Tournament bass fishing is a lot younger than most professional sports. I was born in 1972, and pro-level events had just started a few years before my birth. I played baseball and basketball in high school, but the idea of a high school fishing team never even crossed my mind. Heading off to the University of Illinois in 1990, I read about one of our rivals, the University of Indiana, starting the first collegiate fishing team a year before. Already knowing that I wanted to fish for a living, I inquired with a popular tournament organization about starting a bass club at Illinois and received the necessary paperwork. As much as I loved fishing, creating a club was going to take way more time and money than my studies and part-time jobs would allow, so my grand idea fell by the wayside.
My, how the times have changed! College fishing has exploded in just the past few years. There are now over 600 college- and university-level teams, with local tournaments, regional tournaments, conference championships and national championships. Some universities supply boats to team members and even offer fishing scholarships, and I expect that trend will only grow as the sport gets more established.
With the success of so many college teams, high school bass fishing is the latest addition. Apparently I’m not the only crazed bass fisherman in Illinois, as it became the first state to officially sanction bass fishing as a high school sport in 2009, with Kentucky following in 2012 and a lot of other states either following or strongly considering adding it. In the meantime, many high schools are forming teams even before their states make it official, with regional, state and even national-level tournaments increasing exponentially.
For those who love fishing and the competition of trying to catch more and bigger fish than their friends, opportunities abound for boys and young men. I can think of no better place to start on the road to being a successful angler than through the Boy Scouts of America. An appreciation for and understanding of the great outdoors, overcoming adversity and staying humble when successful are just a few of the necessary attributes that Scouting provides — all of which make an ideal fishing team candidate.
What, your high school is as behind the times as I am and doesn’t have a bass team yet? Good news — it’s pretty easy to fix that problem. Check it out: http://www.highschoolfishing.org/getting-started/