(LITTLE ROCK) Some schools across Arkansas are seeking to add Fishing as an officially recognized and sanctioned sport.
If it were to be realized, some believe that Fishing could be held to a “tight line” with no drag allowed.
The Arkansas Activities Association are considering the matter. On June 19, Brody Jacks, president of the Bauxite High School bass fishing team, asked the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to support efforts to persuade the AAA to recognize bass fishing as an officially sanctioned school activity.
Jacks said the association’s sanctioning would boost growth in high school fishing, and would therefore boost interest in fishing among students at large. More students fishing would, by extension, encourage parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles to fish, as well, Jacks said.
The Mena Basscats have had success with high schoolers hitting the ponds and achieving many accolades.
In February, the AAA recently sanctioned video gaming, Jacks said, which encourages kids to stay indoors. Sanctioning fishing would encourage kids to get outdoors, he said.
Pat Fitts, director of the Game and Fish Commission, and Ben Batten, chief of the AGFC’s fisheries division, recently met with Lance Taylor and Steve Roberts, director and associate director, respectively, of the Arkansas Activities Association.
Roberts is an avid angler, but he said high school anglers and their parents might not like the limitations that AAA sanctioning would impose on traditional practices and customs that anglers take for granted.
For starters, high schools would not be allowed to wear jerseys or other attire showing sponsor logos, Batten said. Anglers would also not be allowed to compete for or accept cash prizes or merchandise.
The AAA would probably also institute eligibility requirements for fishing team members, Batten said. Currently, anybody can participate in a high school fishing program.
Presently, high school anglers have no restrictions on travel. Many teams compete in tournaments all over the Southeast in tournaments conducted by the Student Angler Federation (FLW) and B.A.S.S. Nation (Bassmaster). Those are major portals into the professional minor leagues for teenage anglers.
Also, the AAA would not allow for excused absences to attend high school fishing tournaments.
On the other hand, Batten said that AAA sanctioning would establish official state high school fishing championships.
Currently, there are half a dozen high school bass fishing circuits in Arkansas that convey their own version of a state championship.
Commissioner Andrew Parker asked if the agency has considered having its own statewide bass fishing circuit.
The Game and Fish Foundation, the commission’s fundraising and lobbying auxiliary, has run a statewide trap shooting tournament since 2007.
That was a diplomatic way of saying that the commission does not want any part of the drama that swirls around the bass tournament universe.
Ultimately, Batten suggested that the Game and Fish Commission remain neutral.
Only Illinois, Kentucky, New Hampshire and Louisiana officially sanction high school bass fishing. In Arkansas, high school fishing is thriving in its unregulated configuration. It has evolved to its freewheeling condition naturally and organically.
High school anglers want the respect that they believe sanctioning will bring, but they will lose the freedom that makes fishing attractive in the first place.