By MARINA WATERS
While other kids have been spending time at home, Gavin Cloutier has been at the place he loves most — on the water with a reel in his hand. And come time for college, the David Crockett High School senior will get to continue doing just that.
Cloutier recently signed a scholarship to continue his academic and fishing career at King University. Not even quarantine could keep him from fine tuning his skills before heading off to Bristol this fall.
“It’s kind of just like a getaway,” Cloutier said.
After spending his childhood fishing with his family and discovering how much he loved the sport, Cloutier found a way to fish for a small team at Crockett and compete in tournaments across the state.
“My freshman year I found out you can do high school fishing,” Cloutier said. “So I had my dad do research into that and he contacted (Crockett athletic director) Josh Kite and he got us set up with the fishing team. So I started fishing for the high school tournaments and I would fish against other schools in tournaments.”
Cloutier and Braxton Boles, who served as Cloutier’s fishing partner from Cookeville, also qualified and competed in a national championship tournament in Pickwick, Alabama where they placed 76th out of 400 teams.
But it’s not all about pulling the biggest bass out of the water for Cloutier.
The high school senior said what makes him want to keep heading out onto the water is figuring out the best strategy to pull in the largest fish.
“It’s honestly like a puzzle,” Cloutier said. “You’ve got to try to figure out the fish, but when you think you’ve figured it out, there’s always an extra step to it. It’s like a continuous puzzle that you have to figure out. When you think you’ve figured it out you haven’t.”
Figuring out other parts of high school weren’t as much fun for Cloutier, however.
Cloutier said he spent a lot of time at Crockett considering whether he wanted his college future to include casting for bass or pursuing another love of his — playing baseball.
“It was very difficult actually,” Cloutier said about deciding between fishing and baseball. “As a freshman, I really wanted to go to college for baseball. As I kept going, I realized how much more difficult that was. I knew I loved fishing and I realized as the years went on that I had more of a passion for fishing.”
The recent quarantine gave him more than just extra time with his reel. It also allowed him time to reflect and find peace with his decision to pursue fishing.
“Honestly this quarantine thing is kind of what helped me make this decision because I didn’t get to finish my senior year of baseball,” Cloutier said. “So I really didn’t have any time to reach out to colleges for baseball. It was very difficult because I’ve been playing baseball since I was 5 years old. So I look at this quarantine thing as God telling me where I should go.”
Cloutier has been fishing since he was a kid, heading out to the water with his uncle and dad under the Tennessee moon for an evening of night fishing, which was enough of a draw to interest him back then. But once he caught his first bass, he was hooked.
“When I was younger I’d go out with my uncle and my dad,” Cloutier said. “We’d go out at night and fish. I caught my first bass when I was with them. I didn’t know much then, but ever since then, I wanted to catch another one and another one and another one. It just makes you want to keep trying and figure out different ways to catch them.”
After Cloutier’s interest turned into a passion he said he sharpened his fishing skills by practicing on the water as much as possible and by turning to YouTube.
“Another (way to learn) is YouTube,” Cloutier said. “I used to watch fishing videos all the time and I’d ask my family to buy me certain things so I can go out and practice. My parents and my uncle would show me and then their friends would show me how to use stuff. That’s just how I’ve grown.”
For those just picking up fishing, Cloutier suggests lots of practice, even if the only source of water you have is a bucket.
“It’s just like any other sport, the more you practice the better you’ll get,” Cloutier said. “If you can’t get on the water all the time, what I would, do and I still do, is get a bucket or a can or something and practice casting to that bucket. It’s basically just practice and doing as much research as I can.”
Cloutier said he was sad to miss out on his final semester in high school and time on the baseball diamond with his teammates, but fishing has helped, as has looking forward to embarking on a new journey at King, where he plans to study either sports management or business management.
“I’m a big social butterfly so it’s kind of killing me to not be at school and be with my friends,” Cloutier said. “It was sad at first, but with me out fishing it’s gotten my mind off of things. I’m still sad about not having a normal graduation but I’m kind of over it. I’m ready to be in college.”
For Cloutier, the idea of missing out on those last senior experiences can be tough, but he’s approaching it no differently than he did the advice he said he’d give to anyone just getting started or looking to join a high school team — just keep going.
“The best thing is if you can get on the water as much as possible,” Cloutier said. “No matter how many bad days you have out there, you should strive to just keep going out and keep going out. It can get very difficult but as long as you keep doing what you’re doing and keep trying to learn, you’ll have the best day ever on the water and you’ll never want to stop fishing again.”