WEDDINGTON, N.C. – In 2012, a 17-year-old student named Riley Laymon had a dream to launch a high school bass fishing program in North Carolina. Inspired by the national movement elevating bass fishing to the same level as other school-sponsored team sports, Riley wrote a letter to his favorite teacher at Weddington High School outlining his vision.
Not only did he foresee a club with a nationally competitive fishing team, but also one with an inviting culture that welcomed students of all types and created a fun, safe place to belong.
Only weeks after his letter was written, Riley was killed in an automobile accident. In the wake of their son’s death, Riley’s parents, Tom and Lisa Laymon, received a copy of the letter that Riley had written outlining his desire to see a fishing club started at his school. With the support of friends, family and the Charlotte community, the Laymons launched Riley’s Catch, a high school bass fishing club, and laid the foundation to see Riley’s dream come to life.
Almost three years have passed since Riley’s Catch began, and one of the most powerful themes in the lives of students has been the impact of mentoring. Brandon Kersnowski, a junior at UNC Charlotte, was a classmate of Riley’s during their time together at Weddington High School. Kersnowski’s passion for fishing has landed him a position on the UNCC Bass Rats, the 2014 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Champion team, and has given him a platform to pour into the next generation of anglers through Riley’s Catch.
During the North Carolina State Tournament, Kersnowski captained a boat and mentored high school anglers Colton Harrell and Ryan Geraghty, who finished in second place and advanced to the Bassmaster High School National Championship. Riley’s dream of seeing a nationally competitive fishing team in his hometown is becoming a reality.
Riley’s Catch is gaining momentum and finding many like-minded partners in the greater Charlotte area. Discovering an aligned passion to invest in the next generation of leaders, Riley’s Catch has partnered with YMCA Camp Thunderbird and Elevation Church to present The Life of Impact Leadership Experience, a weekend event for high school students, Nov. 21-23, 2014. Taking place on the shores of Lake Wylie, the Life of Impact will combine world-class team building and leadership development with the first annual Riley’s Cup Bass Tournament, part of the B.A.S.S. High School Nation tournament points trail to the National Championship in July 2015.
Students of all levels of outdoor interest and experience will have the opportunity to be challenged in their individual leadership skills, grow in their ability to overcome obstacles and build the foundation for a life of impact.
Empowered by generous sponsorships from Scott Clark Toyota and CliftonLarsonAllen, Riley’s Catch is working to remove all financial barriers for any high school student who expresses interest in attending the event, realizing that each student who is reached through the weekend will be better equipped to make a positive impact in their lives. In addition to the leadership development opportunity the weekend event represents, each student who participates will be eligible to apply for The Riley Laymon Memorial Scholarship, which will provide a total of $5,000 in college scholarships this year.
Throughout North and South Carolina, Riley’s Catch continues to pursue Riley’s dream of being a catalyst for the development of high school bass fishing teams and seeing more students engaging in the outdoors. In partnership with the YMCA of Greater Charlotte, Riley’s Catch is pursuing the development of a Bass Fishing Academy at YMCA Camp Thunderbird, dedicated to Riley’s memory and the future generations of students who will be impacted by his vision.
To support Riley’s Catch in its mission to expand high school bass fishing in the Carolinas and reach students through the outdoors, follow the organization on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. You may also make a tax-deductible donation to support Riley’s Catch at www.rileyscatch.com. More information about The Life of Impact Leadership Experience is available online at www.lifeofimpact.me.