Wednesday, February 1st, 2023
Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

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Bass fishing proposed as Missouri high school activity

Kansas City, Mo. (AP) — Picture this: Spectators in bleachers
tensely watch as points are posted on a scoreboard, cheerleaders
wave pompoms and young athletes sweat out a close contest.

A typical high school game or match? Well, not quite.

Someday, this scene may take place at a Missouri reservoir _ as
part of a high-school bass fishing tournament.

Don’t laugh.

Once you get over the unlikely prospect of a student lettering
in bass fishing or getting a scholarship to fish for some Division
I school, consider this: Bass fishing already has become a
recognized high school activity in Illinois. And a group of
fishermen in the bass-rich Ozarks are pushing for the sport to gain
the same status in Missouri.

“I know I would have had more interest in school if there had
been a bass fishing team,” said John Neporadny of Lake Ozark, a
nationally known outdoors writer. “This has the potential to bring
in a whole new group of kids who hadn’t been involved in sports
before.

“With bass fishing being so popular in Missouri, this is a
natural. I think it would go over big.”

Neporadny is leading the charge to get bass fishing recognized
as part of Missouri’s high school scene. A former guide and
tournament fisherman, he has seen the sport’s popularity
explode.

From the big pro tournaments on reservoirs such as Lake of the
Ozarks and Table Rock Lake to the bass club events on countless
bodies of water in the state, Missouri is crazy about bass
fishing.

And Neporadny thinks that carries over to youngsters of high
school age.

“A lot of these kids in the Ozarks are brought up fishing,” he
said. “I know a lot of high school kids who are very good
fishermen.

“This would give them another outlet. And it would offer
teaching tools in biology, meteorology and even math.”

The concept already has been endorsed in Illinois, the first
state to offer bass fishing as a state-sanctioned high-school
activity. This spring, 214 of the 775 Illinois high schools will
compete in a tournament series to determine a state champion.

They will start with 10 to 12 sectionals, with the top four or
five teams at each of those events advancing to the finals May 8-9
at Carlyle Lake.

Neporadny and others see no reason something similar can’t take
place in Missouri.

One of the biggest supporters of the concept is Jim Huson, an
American history teacher at Republic High School. He fishes
tournaments in the Ozarks and teaches a summer-school class on bass
fishing. There is classroom instruction three days a week and a
half day of actual fishing, often with pro fishermen.

“This is my way of passing along my passion for bass fishing,”
Huson said. “We may be the only high school in the country that has
a class like this.

“It’s been unbelievably popular. Once we open enrollment, it
doesn’t take long for the class to fill up.”

Huson has joined Neporadny in mounting a campaign to get bass
fishing recognized as a high school sport.

His proposal to the Missouri State High School Activities
Association looks something like this:

• Each school that chose to participate would field a team of
four fishermen.

• The state would be divided into four regions, each of which
would have a sectional tournament.

• Schools would fish as a team, two boats per school. Total
weight of bass for each team would count for that school.

• The top 10 teams in each sectional would advance to a state
tournament.

• All boats would be operated by a coach or school
representative, though students would be allowed to handle the
trolling motor.

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