ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Will Smith, left, and Colby Chapman, members of the Gordon Lee fishing team, hold up their catch. (Contributed photo from Josh Chapman)

Here's a fishing story.

Once, there was a little four-person fishing team from Gordon Lee High School in Chickamauga, Georgia, that grew and grew and grew.

some text
Will Smith and Colby Chapman, members of the Gordon Lee fishing team, participate in the Northwest Georgia High School Anglers Association points championship. (Contributed photo from Josh Chapman)

The boys practiced hard and recruited their friends. Sometimes they rolled out of bed at 2 a.m. to get to tournaments on time.

They spent hours every week studying lake maps and working on their lures. They "pre-fished" area lakes to pinpoint the best fishing spots. They even planned for weather contingencies — a cold front moving through the area, for example, could wipe out their best-laid plans.

From these humble beginnings five years ago, the little Gordon Lee team has grown to more than 40 members and a small armada of boats, each with a pair of young fishermen and an adult captain onboard.

Two of the original team members, Colby Chapman and Will Smith, won the Northwest Georgia High School Anglers Association points championship as seniors this spring.

some text
Will Smith and Colby Chapman, members of the Gordon Lee fishing team, participate in the Northwest Georgia High School Anglers Association points championship. (Contributed photo from Josh Chapman)

While not recognized as an official school sport by the Georgia High School Association, fishing teams are popping up everywhere in the Peach State. The Northwest Georgia High School Anglers Association, for example, has grown to include about 370 kids in 19 schools.

"Fishing is the biggest high school growth sport in America," said Josh Chapman, Colby's dad and Gordon Lee fishing coach.

But Colby and Will didn't settle for just a regional championship.

As part of the original Gordon Lee fishing team, the seniors had developed complementary fishing styles. Colby was a quick caster, while Will had a slower, more methodical approach to fishing. Together, they worked at a "just right" pace.

At the high school fishing national championships in late June on Pickwick Lake in Florence, Alabama, the friends were pitted against 231 other boats from across the country.

Competition was keen, but the North Georgia pair had plenty of experience fishing lakes formed by Tennessee River dams.

They caught only four fish on the first day but still managed to position themselves among the Top 20 teams. The second day, though, their luck improved dramatically.

some text
Mark Kennedy

With less than two hours to go in their fishing window, the boys discovered a cluster of fish near a drop-off where the depth of the lake changed from six feet to 20 feet.

"Within six casts we had our 21-pound limit that moved us up to sixth place," Colby Chapman said.

The next day, fishing near the same spot, the Gordon Lee pair again made a big catch and moved up to third place, effectively winning the national bronze medal.

"It meant a lot," Colby said. "... Since we were freshmen we had wanted to go to the nationals. I'm extremely happy with third.

"I'd always watched a lot of fishing on TV. I always thought it would be cool to compete in something like that."

Since graduation, Colby has started attending Dalton State College, where a fledgling fishing team is starting. Will, meanwhile, is attending the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where he has also joined the fishing team.

Meanwhile, lots of fishing talent remains at Gordon Lee and the table seems set for continued team success.

"It's just getting bigger and bigger," said Hunter Richie, a sophomore on the Gordon Lee team this year, who notes he has been fishing "since I was in diapers."

Opponents beware. The Gordon Lee team is here to stay.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-767-6645.

some text
Will Smith, left, and Colby Chapman, members of the Gordon Lee fishing team, hold up their catch. (Contributed photo from Josh Chapman)
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT