The Group Louisiana High School Bass Fishing Offers Students The Opportunity To Share The Love Of Angling
By Kerri Cooke
Fishing isn’t usually what students think or talk about when high school sports come up in conversation. Most of the publicity dealing with sports is focused on football, since it’s America’s most loved sport.
However, since this is Southwest Louisiana, fishing does play a huge role in the local economy, and Louisiana, as the Sportsman’s Paradise, has fishing to thank for a lot of its recreational appeal. Just think how many times you’ve heard family or friends say they’re going to Toledo Bend for the weekend.
Only recently has fishing become an accepted part of the playing field in high school with a program called Louisiana High School Bass Fishing. Louisiana High School Bass Fishing is a division of B.A.S.S. — or Bass Anglers Sportsman Society — which has members nationally and worldwide.
Eugene Hoover, the LA B.A.S.S Nation State Youth director, says Louisiana High School Bass Fishing is a way to promote fishing and get youths involved in their community. A certain percentage of teenagers might not be interested in traditional sports such as football, baseball or track, but would take on a sport such as fishing.
Grade and attendance requirements are involved in Louisiana High School Bass Fishing just as in any organization related to high school sports.
Hoover says some schools only compete in the tournaments, while other schools have monthly meetings, seminars or knot-tying classes and the like. It’s really a community effort, as even some of the principals of schools act as boat captains for students in the tournaments.
Louisiana High School Bass Fishing isn’t directly affiliated with each school for liability reasons. The name of a school can be used to show the origin of the teams, but not for publicity.
Teams consists of two anglers each. The ultimate goal of any team is to get to the national tournament. The last three years, the tournament has been held on the Kentucky Lake in Paris, Tenn. Louisiana could have at most six teams in the nationals. The more teams that participate in local tournaments, the more spots the state can receive for the national tournament. The first and second place teams at the state tournament are automatically given spots for nationals.
An added bonus to being involved in Louisiana High School Bass Fishing is the scholarships that are available. A total of $50,000 in scholarships is available at the national tournament; that means $25,000 for each angler in the winning team. These are valuable incentives, as more and more universities are offering scholarships for bass fishing, including Bethel University in Tennessee, Dallas Baptist and Louisiana-Monroe.
Annabelle Guins and Hayden Williams are a successful fishing duo from Sam Houston High School. They’ve been to the state tournaments three years in a row.
Both Guins and Williams have been around fishing all their lives, so the decision to become involved in Louisiana High School Bass Fishing once they reached the appropriate ages was a no-brainer.
Guins says fishing was something she could take more seriously once she became involved with Louisiana High School Bass Fishing at the start of high school. Williams says before he was in high school he was involved in a few tournaments and watched professional fishing tournaments on television. He never really got into football, but bass fishing gave him the opportunity to do something different and escape the pressures of everyday life.
On Feb. 11, Guins and Williams were involved in a local tournament on the Calcasieu River. They fished from 6:30 am until 3 pm — 8 hours of non-stop competition.
The tournament works like this: Two students on a boat form a team. They have a boat captain, but the only thing the captain can do is run the boat. The teams have to make all the decisions as to where to fish and take care of all the little details that make a fishing run successful. Each team has a five-fish stringer and keeps the five biggest fish it’s caught to weigh in at the end of the competition. A total of 130 boats take part.
Williams says it never gets competitive between him and Guins. They win as a team or not at all. Guins adds that being a team is very much a support system as they work together to find the best fish and net the fish for the other when one is reeled in.
Guins became the first female to take part in the Louisiana state tournament and the first to compete in Big Bass.
Big Bass takes the biggest fish out of the five, and that weight competes against the weights of the other fish.
Guins is very much hoping for a bass fishing scholarship. Her desire is to continue with her passion. She believes it would be amazing if she became a professional angler.
Williams has similar sentiments. Fishing for him isn’t a hobby, but a lifestyle.
Both Guins and Williams hope to continue to fish in college and keep it a big part of their lives in the future, either professionally or as a side hobby to their careers.
Fishing for Guins, Williams, and others passionate about the sport isn’t simply a matter of reeling in a fish. It’s an art for which you have to monitor the current weather and environmental conditions. It’s about judging the site where the most and best fish are. It’s about using the correct reel and bait.
Sometimes the most relaxing thing you can do to get away from reality for a little while is go out onto the water, bask in the sun and wait for the fish to bite. It’s to their credit that B.A.S.S. makes this program possible for students locally and nationally.