DAYTON, Tenn. — The latest addition to the B.A.S.S. Nation High School program held its first tournament Sept. 25 at Lake Chickamauga.
The first B.A.S.S.-sanctioned tournament of the newly formed Next Generation High School Bass Series drew 51 boats of two-angler teams from 13 schools. Anglers in seventh to 12th grade competed in the tournament.
The circuit is the creation of Jim Lawson, president of marketing company Lawson/Kuhlman Group, and Robert Sutton, a veteran tournament angler.
“Robert and I had been talking about starting a fishing company, but we wondered what to do,” Lawson said. “We looked at our skill sets and decided to look into running tournaments. We started doing our searches and looking across the state seeing what existed and we noticed that there were no Bassmaster events that went up through east Tennessee where we have a lot of high schools that have bass teams.”
So Lawson and Sutton created their circuit for high school anglers in Eastern Tennessee and aligned the tournament trail with the B.A.S.S. Nation High School Program.
“The biggest thing for me in joining the B.A.S.S. program was that it opened up opportunities for the kids with a national championship and scholarships,” Lawson said.
Five tournaments and a two-day Classic are slated for the Next Generation trail’s first year. The remaining locations and dates on the trail schedule includes Lake Cherokee, Nov. 21; Norris Lake, Dec. 12; Cherokee Lake, March 19; Fort Loudon Lake, April 16; and the Classic on Douglas Lake, May 14-15.
The circuit will announce its team of the year winners and All-Star team members after the circuit’s Classic.
“We are creating an All-Star team, hoping that will springboard kids onto the Bassmaster All-American team,” said Lawson. Criteria for All-Star team qualification includes competing in three of the trail’s five events, promoting the sport on and off the water and making good grades in school.
High school tournament trails with a series of four or more events are eligible to join the B.A.S.S. Nation High School program. Hank Weldon, B.A.S.S. High School tournament manager, welcomed the Next Generation trail into the B.A.S.S. fold.
“We are trying to give those trails across the country whose anglers might not be able to afford to attend one of our Bassmaster High School Opens a chance to qualify for our national championship,” Weldon said.