When Donald Storr and his wife, Kelly, coached identical twins on their basketball team at Wilde Lake, they saw it: an innate ability to communicate that borders on supernatural.
"There's just something that's different about 'em. They know what they're doing before it happens," said Storr, a math teacher at Marriotts Ridge since 2005. "A lot of times you're trying to figure out, 'What are they doing?' And then all of the sudden you realize."
Storr is one of the founders and club sponsor of the Marriotts Ridge Fishing Club, a school-recognized organization dedicated to largemouth bass fishing that began last year. Though the club is still in its infancy, with just six members this past year, it has already gained statewide recognition with a chance to make bigger waves. The founding students, identical twins Riley and Ian McGann of Marriottsville, won the Maryland Bass Nation high school championship in October to earn a ticket to the Costa Bassmaster High School National Championship, beginning Thursday at Kentucky Lake in Paris, Tenn., with an estimated 150 pairs from 40 states expected to compete.
Ian and Riley's triumph at the third annual state tournament that launched out of Smallwood State Park in Charles County, came as a bit of a surprise to Storr — "We didn't do an awful lot of practice," he said — but a pair of good catches within the first 10 minutes helped carry the day.
"We sat down in the same 100-yard stretch for about four or five hours," Ian said. "There's a saying: You never leave fish to find fish."
That timeless advice proved true as Ian and Riley's five-fish limit of 14.2 pounds, including Ian's tournament-best 3.51-pound lunker, bested 21 teams representing eight schools, topping the defending champion Southern Garrett Bass Slayers' five-fish total of 12.93 pounds.
"I couldn't have imagined this," Ian said months later.
His brother, though, had pictured that moment for a long time.
"It's always something I've wanted," said Riley, who aspires to be a professional bass fisherman. "It's a goal for me to make it in fishing. I always wanted to be here."
"Here" wasn't easy to reach. The club is a passion project for Ian and Riley, who both said they would like to stay involved even though they graduated this past spring. They found a partnering club in High Noon Bassmasters through Storr and fellow member Tom Barlow, the lead sponsor who served as Ian and Riley's boat captain in the state tournament and will do so again this week in Tennessee. But they first had to receive approval from the school.
The club, though recognized by Marriotts Ridge, is affiliated with the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society through its High School Nation program because it provided the necessary insurance money so the school would not be liable when students participated in club events, such as tournaments. It was Ian and Riley, both 17, along with Storr, who handled the necessary registration and fees.
"It was never a hassle that we thought was getting to be too much," Ian said of forming the club, which both he and Riley acknowledged was a sometimes frustrating process. "It was always enjoyable."
For the twins, anything to do with a rod and reel has always been enjoyable. They have been fishing since they were 4 or 5, introduced to the sport by their father, John, a Philadelphia native who picked it up when he and his wife, Barbara, moved to Maryland.
"I bought a little rod, went over to a couple of places, had a little success, and enjoyed it myself," said John, who started taking Ian and Riley with him to Patapsco State Park. "I introduced the kids to it, going to a lake with corn or a little worm and catching bluegills, and that's all that really mattered for them."
It wasn't long before the boys caught the itch.
"He would get the fish on the line and tell us, 'Here, get the rod. I think there might be something on it,'" Riley said. "We would check it and get all excited, and that's how it started."
As Ian and Riley grew older, their skills sharpened. Ian remembers fishing when they were around 7 or 8 on Little Patuxent River, which feeds into the Triadelphia Reservoir, surrounded by boulders perfect for climbing. They each caught a few bass, about 4 or 5 pounds each.
"But to us, we thought they were giant," Ian said. "That made us love fishing."
What started as bonding time between father and sons grew into a hobby for Ian and Riley, who said they fish about five times per week, casting from the shore on weekdays and taking out their father's 17-foot tracker boat on the weekends. In high school, they would get home from classes at 2:30 p.m. and go fishing before they needed to be at work at a pizzeria at 5.
They are each unique in their own way. If you were to use Superman as an analogy, as Storr did, Ian is the high-flying Man of Steel while Riley is the down-to-earth Clark Kent. And they have different interests — "We like different colors," Riley deadpanned — but over the years, they've developed remarkable chemistry, often knowing what the other is thinking before they even say it.
"When I go out on the boat, there's a lot of chatter between them, and it drives me crazy," John said. "But they're just so hand in glove with each other when they go out.
"When they go out with anybody else, it kind of throws them off a little bit. If I'm there now, I'm in the way."
Ian said it's all part of their routine.
"Our boat chemistry is so in tune," he said. "So someone that has no idea how we fish gets on the boat, they get in the way. We always sit in the same position. We know exactly how we're going to fish …" his voice trails off. "I don't even know how to explain it."
"I think it exists," Ian said. "But it's just as anybody who's known each other for a long time, you know everything about them, so you can assume things."
Added Riley: "A lot of times, when he says something like, 'We should move here,' I'm thinking to the same exact thing. I just haven't said it yet."
But chemistry alone wasn't enough to get Ian and Riley into the national tournament. B.A.S.S. provides $500 for state champion teams and Storr and Barlow's club chipped in $700, but the trip to Kentucky Lake will cost an estimated $3,000 for travel and expenses, such as bait and tackle. To raise money, Ian and Riley worked eight hours a day, five times a week for two weeks this summer for Anglers Express in Cockeysville, fixing and updating the store's website in return for $650 of merchandise, as well as a few rods and reels. All the money was spent in one day.
To get ready, Ian and Riley stayed up all night last week organizing their equipment, which includes 22 rods and about 50 bags of plum worms, not to mention the countless tackle boxes of hooks, lures and sinkers in all shapes and sizes. They've watched YouTube videos, read articles and even spoken to a pro, J.T. Kenney, a 15-year veteran of the Bass Fishing League with career earnings of $1.4 million and 43 top-10 finishes.
In a national tournament, they both agreed, there's no time for second-guessing.
"When you're fishing a new body of water, you have to rely on what people already know," Riley said. "You have to go all in on something. You can't fool around for a while. You have to pick something and go with it."
On Saturday, the twins will leave in a truck packed with roughly $1,200 worth of equipment for a 12-hour drive to arrive Sunday for four days of "pre-fishing," to get familiar with the territory. The top 12 teams after Thursday and Friday will advance to the final round, and the final weigh-ins will be held Saturday in front of an audience in downtown Paris with the team possessing the highest three-day weight total being named national champion.
Last year's winner caught 66 pounds, including daily five-bass limits weighing 20 pounds,10 ounces, 23-14 and 22-2. That only seems to have inspired the twins.
"We could catch 25 pounds each day on five fish," Riley said. "It's a trophy fish lake."
For Ian and Riley, this week's tournament is their last hurrah together before they go to college, with Ian heading to Maryland and Riley to South Carolina. They've both expressed desire to continue fishing in school, with Riley going so far as to setup his schedule so he ends his classes at noon every day. In the future, they want to continue their family tradition of fishing together at least once a year, perhaps heading to exotic locations such as Japan and Australia to try different techniques on different species. The McGanns will even be heading to Alaska for a vacation the week after the tournament.
Ian and Riley acknowledged that they probably won't communicate much when they're away at school. But no matter how different their paths might be, there's one thing they know for certain: They'll always have a fishing partner back home.
"When we're home for winter or spring break, we'll be fishing together," Ian said. "For sure."