This is state championship time for high school baseball, softball, soccer, and would you believe, fishing? Teenage anglers from more than two dozen Arkansas high schools hit Bull Shoals Lake May 11th to try to bring in the biggest bag of bass, and bring home a state championship trophy.
More than 150 anglers, spread out in 75 boats all over Bull Shoals Lake, for seven hours. The team with the heaviest five fish weight, brought home the title. The Arkansas high school State Bass Fishing Championship, one of 40 across the country, is put on by the Bass Federation. The championships were started 4 years ago, and have certainly grown, thanks, in part, to scholarship money offered as prizes.
"We've gone from almost nothing, to about 10,000 high school anglers nationwide, fishing in 2 or 3 organizations across the country, with ours probably having more anglers than anybody. We're really excited about that. The opportunities are endless. Arkansas has always been a strong supporter for us," said Mark Gintert, with the Bass Federation.
This year's trophy was hauled in by the Watson Chapel team of juniors Blake Potter and Austin Holcom, with a one day total of more than 14 pounds.
"This is awesome. You can't explain it, really," said Holcum. Potter was asked if it has it sunk in yet? He said, "It's going to get there."
According to the tournament organizers, 60% of the anglers don't participate in any other sports, meaning this opportunity creates a niche for kids who are looking for a different outlet to chase their dreams.
"You got a large group of kids in Arkansas who need something else. They don't play basketball. They don't play football. And fishing is something that definitely will help those kids get involved in high school athletics or high school programs, activities. And it's just one more thing that keep those kids out of trouble," said Rony Jones, the Watson Chapel coach.
In addition to the potential for scholarship money, the tournament organizers are keeping in mind these kids' futures in other ways, including coaching them in how to handle interviews at the weigh in.
"We think this process is exactly the same process as their first job interview. So this is great job interview training skills. It's teaching them to elaborate on their day just like their going to elaborate on themselves to potential employers some day," said Gintert.
The state champion Watson Chapel team of Potter and Holcom now qualify for the conference championship..