It may be harder for these high school students to get to the next level than it would if they were playing football, basketball or baseball.
Then again, they may just not care. They may just be competing for the fun.
The Texas High School Bass Association is exploding, having almost doubled in size to 71 participating high schools in its second year of operation. Growth has come so quickly the organization was forced to split into East and West divisions this year to keep from running out of lakes to fish.
Tim Haugh, advisor for the Bullard team, has become president of the THSBA, and has seen the growth of Texas high school bass fishing from a confusing start with schools belonging to a number of competing organizations to today.
“In the East (division) we have 42 or 43 teams this year,” Haugh said. That compares to 36 in the entire organization its inaugural season.
Besides Bullard, Whitehouse is currently the only other school with competitive fishing teams. There are teams though from Athens, Winnsboro, Rains, Alba-Golden, Canton, Wills Point, Van and as far east as Jefferson and Carthage.
The East division has already held two of its five regular season tournaments. One on Lake Palestine attracted 138 boats. The second, on Lake O’the Pines, had 168.
Next up is a tournament Nov. 15 on Lake Fork followed by spring events on Lake Tyler and Lake Bob Sandlin. The goal of each team is to earn enough points while competing in at least three of the events to qualify for the organization’s season-ending championship to earn scholarship prizes.
The organization has gotten a lot of help this year from Kilgore-based Skeeter Boats. The company has come through with scholarship money, along with funding tournament plaques and organizing a Top Six tournament featuring teams from THSBA and two other organizations in the state.
Although the teams represent their high school, bass fishing is not a UIL sanctioned sport. Instead it depends on parent volunteers to serve as advisors and as boat captains who take the two-man teams out at tournaments. The organization does work with the schools that do background checks on the volunteers.
“A lot of our boat captains are dads, or maybe the team advisor is in a bass club and puts the word out for volunteers. One of my boat captains is from Longview. They don’t have a team over there and he wanted to help. When we fished Lake O’the Pines I called him. Now he wants to do Lake Fork,” Haugh said.
Student participation is unique in that they include athletes and cheerleaders, some are in the FFA programs, but most were not involved in anything until fishing came along.
“The majority of the kids this is what they do,” Haugh said, adding that 18 percent of those competing in THSBA events are female. “They really like to do it. They see it as an opportunity to represent their school. The majority of my team, they are involved in some of the stuff in Bullard, but this is all they can think of.”
Like other sports, the rule to participate in the tournaments is no pass, no play. Haugh said he has heard from other advisors who have told him they have team members who are picking up their grades so they are eligible on tournament day.
While participants are honing their fishing skills, Haugh said they are also learning other life lessons including conservation and decision making by competing.
Schools are still being accepting for competition this year, but to qualify for the season-ending tournament they will need to start with next month’s event on Lake Fork to fish the minimum three events.
For more information on the organization go to www.Texashighschoolbassassn.com or call Haugh at 903-539-3975.