BIRMINGHAM, Ala.— Florida native Chris Lane, 2012 Bassmaster Classic champ, waved goodbye to the Sunshine State in favor of living near the fine fishing in his current hometown, Guntersville, Ala. Bassmaster Elite Series angler Aaron Martens bade farewell to California and put down roots in Leeds, Ala., to enjoy the proximity to some of the country’s finest fisheries.
Bold moves, such as those made by Lane and Martens, are evidence that Alabama is an appealing state for professional anglers and an ideal one for high school students to launch into the competitive side of bass fishing, says Jon Stewart, senior manager of the B.A.S.S. Nation and head of the high school and youth programs.
B.A.S.S. and its partners will host three events in the coming months to offer high school students who are members of high school bass fishing clubs a shot at qualifying for the first ever Bassmaster Classic High School Exhibition in 2014. The event will follow the same format seen in college exhibitions at past Classics with students weighing in their catches on the prestigious Bassmaster Classic stage.
The world championship of bass fishing is scheduled for Feb. 21-23 in Birmingham with fishing on Lake Guntersville. High school teams will fish a different body of water for the exhibition.
“Young people in Alabama have access to great fisheries year-round,” Stewart said. “A lot of these young people grow up fishing with their dads and granddads on these outstanding lakes. They reach a point where they want to fish with their buddies and peers. It’s fun for them to compete.”
Stewart credits Alabama Student Angler Bass Fishing Association (ASABFA), a grass-roots organization that recruits and promotes development of Alabama’s future anglers, with having established a strong fishing community among high school students in the state.
“We applaud the work done by the ASABFA in involving high school students in the sport of bass fishing,” Stewart said. “They’ve done a great job in creating a strong foundation among students in Alabama, and we believe our program is an excellent complement to that. This offers high school students opportunities in addition to their involvement with ASABFA. It’s another chance for them to get outdoors, compete and enjoy fishing.”