Community News A Big Bass Story

Community News A Big Bass Story

Northwest Georgia High School Anglers Association growing by leaps and bounds

March 2nd, 2016 by Katie Ward in Community Catoosa

Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School anglers Zach Vaughn, left, and Drew Woodard were ranked 10th in the Chattanooga Bass Association High School Championship.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

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Registration is closed for 2016, but new anglers are welcome to enroll for the 2017 season. The cost per angler is $100 per year for insurance and a jersey. To learn more visit nwghsaa.com.

Upcoming tournaments

* March 19, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Chattanooga Riverpark

* April 9, from safe light to time TBA, at Chester Frost Park (Chattanooga Bass Association High School Championship)

* April 16, from safe light to 2 p.m., at Dayton, Tenn., Boat Dock

* April 30, from safe light to 2 p.m., at Marion Co. Park in Jasper

* May 14, from safe light to 2 p.m., at Little River Marina in Cedar Bluff, Ala.

* May 21, from safe light to 2 p.m., at Goose Pond Colony in Scottsboro, Ala.

* June 4, from safe light to 2 p.m., at Chester Frost Park

In just one year, the Northwest Georgia High School Anglers Association has more than doubled its participation — landing it the title of largest high school fishing organization in the country, said founder Bradley Nelson.

"It started out as a way to help kids fish," he said. "In one year we went from 70 participants to 188."

In 2015, there were 10 local high school teams, he said. Now, 14 high schools are enrolled throughout Catoosa, Chattooga, Gordon, Murray, Walker and Whitfield counties.

"High school angling and college angling is the fastest-growing sport in the United States," said Nelson. "There's over 1,500 high school angler teams in the United States and it's exploding."

The association does allow middle school students on teams if the feeder high school school allows it, he said.

"We promote sportsmanship, conservation, life skills, character, citizenship and teamwork," said Nelson. "We have a very strict set of rules. We catch and release the fish. Each team is allowed to weigh in five fish per tournament."

Tournaments are held at Weiss, Guntersville, Nickajack and Chickamauga lakes and have about 500 spectators and 300 anglers and coaches out on the water, Nelson said.

Gordon Lee coach Josh Chapman said his was the smallest team last year with four members and two boats, but still won the Points Cup for 2015.

From Catoosa County, Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School is coming back for its second season with 12 anglers, up from last year's seven, and Heritage is also joining in the fishing fun this season.

"It's a lot of fun," said LFO team coach Justin Vaughn, whose two sons, Zach and Christian, participate on the LFO team. "I grew up fishing, so I obviously have a passion to do it. My kids have been on the water since they were little. The bonding time between father and son, you can't get it back. It's about keeping these high school kids out of trouble. It gives them something positive to do. Bass fishing is the No. 1 growing sport in America."

One of the anglers on Murray County High School's team, junior Jason Padgett, was failing in school when he joined his school's team, but being a part of the team brought him more enthusiasm in the classroom soon after. Now he is making good grades and tutoring students in math and social studies as an intern at Gladden Middle School.

"I didn't care about school; it was my last priority and I did not enjoy the academics," said Padgett. "They said something about the fishing team, and I love to fish. Once I joined the anglers last year, my grades improved majorly."

Padgett said he originally planned to work in a mill like his father and brother, but he now plans to attend Dalton State College and become a teacher.

"I am really proud of Jason Padgett," Townsend said. "Because of fishing on the angler team, he plans to go to college to be a teacher now. That's what I do this for, to get kids to stay in school."


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