These high school students can’t wait to buckle down and do their homework.
They study maps, research on computers and make multiple choices to develop a game plan for catching bass at their next tournament.
Second semester fishing
Students may still join Arkansas Youth Anglers this seasson. Cost is a $20 membership fee and $20 for membership in Bass Anglers Sportsman Society. Entry fee is $20 per team for each tournament. See Arkansas Youth Anglers on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
— Staff report
Forty-four students from schools in Northwest Arkansas are part of Arkansas Youth Anglers, a fishing program that emphasizes team work, sportsmanship and nature study, all while catching black bass at reservoirs around the region.
One tournament is held each month from August through May, so events follow the school calendar, said Luci Johnson of the Lincoln area, program director. Students pair up in teams of two and fish together for the school year.
Teams gather for meetings to hear speakers who are accomplished anglers or work in the fishing industry, Johnson said. Students share knowledge so all become better fishermen. Arkansas Youth Anglers is in its second year.
“We started last year with 12 boys and ended with 26,” Johnson said. Students spread the word about high school fishing and their friends joined. Forty-four students are fishing this year. All are boys, but Johnson said girls are welcome.
“Our goal as a whole is to offer something outside of school that teaches them good values, good life lessons,” she said.
Students hail from several high schools including Bentonville, Springdale, Fayetteville, Siloam Springs, Gentry, Pea Ridge, Prairie Grove, Huntsville, Rogers High and Rogers Heritage.
Tournaments are run the same as the adult contests at Beaver Lake. Fishing is from 7 a.m., to 3 p.m. Each team weighs five fish, just like the adults. In fact, a few of the high school students fish the Everett Team Trail or Beaver Lake Elite Series tournaments, which attract the region’s top anglers.
Winning one of those events pays $1,000 or more. There is modest prize money in the high school tournaments as well. The winners split $100. Cash is awarded through fourth place, which is good for $20.
Part of the winnings goes back into fishing, said parent Angie Carter. Her son, Luke, competes in the program.
“A lot of that money goes to pay for gas and their entry fee into the next tournament. We want them to know that there’s an investment for them into this, that it’s not just handed to them,” she said.
Most of the two-student teams fish from a boat piloted by a parent or another adult, called boat captains. Some of the students have their own boats.
The young fishermen vibrated with anticipation when they pulled their boats out of Beaver Lake on Jan. 15 during their monthly tournament, held out of Prairie Creek park. Drew Miller and Luke Carter , from Rogers High School, couldn’t wait to get to the scales. They had a big ‘un in their weigh-in bag.
Carter pulled a beauty of a largemouth bass from the sack and placed it in a basket on the scale — 4.92 pounds. That’d bring whoops from the crowd at any tournament.
Carter and Miller won the event with five bass that weighed 13.61 pounds, thanks to doing their homework.
“We get together before the tournament and use Google maps, find the water temperature, how deep the fish are, things like that,” Miller said.
“We decided to fish around the main lake points, but also go to the backs of creek arms and fish with crank baits and Alabama rigs,” Carter added.
The February tournament is at Fort Gibson Lake in Oklahoma.
Angler Jacob Rhea, another Rogers High angler, has his favorite part of tournament day.
“It’s waking up early at 4:25 a.m.,” the fisherman said.
Arkansas Youth Anglers is one of about 10 high school fishing programs in the state, Johnson said. Most are affiliated with the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society fishing organization that has more than 500,000 members. Fishing League Worldwide (FLW) also has a high school program.
The Northwest Arkansas teams have tremendous parent support, Johnson said. James Carter was boat captain for his son Luke and teammate Drew, January tournament winners. James said he gets more enjoyment seeing the boys catch fish than he does catching his own.
“It’s a different kind of enjoyment. You watch them learn and develop into good fishermen,” he said.
Some of the students had never fished when they signed up last year, Johnson said.
“They didn’t know how to catch a fish. Now you see those same kids consistently bringing in fish.”
Businesses are behind the program, she added. Several donate prizes awarded at the tournaments. They pitch in to pay for team jerseys that have the student’s name emblazoned on the back, just like pro anglers.
Team work is key in high school sports. That includes fishing.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter@NWAFlip
Sports on 01/31/2017