It took a while but students will may be able to use that excuse in the coming year at District Five schools.
Bobby Bentley, District Five Athletic Director and Public Relations, has added fishing and boys and girls lacrosse to its 21 sports extracurricular activities
“Any opportunity we can give young people to get involved with school activities, we’ll do it,” Bentley said. “Sixty percent of the students involved in the fishing club (40 members) are not involved in a sport. We want to reach as many teens as we can because it is proven extracurricular activities improve their chances to succeed in school.”
The South Carolina High School League does not sanction fishing among its 22 sports. But a state championship was held in April on Lake Greenwood with T.L. Hanna of Anderson finishing first, Abbeville second and Chapin third.
Illinois became the first state to add bass fishing as a high school sport. Kentucky was second.
“We know that athletics ... certainly are the best dropout prevention that we can put out there,” said Kentucky High School Athletic Association Commissioner Julian Tackett, in an Associated Press story last week. “It makes kids come to school regularly. It makes kids get good grades.” A tiebreaker used in some high school tournaments is the team’s grade-point-average.
“It’s brought diverse groups of kids together,” Kurt Gibson, associate executive director of the Illinois High School Association, said in the same AP story. “Students that may not normally hang out together during the school day now have come together because of their common enjoyment of bass fishing.”
Bentley described the first year of fishing much like a demonstration sport in the Olympics. Byrnes will participate in tournaments but it will not be eligible for championships. The one-day event will have winners with the most weigh of 5-fish (catch and release) and the biggest fish.
The five-person team will be comprised of co-eds. They will earn the right to participate in tournaments based on fish-offs held during the week. “Think of this much like golf,” Bentley said. “Any student can participate and there will be minimum cost.” Upstate lakes like Robinson, Blalock and Bowen are good for bank fishing tournaments. Students will provide their own rod and reels and bait.
In Kentucky an adult is in each competing boat. Students aren’t allowed to operate the boat’s outboard motor. Schools are responsible for providing boats, along with adult drivers. Either a student or the coach/adult onboard may operate the trolling motor.
Byrnes is in the Spartanburg Jonesville Water District (SJWD) that serves Lake Cooley.
A coach or fishing mentor shouldn’t be hard to find. “Coach (Russ) Howard loves fishing and he already told me to count him in,” Bentley said. “This is a sport that increases the quality of living, it’s a life long sport.”
It also provides an education of casting and tying techniques. It teaches boater and water safety and increases environmental awareness. “Culturally, people who fish are a tough group of people,” Bentley said. “The tournaments and weigh-ins are fun to watch.”
The future, as Bentley sees fishing, is to be tournament competitive in two years and after that, maybe a venture to Colorado, Utah or Montana for high school competitions. After all, Bentley said, “I began to think about this when I was reading about the high school tournaments in Colorado.”
This year’s High School Fishing World Finals is July 15-21 at Russell, Ark. The qualifications? Membership in the Student Angler Federation ($25). Schools don’t have to qualify through their state organizations. The tournament weigh-ins will be streamed live here.