By: Randy Parker
I have been employed in public education for almost thirty years. I coached high school sports for twenty-seven years. Throughout all of those years I could never have predicted the excitement and enthusiasm for the newest and fastest growing high school sport, competitive bass fishing. I had the unique opportunity to be involved in starting a bass club at Clayton High School in Clayton, NC. The idea for the club was the response by a young man, Max Prince, who had an idea for his senior graduation project. He approached me and asked if I would be interested in being the advisor for the club. I enthusiastically said YES! That was seven years ago, and while I am no longer at that school, the club is still in existence.
I remember the first club meeting. There were probably more than thirty students in my classroom. Once we finished talking about dues and what the purpose of the club was the meetings that followed had fewer and fewer. That was OK, because what that meant was that we were getting the ones that truly wanted to learn more about competitive bass fishing. I think we finished that first year with six active members. Much of that first year was about learning; setting up activities in the classroom to learn about different types of baits, going to the track around the football field and practice casting, and fishing on local ponds when the dismissal bell rang.
In the second year of the club we started fishing in boats on some of the local lakes. I was a member of a NC B.A.S.S. Nation Club and the members enthusiastically supported taking the high school club under their wings. Members who did not have a partner to fish with, volunteered to take youth with them during club tournaments. This provided many of the youth their first opportunity to fish out of a bass boat. I feel that this was a great partnership and afforded the students opportunities to learn about bass fishing that they might not have gained otherwise.
In our second year of competing in the B.A.S.S. NC State Championship, two members of our club were crowned State Champions and qualified to fish at the Southern Divisional on Douglas Lake in Dandridge, Tennessee. While the club did not have large membership, the members we did have were committed to the sport of bass fishing.
One of the things that I realized over my many years of coaching was that athletics gave many students a sense of belonging. They were not going to play Division I athletics and they probably were not going to be in the top 1% of their class, but athletics motivated them to come to school and get their diploma. Athletics changed their attitude and behavior. How many students drop out of school because they do not feel a part of something positive. They do not have academics, athletics, music, performing arts, or a club with which they can feel a part of. I know that bass fishing is giving students, male and female, something they can belong to and be proud of.
Since starting the club and being active in various high school tournament trails, I cannot count the number of times I have heard adults say “I wish they had a Bass Club when I was in high school.” I wish I would have had that opportunity in high school. While I played sports I was most definitely not a “gifted” athlete. I loved to fish and I know that I would have participated if I would have had that opportunity.
In Part 2 of this series I will talk about opportunities that students have in NC to become involved in competitive bass fishing. I will also discuss how they can start a club of their own at their school.