Keeping up with Patrick Henry High School junior Turner Hart isn’t easy.
If you can’t catch him on the soccer field, he might be in the library studying or out in the woods on a hunt. Or, he might be shooting hoops. But, more than likely, your best bet to locate Turner would involve water, a bass boat, and an ample supply of largemouth bass.
During Turner’s formative years, it appeared certain that soccer would be the center of his athletic interests. Away from his time on the pitch, Turner began fishing, at first two or three times a month.
In 2015, Turner’s two passions required a decision. Realizing the time required to participate and compete on the Richmond Kickers Elite Travel Soccer Team, the energetic teenager decided to pursue his true love, fishing.
“It was a tough decision to quit playing travel soccer, but I wanted to further pursue my passion for fishing,” Turner said last week. “Doing this allowed me to put a lot more time and effort into fishing and has made me a much better angler.” It was the right choice.
“I knew I made the right decision when I started being able to compete with highly-skilled anglers and I am one of the youngest kids operating a boat and fishing tournaments,” Turner said regarding the decision.
He began fishing for largemouth bass at Lake Anna, often accompanied by his good buddy and fishing friend John Doyle.
What began as a once or twice a month outing increased and Turner began taking part in Lake Anna fishing tournaments in 2016, becoming one of the youngest competitors on the lake.
But, the passion for catching fish began much earlier in this life. “I got into fishing when I was 11 years old. The thing that got me hooked was when my friend Dalton came over to my house and we were fishing my pond. He was slaying the bass with a Zoom swimming fluke and I told him to give me one,” he said.
The initial cast did not yield results, but fired an interest that intensified quickly.
“I threw it out there and a 5-pounder grabbed it, jumped up in the air, and shook his head, and spit the bait. Ever since that moment, I have been hooked and have almost devoted my life to fishing.”
Hart’s willingness to spend the time necessary to become a champion angler could signal good things to come in his angling career.
“I try to get out fishing as much as possible. During the school year I fish out of my boat virtually every weekend and try to fish as much of a variety of places I can,” he said.
When school ends, he ticks up the intensity. “During the summers I spend a majority of my time fishing the Chickahominy River because we have a house on it,” Hart said. “At age 16, my dad is now allowing me to stay overnight by myself and fish alone for a few days at a time.”
The results have been impressive. Turner recently placed first in the 70-boat Anna Point Marina Angler Appreciation Tournament, and also garnered a first place finish in a Sturgeon Creek Elite Series Tournament.
Hart has caught six certified citation bass (8 pounds or 22 inches long) from his bass boat named White Lightning that he learned to operate at age 12.
Since 2017, Hart has been fishing in the B.A.S.S. Nation of Virginia as a member of the Hanover County High School Team, a group that captured a top five finish in the 2019 High School Final State championship that included the 30 best high school boats in Virginia.
Hart said he’s geographically positioned to gain experience in several different genres of bass fishing.
“The one advantage about bass fishing in Virginia is the numerous different types of fisheries, whether that’s tidal fisheries such as the James River and the Potomac River. Tidal fisheries are much different than most because you have to take into account tides and be able to fish current,” he said.
Fishing in those rivers is different from a session in Lake Anna.
“You have lakes such as Lake Anna and Smith Mountain Lake. You also have Buggs Island, which is a stormwater lake where the water rises and drops frequently. The reason this is an advantage is it teaches me to become a versatile angler and to be able to catch fish in many different water conditions,” Hart said.
Although Turner deferred on the travel soccer opportunity, he continued his prowess on the field on the Patrick Henry Varsity squad where he was named Offensive Player of the Year as a sophomore. He’ll return to pitch this spring for his junior year on the PHS squad.
Hart is hoping his future involves professional fishing, but the honor roll student has a back-up plan.
“My goal for fishing is to be able to pursue it full-time,” Hart said. “My dream is to fish the FLW or the Bassmaster Elite Series. I want to compete with the best of the best and establish myself in the fishing industry. My dream is to win the Bassmaster Classic -- and I know if I complete in this I made it.”
And if the fishing doesn’t work out: “My favorite subject in school is math. I have always been talented in math and would like to become an engineer as a back-up plan.”
Whether it’s soccer, fishing or academics, Hart plans to be in the mix.
“I love playing sports because of the competition that’s why I fell in love with bass fishing. I also love to hunt because it’s so peaceful being out in nature.”
There’s no doubt Hart is making a name for himself in the bass fishing world, but the future pro angling hopeful is quick to thank the people who made his journey possible, including his number one fan.
“I am thankful for my parents supporting my passion and doing whatever it takes to make sure I have the tools to succeed.”