Future Looks Bright for High School Fishing


Future Looks Bright for High School Fishing

By Craig Lamb

Just five years ago you would not begin to imagine what occurred on a springtime day at Lake Guntersville in Alabama. A tournament field of 347 boats competed in what remains today as the most to ever compete in a B.A.S.S.® tournament. That is an impressive record for an organization celebrating a 50th anniversary in 2018.

The competitors in that 2016 event were all high school anglers, making the record even more impressive.

Just three years before the B.A.S.S. High School Nation program began as an initiative to bridge the gap between youth and adult tournament participation while fostering the conservation and community goals of the B.A.S.S. Nation™. Other notable tournament leagues such as FLW® also introduced high school programs.

Success came early, and the meteoric growth has not slowed, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Without doubt, organized bass fishing at the high school level is making a huge impact on the future of the sport.

“We are only scratching the surface of where we can go with high school bass fishing,” said Hank Weldon, senior manager of college, high school and juniors for B.A.S.S.®

He should know. Weldon co-founded the bass fishing team at the University of Alabama as a student.

“I hear the same thing from the high school parents as I do from college students,” he added. “And that is we all wish this program existed during our high school years.”

The atmosphere at high school championships across the leagues is a cross between a college football tailgate party and Saturday afternoon youth athletic competition. High school logos adorn popup tents manned by parents wearing team emblems. They grill food for hungry teenagers returning from a long day on the lake. Parents cheer for their children and everyone else. Undeniably the festive environment is like none other in competitive bass fishing.

National organizations like B.A.S.S.® and FLW® run regional and national tournaments. The competitors reach those events after qualifying through events within their high schools. Student advisors, some of them teachers, oversee the club activities. Due to boating safety laws, most states have adult captains piloting the boats to their fishing locations.

State associations dedicated to coordinating and running tournaments are filling a vital void where the sport is not supported by statewide sanctioned high [school?] athletic associations.

The Texas High School Bass Association is an example. It originated in 2013 and has grown to over 140 participating schools. What started with one division has grown to six that cover the entire state.

Last year the association awarded over $200,000 in academic scholarships, another sign that high school bass fishing is more than a phenomenon. From local business to national brands like Skeeter Boats, the wholesome image and family appeal of high school bass fishing is a good fit.

“Our greatest success story is we have a no-pass, no-fish tournament structure,” explained president Tim Haugh. “A lot of parents have told us their kids wouldn’t have graduated without being driven to make good grades by fishing our tournaments.”

High school bass fishing, especially in Texas, has added appeal because of the very nature of the interests followed by students.

“In our area, many of the kids grew up in outdoor families, so it’s just a natural fit for them,” continued Haugh.

That has driven the phenomenal growth of the Texas High School Bass Association, and so has its association  with Skeeter.

“It’s very powerful to have a local company that is also a national brand behind your program at the grass-roots level,” said Haugh. “Skeeter is a big reason why our membership has grown by 1,000 percent in the past five years.”

Even regional state organizations are making an impressive impact on high school bass fishing. The Southeast Texas High School Fishing Association is a prime example. At the season opener, 562 teams competed on Sam Rayburn Reservoir on Jan. 13, 2018. Four more events are on the calendar leading up to Championship Weekend, the season finale.

“It’s made fishing mainstream and brought a cool factor to teenagers,” said Bryan Thomas, president of the SETX High School Fishing Association. “It’s also given a lot of kids not so athletically inclined a way to wear the school colors and represent their school.”

Thomas, a teacher at Lumberton High School, noted the high school fishing club is the most popular extracurricular activity at the school. Some 25 percent of club members are girls.

“Another factor is being aligned with a national brand like Skeeter Boats, which gives us instant credibility,” he added. “To see industry leaders be involved at our level is very important to our success and future.”

That makes high school bass fishing a win-win for everyone involved. Most of all, the future of the sport looks brighter than ever as high school fishing provides a wholesome outdoor activity that can be passed down through adulthood.

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Original Source:  Sportsmans Lifestyle.com



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