The stage is set for the inaugural B.A.S.S. High School Invitational, which will be held July 20th on Lake Wheeler in Decatur, Ala. Lake Wheeler will serve as the competition field for 64 high school teams from 9 states which include Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, Ohio, Indiana, South Carolina, Mississippi and North Carolina. The farthest team drove over 650 miles one way from Corrigan, Texas.
“We’ve helped with the operations of a few high school tournaments for some other organizations in the past,” said newly appointed B.A.S.S. High School Tournament Manager Hank Weldon. “But this is our first, 100 percent B.A.S.S. owned and operated high school event.”
The tournament date and location were set in early summer, however B.A.S.S. only recently started advertising the event. Weldon stated that he is pleased with the turnout for this inaugural tournament.
“I love seeing this level of enthusiasm for bass fishing in our young anglers,” said Weldon. “It proves that our sport is thriving.”
Families have been encouraged to participate and have shown up in huge numbers.
“This tournament isn’t just about the anglers,” said Weldon. “We want to make this one big, fun event for everybody. The moms, dads, siblings and friends will all be at the weigh-in. In addition, the boat captains, or coaches as we’re going to start calling them, are taking ownership in this too.”
Each team will consist of two anglers from grades 9 through 12 and a boat captain or “coach”. The coach is there to assist with boat operation and to ensure that all safety requirements are met. Coaches are allowed to assist to the extent that coaches are allowed to assist in other high school sports. These coaches work with their teams throughout the year and without them, events like this would not be possible.
The top 8 finishing teams in this event will advance to a high school exhibition that will be held in conjunction with the 2014 Bassmaster Classic in Birmingham. The exhibition will not be held on Lake Guntersville but rather another lake near Birmingham that has not yet been disclosed. However, the high school anglers will weigh-in on the Bassmaster Classic stage along with Classic contenders.
“Next year we a hoping to have two more B.A.S.S. High School events,” said Weldon. “We are going to have a National Championship and another Invitational like this. We already locking in venues for those so that participants can go ahead and make plans to attend.”
Anglers will launch at 5:45 AM c.s.t. from Ingalls Harbor with check-in starting a 2 PM. You can follow along with tournament coverage by visiting Bassmaster.com where you’ll find on the water and weigh-in photo galleries along with our live blog featuring photos and content from our anglers and their coaches throughout the day.