by Terry Rogers
On May 4, Jake Muir and Ethan Stubbs won second place in a state High School Championship Bass Fishing Tournament. The tournament was held on the Nanticoke River with Stubbs and Muir competing against high schools throughout the state. They will now represent Delaware at the BASS High School National Championship at Kentucky Lake in Paris, Tennessee, August 8 through 10.
“About four years ago, I had a student, Chris Brown, who was constantly on fishing websites when he was supposed to be in class,” John Nichols, adviser for the club, said. “He knew I liked to fish so we created this club as an outlet for him to enjoy his passion. He and Bryce Brown entered a tournament and won second place on their first attempt. We have been going strong ever since.”
Jake Muir learned how to bass fish from his father and has been fishing his entire life. Ethan Stubbs and Michael Foxwell said that Muir convinced them to join the club while Damen Manley and Hunter Mitchell joined because they loved to fish. All the members except Muir enjoy other types of fishing as well while Muir only bass fishes.
The young men compete in teams of two with a captain guiding the boat. Since the club began competing, they have earned a second place finish each year but have not earned a first place. During the tournament, they must catch no more than five bass and the winner is determined by the weight of all five fish that are caught. In addition to Stubbs and Muir’s second place win, Foxwell and Mitchell earned a third place finish. Only first and second place are eligible for Nationals. Manley won second place two years in a row but was unable to attend nationals due to the expense.
“This is an expensive sport,” Nichols explained. “I find volunteer captains who provide the boats for the local tournaments. Before the tournament, the captains practice for them, helping to identify the best areas to fish. However, when they go to Nationals, that is not permitted. This means the boys need to be down there about five days before the tournament so they can get a feel for the lake and practice catching. The trip will cost each boy about $2,500 and that can be difficult for some families.”
In order to offset the cost of the trip, the Bass Club is planning fund raisers. Nichols explained that the higher in tournaments the boys go, the more it costs. In addition to the entry fees, lodging and food, they must take into consideration the wear-and-tear on vehicles and boats that must be towed to Tennessee.
Jake Saulsbury, Mason Fry, Brian Coverdale, Thomas Beenick and Nick Pleasanton were members of the competition team last year and all graduated last week. Both Manley and Mitchell say they know other students who are interested in joining. Muir explained that he wouldn’t mind finding a career that would have him on the water once he completes school.
“I wouldn’t mind working with tournaments or teaching bass fishing to others,” Muir said. “I grew up bass fishing and it would be awesome of I could do it for a career.”
Nichols explained that there are also opportunities for scholarships from various bass fishing organizations that could help the young men attend college. Manley said that he is looking into those types of scholarships and hopes to go to nationals next year if he can raise the money after he places.
“This sport teaches a lot of things like patience and problem-solving,” Mitchell said. “We learn to focus and responsibility. Teamwork is important because we have to work together as a team. It also teaches us some anger management. You can’t just throw your rod into the water when something goes wrong. You have to figure out how to fix the problem, not just get angry about it.”
Nichols said that anyone with a bass boat who would like to volunteer as a captain can reach him at the school by calling 302-422-1610. The club is also accepting donations to offset the cost of the trip to Nationals as well as for other costs involved in tournament fishing.