High School Fishing – A Varsity Sport?

Yes, it can happen in your state! And it has already happened in Illinois and it is gaining momentum in other states.
So what does it take to get High School fishing approved as a sport? Well as you can imagine that answer varies from state to state.
Let’s start with Illinois; probably the most significant thing that led to the formation of HS Fishing in this state is that the right guy in the right place decided to make it happen!
That person was a gentleman named Dave Gannaway who is an avid outdoorsman and also is a director in the Illinois High School Association. (IHSA) This organization governs all of the HS sports and activities within the state including things like HS Football, Basketball, Wrestling, Baseball and Track tournaments and playoffs.
Mr. Gannaway, along with a few other key people first solicited schools that belong to the IHSA to see if there truly was an interest in bringing fishing in as an approved school activity. Once the interest was there they then put together a presentation for the IHSA board showing that potential interest and also how they would intend to support an effort to bring this project forward.
The Illinois Bass Federation along with other organizations and a few key sponsors readily volunteered to support the project with boats and instruction which was a big step in making all of this happen.
In other states a different approach is underway. South Carolina used a cooperative effort between the South Carolina Bass Federation and the Aquatic Resource Director for the SC DNR to get things started in that state.
They currently have gained approval from the South Carolina League (Similar to the IHSA in Illinois) that if they can attract 16 member schools to join the TBF Student Angler Federation (SAF) and form a school fishing club that they will host a State Tournament for those schools this coming year.
One of the big benefits of this is method is that all of the participating members become SAF members which entitles them to insurance coverage for the anglers and the club along with its participating volunteers. The SAF also has a host of other benefits for the Student Anglers who participate.
In Virginia the movement has begun under the guidance of FLW National Guard Pro Team Angler Doc McGee and Virginia State Youth Director Tim Mick.
Their approach has been to get a couple of schools started in the SAF and they are now working with a league of private schools within the state to get things rolling.
There are similar efforts underway in Alabama and North Carolina through their High School Athletic Associations to bring these programs forward.
If you’re interested in getting competitive fishing started in your state here are a couple of helpful hints.
  1. Contact someone at your states DNR or Fish & Game agency within the Dept. of Aquatic Education and ask if they would be willing to support this effort with you. They often have contacts directly within a state Dept. of Education. This is a big step as you will need to gain as much support as you can from every possible source to make this happen.
  2. Once you have that support your next step is to find a contact within your state High School Athletic Association that is willing to discuss your proposal. It is at this meeting where you can layout your plan on how many students you feel you can impact and also how the program can be supported. This is why having your DNR or Fish & Game behind you is so important. They have many contacts and resources available along with some potential funding to make something like this happen. 
  3. When you get an audience with one of these organizations be prepared. The more facts, figures and support that you can bring to this meeting the better your chance for success.
As always The Bass Federation is here to help you in anyway that we can. If you have any questions or ideas on how to get started please contact National Youth Director Mark Gintert at: mark@bassfederation.com