Critiquing High School Fishing

Before I give my unsolicited opinion, understand one thing; I love that high school bass fishing is really taking off. I think it’s great for the sport and these kids are the future of bass fishing! These young anglers today are quick learners, especially when it comes to the electronics side of fishing. These mini computers on bass boats today are information superhighways and short cuts on  how to catch bass. Operating these units is second nature for the up-and-coming generation of young anglers.

 But I’m tired of watching You Tube videos where the dad, uncle or professional fishing guide tells them where they need to fish and what bait they should tie on. The sport has become who can hire the best pro or guide for their kid’s team. This is not good for the sport down the road and it’s simply not a level playing field! 

Here’s what I question about high school tournaments on tournament day: Are kids being taught the right way? Are they being taught the ethics of fishing bass tournaments? Are they being taught how to find fish rather than a boat captain telling them where they need to make their next cast? Are they netting their own fish or is the boat captain? Are they making the decisions on tournament day or is the boat captain making them?

First, let’s look at this from my viewpoint as a self-taught angler that has fished tournament trails since the early 1990’s. This viewpoint is not only mine, but many other tournament anglers all across bass fishing. One thing that’s really starting to get under my skin is how parents or grandparents are employing pro anglers or fishing guides as their kids’ boat captain. So, if you’re the parent of a kid who wants to fish high school tournaments, please stop doing this! I understand boat captains can be hard to find and I appreciate anyone who volunteers to be a boat captain and take kids fishing. 

I look at boat captains the same way I look at Dixie Youth or Little League coaches. Some have no clue on how to teach or play the game of baseball, but they are willing to volunteer their time for the sake of the kids. I applaud all volunteers who do this! But the purpose of the boat captain should be to drive the boat and make sure the kids are safe on the water, not to take kids out and show them exactly where the fish are! Baseball coaches can’t hit or pitch for their baseball teams, then why should a boat captain make decisions or net their kid’s fish. 

 The toughest thing to learn as a bass angler is how to find fish. So, when a pro guide or a seasoned tournament angler shows them exactly where to cast and how to catch the fish, then the kids haven’t learned anything. I’m not against the boat captain explaining why the fish are there after the kids have found them, but the teaching part should be done during the practice session…not on tournament day!

Next, the boat captains should not be allowed to net the fish the high school kids are catching. This too is part of the learning curve all young anglers need to learn to master along with bait tying, bait selection, map reading and how to cull their catch. These are TEAM tournaments and I emphasize the word TEAM! Let the kids do their own netting and learn to work together. Let them learn how to read the water and know what baits they should be using based on their observations. The reward for them personally will be so much greater than having a pro/guide or boat captain doing these things for them! 

While I sound a little harsh, that’s my intent! I want kids to learn on their own. This is how the two “C’s” are built….confidence and character. I want kids to be able to stand alone as an angler years from now, whether they are a touring pro or just fishing open tournaments. When you learn on your own as an angler, it makes you a better fisherman. Do I want to see these kids have success? Absolutely!!!! But I want to see them learn for themselves and make their own decisions as a TEAM with no outside influence from a boat captain. Till next time, good luck, good fishing and don’t forget your sunscreen!

Steve Graf – Owner Co-Host                                              Hook’N Up & Track’N Down Show &                                                                        Tackle Talk Live