SYRIA, Va. — James Graves III proves a high school athlete can excel in varsity sports and fish for a high school bass club at the same time.
“It is not really a problem,” said Graves, who was one of only 57 anglers selected for the inaugural Bassmaster High School All-State Team. “All of my coaches understand on Saturday I have a tournament and they are fine with that as long as I tell them in advance.”
The Madison County High School senior has starred in football, breaking the school record in passing yards and earning honors as a First Team All-District punter and Second Team All-District quarterback. He also broke the school record for 3-pointers in basketball and earned Second Team All-District honors.
Graves, now 18, was introduced to bass fishing by Orange County High School 4H & Junior B.A.S.S. Club advisor Becky Gore, who invited him to fish some of her club’s tournaments when he was 14 years old.
“Ever since then, I have been doing it every other weekend,” Graves said.
After fishing with the Orange County club for a couple of years, Graves started the Madison County Anglers club at his high school and has been the club president since 2012. His B.A.S.S. victories include winning the 11-14 age division of the 2011 Bassmaster Junior World Championship, 2014 B.A.S.S. Nation Mid-Atlantic Divisional high school competition, and the Virginia B.A.S.S. Nation High School competition in 2011, 2014 and 2015. He’s qualified for the B.A.S.S. Nation Mid-Atlantic Divisional for three years running and for the Costa Bassmaster High School National Championship in both years of its existence.
Graves was also chosen for the B.A.S.S. Nation Virginia-John Crews High School Elite Team, made up of anglers who finished in the Top 10 of the three Virginia B.A.S.S. Nation youth qualifying tournaments.
The former Bassmaster Junior World Championship winner has enjoyed fishing B.A.S.S. youth events.
“It’s been fun,” he said. “I have learned that you have to try to do your best, stay focused and hope that everything goes right.”
Graves said he prefers the B.A.S.S. Nation High School program over the old Junior Bassmaster setup.
“I like the two-man team format a lot better because it is a different approach,” he said. “That way I am not battling with the person I am standing beside in the boat.”
James Graves Jr., Madison County Anglers Club advisor, said his son’s skills have greatly improved since he started fishing B.A.S.S. youth events.
“He has always been a natural fisherman,” Graves Jr. said. “Ever since he was 2 years old, he has been catching fish. Being in B.A.S.S. has helped him talk to other people when he had to go to other fisheries and find out more information. He has met a lot of people through B.A.S.S.”
Graves III plans to attend Virginia’s Bridgewater College even though the school lacks a bass fishing team.
“I am thinking about starting one with a couple of my friends who are going there,” he said.