biggest tournament I’ve ever fished,” Safer added. “Being on that big stage for the first time was, it was awesome, and that’s what I’ve always wanted to do since I started fishing.”

These days, Goodrich and Safer are back on Champlain, sneaking in time on the boat around their busy schedule.

“The amount of 1 to 2 hour trips definitely goes up once you get into all these committments,” Goodrich said of their upcoming schedule.

“If we don’t have games, we’re gonna have to try to practice, even if it’s a little bit at a time, just try to find patterns and find the fish to win,” Safer said.

And they’re hopeful they can translate that time and effort into more success on the water and on the field.

“Baseball has a very special place in my heart,” Safer said. “Bringing home a state championship for legion, that would be awesome.”

“I hope to win two state championships and Matt to get two as well,” Goodrich said of the Fall season. “Definitely with fishing, I’m feeling pretty confident this year. Volleyball we’ll see, and sounds like Matt’s pretty confident with football so let’s get a triple.”

First things first, Safer, Goodrich and Post 91 will play a Legion winner’s bracket game against Brattleboro Saturday at 10 am in Rutland. Win that one and they’ll advance directly into Sunday’s championship round.

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