By: Randy Parker
In Part 1 of this series I shared my experiences as a teacher, coach, and advisor to a high school bass club. I also discussed the importance of providing opportunities, like competitive bass fishing, for our youth to be involved in and how that can serve as a motivation for them in school. It should be noted that I feel very strongly about exposing youth to the outdoors. This is not limited to competitive bass fishing. Opportunities that will allow them to experience hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, canoeing / kayaking, etc. allow them to be active and out in nature. It also allows those of us who are a bit older to share something with our youth that will help to ensure their love for the outdoors for many years to come.
What options do you have if you have an elementary, middle, or high school student that loves to fish and might want to compete in bass tournaments? In eastern North Carolina you have three options available to you: Collins Inc. Youth Educational Series (Y.E.S.), Student Angler Federation (SAF) Community Club, and Bass Angler Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.) Eastern Trail.
Collins Inc. in Smithfield sponsors the Bass For Cash tournament series and the Youth Educational Series. The Bass for Cash series is for adults (ages 18+) and the Youth Educational Series is for any student 18 and younger. These events take place on the same day and on the same body of water. Adults leave the ramp (blastoff) in the morning first and the youth go out after them. Youth return to the ramp to weighin at 1:00 and the adults return at 3:00.
There is no cost for students to participate in the Y.E.S. tournaments (no tournament fees and no membership dues). Students are encouraged to compete as a team, but can compete individually. Youth are accompanied by an adult boat captain. The boat captain provides the boat, operates the boat, and “coaches” the anglers during competition. The boat captain does not fish during the tournament. Students bring their best five fish to the scales in the afternoon. Trophies are awarded for first and second place as well as largest single fish (lunker). There are door prizes awarded that are donated by other sponsors. Anglers are fed at each event. Teams accrue points at each tournament based on how they finish. An overall points champion is crowned at the end of each season.
There are many national / international fishing organizations. Two of the largest, and well known, are Fishing League Worldwide (FLW) and Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.). Both of these organizations have opportunities for youth anglers.
SAF is the youth organization within FLW. SAF encourages high school students to form clubs within their schools and offers opportunities for anglers to compete at state, regional, and national events. Students that are not able to form clubs at their schools have the option of forming a community club. This club would include students from various schools and would still allow them the opportunity to compete in all of the SAF events. Beginning in 2016 a community club was established in conjunction with the Collins Y.E.S. tournament trail. Establishing a community club afforded anglers the opportunity to fish beyond the six tournaments offered within the Y.E.S. trail. Anglers are required to pay membership dues of $25 to belong to the Y.E.S. SAF Community Club. There are no entry fees to compete in the tournaments.
All anglers that belong to an SAF club are eligible to fish the state championship as well as the High School Fishing World Finals. The top ten percent from the State Championship qualify to fish a Conference Championship. Based on how they finish they could then qualify for the National Championship. The State Championship and High School Fishing World Finals are “Open” tournaments, meaning if you are a member of SAF you can fish these tournaments. The Conference and National Championships are “Invitational,” which means anglers must qualify to fish them.
B.A.S.S. has two youth divisions: High School and Junior. The Junior division is for students in elementary (Grades 2 – 5) and middle schools (Grades 6 – 8). Students that are in eighth grade can fish in either the High School or Junior division, but not in both. In NC there is an Eastern and Western High School Trail. The Eastern Trail is being run in conjunction with some of the Y.E.S. events as well as some stand-alone events (Dec. 2016 and Feb 2017). Just like SAF, students are encouraged to start clubs at their own school. B.A.S.S. also allows Community Clubs, and there will be a Eastern Trail Community Club forming for those students that are not able to form a school club. B.A.S.S. requires a letter of denial from the school in order for a student to belong to a community club. Anglers are required to be a member of B.A.S.S. ($10) and the NC B.A.S.S. Nation ($10). The NC B.A.S.S. High School Trail has a tournament entry fee of $40 per team per event. Anglers who are members of a club are eligible to fish in the State Championship and Regional events. Students can qualify to fish in the National Championship by finishing in first or second place in the State Championship or by qualifying through Regional tournaments. Additionally the highest place team from the Eastern Trail will qualify to fish in the National Championship (we must have 25 unique teams compete in the Eastern Trail Events). Additional information about the NC Eastern trail and how you can get started with a club at your school can be found here.
If you are a student, or a parent of a student, or know a student that might be interested in competitive bass fishing there are a variety of avenues for you to get involved. Please share this information with others. I would love to see bass fishing be a state sanctioned sport in NC like it is in other states. If you have any questions about how to get started in competitive bass fishing, starting a club at your school, or joining one of the community clubs you can email me firstname.lastname@example.org