DRAFFENVILLE – Representatives of nine area high schools met Wednesday at Marshall County High School to discuss formation of a high school bass fishing league with representatives of the FLW Outdoors, the Benton-based pro fishing tournament sanctioning body.
Bass fishing, a well-established professional sport, has recently become a popular intercollegiate competition, with schools such as Murray State University fielding teams in regional and national tournaments.
Now, the sport has filtered down to the high school level.
Marshall County is among area schools which have formed bass fishing clubs. The MCHS club has already hosted a tournament on Kentucky Lake, with assistance from FLW.
The intent now is to move fishing beyond the independent club and intramural level to an official sport, under the auspices of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association.
“This is the first meeting of its kind anywhere in Kentucky,” said Nicole Thomas, whose son, Logan, an MCHS junior, was a participant in a national high school bass tournament last summer at Lake Dardanelle, Ark. “We are excited about the upcoming season.”
At the meeting were representatives from Marshall County, Calloway County, Lyon County, Trigg County, Graves County, Muhlenberg County and Murray high schools in Kentucky. Also represented were Anna-Jonesboro, Ill., and Obion Central of Troy, Tenn.
Ron Lappin, tournament director for FLW, told the group that Illinois adopted high school fishing as a sanctioned club sport six years ago. Lappin said representatives are scheduled to meet with the Kentucky High School Athletic Association (KHSAA) in December to discuss adding fishing to the list of Kentucky sports.
“This is gonna happen” in 2013, Lappin said, noting that KHSAA could not add a new sport before then.
FLW and The Bass Federation (TBF) Student Angler Federation are the only two organizations conducting high school fishing tournaments, Lappin said. He emphasized that pro organizations have a reason for cultivating an interest among young fishing enthusiasts to sustain the adult professional sport.
“This is gonna jump up in front of us,” Lappin said. “It’s gonna be enormous. We need to be ready to throw a net over it when it jumps up.”
Lappin pledged support of high school fishing tournaments from FLW, by supplying everything from scales used in weigh-ins to holding tanks for state-regulated humane treatment of fish to banners and public address systems and even support trailers to provide an administrative headquarters and a stage for weigh-ins and recognition of winners.
The pro tour already supplied such equipment and services for the tournament hosted by Marshall County at Kentucky Dam Village State Park in October.
One important detail is liability. Sanctioned events do not allow underage competitors to operate their own boats; adult boat captains are required. TBF’s Student Angler Federation offers $1 million coverage for members and clubs.
Walter Haney, director of high school fishing for FLW, provided information about formation of SAF clubs to those attending last week’s meeting, with step-by-step instructions about setting up a club.
A structure for competition already exists through FLW and TBF. A high school state finals tournament will be held in June, in conjunction with the Walmart FLW Tour pro event at Gilbertsville, Haney said.
The state winner advances to a regional tournament, with the regional winner moving on to the national championship. Regional and national high school events will be staged with the collegiate events. Winners of the national championship will receive $5,000 scholarships.