Hooked by a neighboring state’s success, Kentucky is gearing up for its inaugural season of high school bass fishing. Come next spring, a skillful flick of the wrist for casting a line or reeling in a big one could land students on school teams competing for the state championship.
It won’t generate the hoopla of football or basketball, but Kentucky High School Athletic Association officials think they’ve got a keeper with bass fishing as a sanctioned sport.
Adding bass fishing will give students a chance to turn a popular pastime into a school activity. And luring more students toward extracurricular activities is a recipe for classroom success, KHSAA officials said. Plans for the program were first reported in The Courier-Journal this past February.
“We know that athletics … certainly are the best dropout prevention that we can put out there,” said KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett. “It makes kids come to school regularly. It makes kids get good grades.”
Kentucky becomes the second state to add bass fishing as a high school sport, following in the wake of Illinois.
Now that KHSAA has offered the bait, the question is how many schools will bite — and form teams.
In Illinois, 232 schools fielded bass fishing teams this spring, up from 199 schools when the sport debuted in 2009, said Kurt Gibson, associate executive director of the Illinois High School Association.
Teams compete in sectional tournaments across Illinois, with three boats advancing from each sectional to the state tournament. The sport has become such a success that officials are weighing whether to allow schools to enter more boats.
“It’s brought diverse groups of kids together,” Gibson said. “Students that may not normally hang out together during the school day now have come together because of their common enjoyment of bass fishing.”