High focuses on developing the best anglers in Alabama

”These are my kids,” says Darrel High, youth director for the Alabama B.A.S.S. Nation.

“Every one of them, I feel like they’re my own. I watch them go from ninth-graders to getting scholarships from college.”

If they’re all his kids, then High has a lot of pride to go around, with more than 700 members of the Alabama B.A.S.S. Nation High School program alone.

High seems to effortlessly juggle his full-time job as the materials manager for Auburn University, his youth director responsibilities and his work as the Auburn University bass fishing team’s adviser.

“I’ve got a lot of good help,” says High of the high school program. “With 180 to 190 boats per tournament, it can be a pretty big operation.”

Some of the young anglers’ parents have stepped up and taken on big duties, such as tournament entries, tournament setup and sponsorship acquisition. The 10 regional directors across the state have been a big help to him, too.

“I have the greatest directors in the country, I think,” he says. “I could not do this without them, and getting the volunteers and the parents involved wouldn’t happen without them. I depend on them.”

With as large and growing a membership as the Alabama B.A.S.S. Nation has, delegation is a necessity.

“Alabama has the high school program’s largest membership,” says Hank Weldon, B.A.S.S. high school program manager. “Darrel is a great part of our youth director network. He has exceeded expectations in Alabama and has done a great job for us. He works well with the regional directors to run his state efficiently.”

The regional directors include Breanna Wyatt, a college competitor at Faulkner University. She is one of the many anglers whose interest in youth fishing developed while fishing in high school and has led to leadership positions in the fishing world when they become college students or go on to graduate from college.

“It’s a thrill to watch them as they grow,” says High, who notes other leaders from his Auburn University team, such as Matt Lee and Jordan Lee on the pro side and Candler McCollum and Will Bates on the industry side.

“Whenever I see one of our kids get a scholarship or win a tournament or live their dream, I think, wow, I was a little bit a part of that,” says High.

High was inspired to get involved as a three-time state team competitor for the Alabama B.A.S.S. Nation.

“It made me realize what an honor it is to represent your state in a divisional or regional competition,” he says. “I’ve since gone on to more of a mentoring role with the high school and collegiate anglers.”

He instills in the young anglers a healthy sense of competitiveness and excellence.

“I want to send the best anglers to the championship,” he says. And when it comes to the college team, he teaches them to take the reins as much as possible.

“I let the elected officers of the college team do their job and develop good leadership skills,” says High. “Everybody puts their ideas in there and votes. We have a lot of fun with it.

“To be part of the travel team, that’s something they have to compete for. They all work together, though, as part of a team and it’s not just about ‘me, me, me.’”

High, who has been a member of the Auburn Bassmasters for nearly 30 years and a member of the Lee County Bass Club for a few years, too, is proud to see so many adult B.A.S.S. Nation members volunteering to be boat captains for the high schoolers.

“They want to be part of showing the next generation how to compete,” says High. “We’re all about getting kids out from behind computers and into boats. And if you have a kid who wants to join, it doesn’t matter how much experience the kid has. If a kid wants to fish, we’ll do everything in our power to get him or her out on the water.”

Currently, High is working on firming up the 2017 schedule for the high school anglers, getting the funding for the scholarships awarded at each tournament, meeting with the regional directors to determine what worked and what didn’t last year, and developing ideas for growing the Junior Bassmaster membership even more.

“I love having these tournaments and watching these moms and dad thrilled watching their kids cross the stage,” says High. “It makes it worth every bit of effort.”