Roger Eubank has fished his entire life and knows the benefits of getting kids involved in outdoor pursuits. For years he coached football and wrestling but know focuses on seeing youngsters with rod and reel. “I think all sanctioned sports are good and children benefit from what they learn,” he explained. “But fishing is a great teacher as well and it’s something they can do for a lifetime.” Eubank was instrumental in helping establish the first fishing club at Western High School and is helping other local schools do the same, a movement that is gathering speed across the state and nation. Some colleges have seen the benefit of establishing formal bass fishing clubs, like Indiana and Purdue Universities and the creation of the National Collegiate Bass Tournament Series. There are currently over 300 active college bass clubs and that number continues to grow. The establishment of high school clubs is considered a feeder system and in some cases the growth of high school fishing has been more explosive than the college game. This was evidenced locally just last week when our area saw the first Howard County High School bass tourney, held on our Kokomo Reservoir. Nearly two dozen students from eighth through 12th grade took part, representing Western, Eastern, Taylor and Kokomo High Schools. Participants competed from bass boats operated by an adult. After weigh-in it was Taylor students Conner Leicht and Bryce Fritsch winning first place with three largemouth bass totaling 6.40 pounds. Devon Bolton and Ryan Roark snagged second place with two fish dropping the electronic scales at 4.26 pounds. Third place and the tourney’s “biggest fish” honor went to Casey Williams and Trent Hall with a largemouth bass topping out at 3.78 pounds. Students taking part in our area's first high school bass fishing tournament gathered for a group photo.
Photo provided At the conclusion of the inaugural tourney Eubank considered it a success. “Everyone had a great time and that’s what matters,” he said. “Not every kid is blessed with the God-given ability to run 4.4 in the 40 or throw a 90 mile-an-hour fastball,” he continued. But everyone can learn to fish and it’s something they can continue to do for the rest of their lives.” It’s highly doubtful that high school bass fishing anywhere in the country will ever rival high profile sports like football, baseball or basketball. Some students even take their school cheering teams and band very serious, as do colleges where many of those students strive to attend. However a growing number of students are now also combining their stake on the ground with a line in the water. For some kids there is nothing more rewarding than being an equal competitor, regardless of size, speed or stamina. Anyone can learn to cast and the chance at hooking the most or biggest fish in a sanctioned tourney is within almost anyone’s hook-set. It also provides kids the opportunity to witness the beauty life can offer, things as simple as the setting sun over placid waters. According to Eubank, the cost of adding a fishing club to a school’s athletic services is relatively modest. “A rod and reel is really all you need,” he explained. “And if a student can’t afford one I guarantee we will find one.” And there are great lessons to be learned, not only math, science and language arts, but patience and peacefulness, the symmetry and rhythm of nature and the reminder that we must take care of our environment now and for future generations; not to mention the fact that you can’t catch a bass with a cellphone app. That alone is worth the effort. “As adults we should all revel in seeing kids, all kids, succeed,” Eubank said sincerely. And when it comes to fishing everyone can be a winner.”