Bass fishing is on the fast track as a high school sports activity and Franklin County High School is enjoying the ride.
FCHS started a bass fishing club in the spring of 2012, and two years later the Flyers had four anglers competing in the state tournament.
The sport was recognized by the KHSAA in the fall of 2012.
It’s not something FCHS coach James Myers envisioned when he started his teaching career.
“The part of the state where I’m from, in southeastern Kentucky, you see a bass boat in every driveway,” said Myers, who’s also the FCHS boys golf coach.
“I never dreamed I’d get an opportunity to experience this. If you’d told me 20 years ago that 20 years into my teaching career I’d get to be a bass fishing coach I would have laughed out loud.”
No one’s laughing now.
Myers said participation in the state tournament grew by 27 percent from last year to this spring, and that increase included two teams from FCHS.
Cameron Thompson and Jacob Moore and Will and John Harnice took part in the state tournament three weeks ago at Kentucky Lake, where Thompson and Moore placed ninth.
“It was so exciting,” Myers said. “Cameron and Jacob, on Day 2, were two ounces out of first place with 10 or 11 boats to come in.
“They did a great job. Kentucky Lake is a vast body of water, and I was very proud of all of them. A lot of the western Kentucky teams had a big advantage because they fish there. We had a couple days of practice, a couple days of competition.
“It was a blast, and it was a great experience. They were interviewed on stage every day about their experience on the water, and it gave them a chance to thank their schools, their parents and their sponsors. It was a really, really great experience for the kids.”
Thompson, a junior, and Moore, a senior, had a total catch of 3 pounds, 5 ounces on the first day but had a creel of 16 pounds, 4 ounces on the second day.
John Harnice, a sophomore, and his brother Will, an eighth grader, placed 31st with a creel of 5 pounds, 8 ounces for the two days.
The four advanced to the state tournament through regional competition, where the Harnices placed ninth and Thompson and Moore were 13th.
FCHS started out last year with 16 students on the team. The sport is co-ed, and while the Flyers didn’t have any girls on this year’s team they had two last year. One of them, Lauren Colston, won the team’s angler of the year award.
“I’d like to keep it at about eight on the team,” Myers said, “because the more kids you have, you have to get more boat captains. If you can keep it between eight to 10, up to 12, that’s four to six boat captains.
“If you have more than eight kids, some might not get to fish.”
In competition each boat has two student anglers and an adult who serves as the boat captain.
While the smaller numbers may be easier to deal with, Myers doesn’t cut anglers from the team.
“In the post-season there’s a limit of six boats per school,” he said. “We’re not at that point.”
The season can run nearly the entire school year.
“From September until March, with the exception of Christmas break and maybe January, you can find a high school fishing tournament anywhere in Kentucky,” Myers said.
In addition to KHSAA regional and state competition, Thompson and Moore took part in the Bass Federation (School Angler Federation) Kentucky State High School Fishing Championship on Lake Cumberland March 23.
They finished third, qualifying them for the World High School Fishing Championship in September, where they will compete for a $10,000 scholarship.
For Myers, it’s been a way to see a lifelong hobby become part of his professional life.
“I’ve been bass fishing since I was 14 years old,” he said. “I have two uncles who fished professionally, and my grandfather owned a fishing camp on Lake Cumberland for 35 years.
“This has been a phenomenal experience. I’m very pleased, and this has been one of the top experiences in my 20-year teaching career.”