When Irondequoit athletic director Anthony Lipani walked the halls at school last fall to recruit members for a new sports club, Kaitlyn Garbanzo was one of the students hooked.
Garbanzo likes to fish. Combine that with a chance to represent the school at competitions, and the idea of the Irondequoit Eagles Fishing Club is a winner for Garbanzo. Her only criticism is that the club made a comeback during her senior year.
“I love to fish, to hunt, all sorts of outdoor activities,” Garbanzo said. “I’m not really a girly girl. I don’t even wear pink.
“I would’ve liked to have seen it (earlier). To do that representing your school, is a really, really cool thing.”
New York B.A.S.S. Nation has provided guidance for high school fishing clubs around the state the last two years. The work fits part of the organization’s mission to promote the sport of bass fishing.
“Last year, we had four students total, that was it,” NY B.A.S.S. Nation president Fred Blom said. “As the teachers who like fishing hear about this, they are going to get involved.”
A total of 70 students statewide participated in the NY B.A.S.S. Nation’s program this past school year, and Blom expects 150 to 200 to climb aboard for 2015-16. The students in the program last school year like Garbanzo came from clubs at Irondequoit, McQuaid Jesuit and inside the Corning-Painted Post School District.
A fourth group consisted of students around the state at schools where there are no clubs, including Spencerport but mostly in the Syracuse region.
“There is a niche of kids who like outdoor recreation-type of activities,” Lipani said. “We need to find better ways to meet them where they are (in terms of interest).”
What types of outdoor recreation activities, such as clay target shooting, that could take hold in high schools depends on an area or region’s culture and geography. Lipani said he has fished for most of his life, and has a cottage in the Thousand Islands region of the state.
“My family had a cottage here in the 1950s,” Lipani said. “I think it has potential because we have (in the state) some of the best fisheries in the country.”
There were 41 students at the first meeting held by the new fishing club at Irondequoit in October, and 31 were still with the group in June. Members meet once a month, after the election of club officers.
There was a $20 fee to join. The fee covers a one-year membership in the overall Bass Anglers Sportsman’s Society (B.A.S.S.), the B.A.S.S. nation and the New York B.A.S.S. Nation. Club members also receive one-year subscriptions to Bassmaster Magazine, B.A.S.S. Times and Fish Lines, plus access to tournaments.
Local-level club members, including high school students, are required to complete 15-20 hours of community service and the state’s motorboat safety course. The students at Irondequoit explored the impact of invasive species in state waters.
They also visited the super-sized Bass Pro Shops in Auburn, Cayuga County, and Powder Mills Park in Perinton. Five local professional tournament fishermen taught club members the techniques of casting with the aid of a pool during the year.
“It’s kind of cool that this is something at my school,” said Irondequoit junior Mark Butler, 15. “We’re going to do more fishing next year. I think we might do ice fishing.”
All of the high school clubs or groups sent two-person teams, 24 students, to fish in the B.A.S.S. Nation state championship with volunteer boaters.
McQuaid students Liam Blake and Matt Brien finished in second place and along with winners Michael Arndt and Ryan Hujar from Cicero High, earned invitations to the B.A.S.S. National High School National Championships July 22-25 on Kentucky Lake in Paris, Tennessee. Scholarships are part of the prizes for the students at the national championship.
“The tournament fishing is just icing on the cake.”
Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri and New Hampshire sanction bass fishing as a high school sport, according to the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. Lipani said it is his personal goal to get New York state to do the same.
Garbanzo believes it’s a matter of increased publicity.
“People will see that it’s a cool thing, a positive thing,” Garbanzo said. “I want it to be as big as high school football.”