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State-sanctioned High School Fishing: Will Ohio Join?

May 21, 2015 - Larry Claypool
We need another interscholastic sport for high school students these days. As long as it’s something that’ll pull them away from video games. Yes, I know it’s nice having a nine-year-old help you fix a gadget on your iPhone, but we’ve got to get kids outside. High schools in my area started sanctioning high school bowling teams a few years back. That was good. It opened up the sports scene to a few more kids. Maybe the sporting goods stores are selling a few more ‘varsity’ jackets now. Do the kids still do that? I still have my varsity ‘B’ jacket from high school (Beaver Local). It doesn’t fit now. I couldn’t throw it away — it was the only wool jacket I’d ever owned. It’s in the basement collecting dust I assume. There’s a lot of other sports high schools in Ohio could add. Currently some different sports are sanctioned — I’m thinking of ice hockey — but not many schools participate because of the cost. A low-cost sport, I would think, that could be added is fishing. Currently team fishing at the high school (and middle school) level is gaining popularity, but at this time is considered a club sport and not sanctioned by the Ohio High School Athletic Association. That may come soon. Hopefully. I understand the states of Illinois, New Hampshire, Missouri and Kentucky have sanctioned the sport of fishing for high schoolers. Illinois has 200 high schools involved. That’s good, and is probably growing. In this region a few dedicated bass tournament fisherman have helped organize the first high school fishing league — Upper Ohio Valley Student Angler League (see my article on their inaugural event on Page 9). It operates like a club but the students represent their high schools by school colored jerseys, and by name, but the school districts themselves are not sanctioning the members. Currently that affiliation comes through a well-know national bass fishing group, Fishing League Worldwide (FLW). There’s also a national B.A.S.S. organization that hosts high school team fishing events. Last year, in Ohio, a state championship was held for FLW-sanctioned umbrella. Twenty teams qualified out of 50-100 teams statewide. Most other states host state championships also. Upper Ohio Valley Student Angler League organizer Harry Emmerling said he hopes the state of Ohio will soon sanction team fishing. “I read a statistic that 61% of student anglers don't participate in other school sports. I think that it's important that kids get involved In school-related activities, so it seems like it would connect with a lot of students who are currently not involved as much,” said Emmerling. What may help cast a lighter line for states to sanction fishing at the high school level is the surge and popularity of college fishing recently. And there’s a professional FLW tournament circuit. It’s quickly becoming a cool sport for college-age young people. Probably the exposure of television and the Internet has helped fuel that. And big corporate sponsors are now getting on board. Now we’re talking about MONEY, and everyone’s listening. Possible sponsorships at the high school level will fuel sanctioning, I’m sure. But having a few good core national groups like FLW and B.A.S.S. should help the cause. And tournament fishing can be a good, clean and fun sport. Athletes — male or female — don’t have to be the biggest or strongest kids in school either. Emmerling said the local UOV club stresses safety to its members, and teach them about bass biology, environmental concerns, fishing etiquette, and rules and regulations. “They have to do a mandatory three hours of classroom time before they're allowed on a boat. We also make them organize into a club,” said Emmerling. Fish on! We have some great inland fishing waters for bass and those would make for great locations for state championships. I hope they get this done soon.


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