What will it take for bass fishing to become a sanctioned sport by the SCHSL?

·4 min read

Hundreds of America’s best high school bass anglers came to the Upstate over the weekend and fished Lake Hartwell for the 2022 Abu Garcia Bassmaster High School Championship.

South Carolina was suitable to host the massive and prestigious high school tournament, yet bass fishing isn’t a sanctioned and recognized sport by the South Carolina High School League (SCHSL).

Some out-of-towners were surprised to hear it was a club sport. Though bass fishing isn’t widely sanctioned across the nation, Southeastern states like Kentucky, Georgia,  and Mississippi offer bass fishing as a sanctioned high school sport.

So why isn’t bass fishing recognized in South Carolina, the host of the 2022 Bassmaster High School Championship?

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GALLERY: High School Bassmaster opening day on Lake Hartwell in photos

Crescent High anglers Luke McGuffin, left, and Kaleb Butts wait to launch during the 2022 Abu Garcia Bassmaster High School Championship presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors at Green Pond Landing on Lake Hartwell in Anderson County, S.C. Thursday, August 11, 2022.
Crescent High anglers Luke McGuffin, left, and Kaleb Butts wait to launch during the 2022 Abu Garcia Bassmaster High School Championship presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors at Green Pond Landing on Lake Hartwell in Anderson County, S.C. Thursday, August 11, 2022.

What it takes

“I don’t think anybody understands how serious this is,” said Carter McCollum, a Pickens High bass fisher who participated in the Bassmaster High School Championship. “Not many people understand how much it takes to do what we do. All the hard work and time we put in and what it takes out of you fishing a whole day.”

For high school bass anglers, many sacrifices are made, and a lot of money is spent.

Teams must provide a boat, jerseys, all their fishing equipment and find lodging, among other expenses. All the money comes from the team’s pocket, mostly from parents. Sponsorship is the popular aid that funds the sport, just like in the sanctioned sports.

Luckily for Upstate bass fishing teams like Crescent and Pickens, their communities offer to help.

Glenn Cale, emcee and the High School and Tournament Director, interviews Crescent High anglers Luke McGuffin, and Kaleb Butts, middle, during the weigh in at the 2022 Abu Garcia Bassmaster High School Championship presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors at Green Pond Landing on Lake Hartwell in Anderson County, S.C. Thursday, August 11, 2022.
Glenn Cale, emcee and the High School and Tournament Director, interviews Crescent High anglers Luke McGuffin, and Kaleb Butts, middle, during the weigh in at the 2022 Abu Garcia Bassmaster High School Championship presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors at Green Pond Landing on Lake Hartwell in Anderson County, S.C. Thursday, August 11, 2022.

“Just a simple door-to-door method,” Crescent bass angler Luke McGuffin, whose been going door-to-door since seventh grade, explained when asked how sponsors are attained. “Walking, talking, asking. Social media is such a big thing nowadays. If you’ve got influence, use it.”

Generous sponsors for prep bass fishing teams don’t only reside in the Anderson and Pickens area: They’re all over the state. Sponsors are a reason more than 300 boats participate in the Palmetto Boat Center (PBC) high school tournaments.

Why sanction it?

For the SCHSL to sanction a sport: a minimum 16 schools must be competing, a school or district must submit a request to sanction it and the approval would be made by the league's executive committee after receiving feedback from the membership.

It's safe to say there are at least 16 schools across the state willing to participate in bass fishing.

“(Bass fishing) is growing, rapidly growing,” McGuffin said. “There is so much involvement from colleges, partners in the community and this facility here, Green Pond Landing, it probably wouldn’t have been built without high school fishing because it’s so popular and it’s reoccurring.”

Boaters launch on Lake Hartwell during the 2022 Abu Garcia Bassmaster High School Championship presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors at Green Pond Landing on in Anderson County, S.C. Thursday, August 11, 2022.
Boaters launch on Lake Hartwell during the 2022 Abu Garcia Bassmaster High School Championship presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors at Green Pond Landing on in Anderson County, S.C. Thursday, August 11, 2022.

Chapman High School bass anglers Talan Leith and Bryson Glover believe bass fishing should be sanctioned to bring more attention to the sport.

As seen in recently-sanctioned sports like girls lacrosse and boys volleyball, once a sport gets legitimized by the SCHSL, more students become aware of it and get involved.

“A lot of people around here love to fish, but they don’t really know that you can get into team fishing,” McCollum said.

There are even opportunities at the collegiate level some may be unaware of. Anglers could earn bass fishing scholarships like Pickens grad Mackenzie Sanders, who attends Erskine College.

It is a sport

“To me, this is up there with football and everything else,” Crescent fishing coach Terry McGuffin said. “It may not be bringing in the money, but it ought to be a recognized sport. Because you’re going to go stand on that boat for eight to 10 hours a day. That takes a lot of endurance for these guys to stand out there and do it.”

The same routine that goes into sanctioned sports like football goes into bass fishing. Teams are formed, money is raised, teams practice and go compete.

At some schools, bass fishing is even the prize-winner, bringing in more hardware than any other sports team.

“Over the past few years, out of all the sports at (Crescent High), our team has got the most trophies and recognition,” Crescent angler Kaleb Butts said. “We’re traveling across the nation (and) our school is getting all the representation from it. ... So (bass fishing) is pretty important (in the Crescent community).”

Joshua Miller covers high school sports for The Anderson Independent-Mail. Have questions, story ideas, scores and stats involving high school athletics? Send them to his email at jdmiller@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter: @NameIsJoshua

This article originally appeared on Anderson Independent Mail: Bass fishing isn't sanctioned by the SCHSL. Here's why it should be