High school sports history will be made here Saturday when two young anglers hoist the first KHSAA Bass Fishing Championship trophy.
The inaugural season of fishing as a KHSAA-sanctioned sport already has been an unparalleled success for the 45 two-member teams who qualified for the two-day championship.
“This has just been a tremendous experience,” St. Xavier fishing coach (and band director) Matt Yarborough said. “It’s been rather fun.”
His Tigers advanced to the title round by winning the Region 2 tournament at Taylorsville Lake earlier this month. Twelve other Region 2 teams, including three from Trinity, also will be fishing today and Saturday.
“We’re very fortunate that we have three teams going to Kentucky Lake,” Trinity Fishing Rocks coach Mike Chancellor said. “It should be interesting. None of our boys have ever (fished) on Kentucky Lake. The teams from Western Kentucky should have some advantage because they will be fishing close to home, and for some they will be fishing their home waters. But we’re looking forward to fishing and, hopefully, putting a few fish in the boat.”
Each team will be accompanied by a supervising “boat captain” who will pilot the boat and can give fishing advice, including directing the anglers to likely spots. He also can assist with lure and tackle selections and, with limitations, help net fish.
“What he can’t do is any active fishing,” said Yarborough, who sometimes serves as a St. X boat captain but won’t be doing so this weekend. “We have a boat captain who is an experienced tournament angler. He has a lot of experience with Kentucky Lake.”
Forty-five teams representing 27 schools are scheduled to launch from the Kenlake State Park marina at 7 a.m. CDT today and Saturday. Weigh-in will begin at 3 p.m. each day at the marina. The squad with the heaviest cumulative two-day sack of bass will claim the title.
Yarborough said “more than 50” students initially expressed interest in the St. X fishing team at an organizational meeting in December, and he eventually settled on a roster of 16. The team of Luke Miller and David Ryan Brewer won the regional at Taylorsville Lake with a three-fish total of 10 pounds, 1 ounce, nearly 3 pounds heavier than runners-up Trevor Hulsey and Brendan Christ of Trinity.
Fishing as a varsity sport might seem peculiar to non-anglers, but Yarborough noted that FLW Outdoors and The Bass Federation, the two organizations that helped lay much of the groundwork for high school fishing, also have worked to ensure that the focus remains largely on education.
“FLW Outdoors and The Bass Federation have really backed this and have helped make sure it’s been a classroom on the water and not just catching fish,” Yarborough said. “It involves the (study) of predators and prey, understanding weather conditions and how that affects fish and fish movement and feeding and how to keep bass alive.”
The Region 1 tournament was held at Lake Barkley, where Calloway County’s Trevor Salyers and Cody Jackson won with a five-bass limit of 15-10 and the next six teams all topped 10 pounds. Given the quality of the Kentucky Lake bass fishery, Yarborough anticipates seeing many nice fish brought to the weigh-in.
“I think it will take a total of around 35 pounds for the two days,” he said. “We had a great tournament on Taylorsville. but Kentucky Lake is a whole other ballgame.”
The weather forecast is for temperatures in the mid-60s today and Saturday but rain likely Saturday.