The movement began with the Moline (Illinois) High School Bass Fishing Team and has grown nationwide by leaps and bounds. At our home-town Brainerd H. S., participation has reached 130, more than the basketball, hockey, and baseball teams combined! For teenagers, fishing has become “cool” again. Perhaps it’s the sharp jerseys or the fast boats, but they formula has been working.
Competitive fishing combines the fun of catching fish with the excitement of competitive sports. And fishing stands out, since it’s not exclusive to gender, size, or strength. Moreover, it’s a lifetime sport with far lower risk of injury.
Involvement has been the ticket for many kids to obtain employment in industries related to fishing, including professional bass fishing, industry representatives and salespersons, outdoor communicators, and resource managers. Successful high-school students can obtain college scholarships and compete against other college teams for school bragging rights and major prizes. For example, Bethel University offers scholarships up to $20,000 to high-school champions, much like top football prospects. Many students have found entry into outdoor careers.
The road hasn’t always been easy. Adult volunteers with a boat play an integral part, taking kids out for the day. Voluteers are always needed. And some school districts have been reluctant, fearful of legal issues or administrative hassles. But youth fishing has won out, as evidenced by some regional events with over 300 participants. Several organizations coordinate these activities, including the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (bassmaster.com); The Bass Federation (TBF) and its student affiliate the Student Angler Federation (highschoolfishing.org); and the Student Angler Tournament Trail (studentangler.org).
This movement has been very positive, but as with many new initiatives, improvements can be made. As we go forward, it’s important for team coaches and on-water volunteers to pass along important perspectives, such proper conservation practices, careful boating, and good sportsmanship. With events staged in the public eye, students represent fishing, their local community, and their school. In some areas, most members of a school’s team already are skillful anglers. Novices might be intimidated by such a competitive atmosphere. It’s critical that teams find ways to involve newcomers and help them learn to fish without pressure. We also look for more multi-species events for schools.
For this important effort to continue growing, volunteers are needed to take kids out and help them become the new generation of anglers to maintain important traditions, work to maintain healthy waters, and give back to the sport. It’s a fun day on the water that aids the future of fishing.