Participants in the ALBC's junior division will consist of young anglers 14 to 18 years of age who are enrolled in high school.
"We are very excited about the addition of a junior division," ALBC president Dan Touchet said. "It is a win-win situation for not only the association but for all of the kids, as well. We are just starting to get the word out around the state, but all the feedback has been very, very positive. It is full steam ahead with everybody."
While the idea might still be in its infancy, it has already picked up one very big supporter in state Sen. Gerald Long (R-Winnfield). Long is noted to be a strong backer of the outdoors and outdoor-related projects.
The sport, which is presently only offered as a club sport in most state high schools, is presently not sanctioned by the Louisiana High School Athletic Association.
The Bass Federation, in partnership with FLW Outdoors, does offer a Student Angler Federation, and numerous colleges now feature fishing teams and scholarships to go along with the competition, but only three states — Illinois, Kentucky and South Carolina — offer fishing as a sanctioned high school sport.
Touchet said he hopes that situation will soon change in Louisiana, and he believes this first step by the ALBC will help aid efforts to make tournament fishing a high school sport.
"(Senator Long) plans on introducing legislation this year to make bass fishing a high school sport," Touchet said, "which would be a definite boost to our efforts to attract teams and younger fishermen into the association."
The ALBC already has had two high school clubs that have joined, and more than a two dozen more are considering fishing in the division. There are a number of schools, especially in Central Louisiana, that feature high school bass clubs.
It is that group Touchet and the ALBC is targeting.
"We have put together a specific set of guidelines in order for a team to join the ALBC," Touchet said.
The guidelines are as follows:
• High school teams are to be made up of students from the local high school the team attends. Teams are not to be made up of members from different high schools.
• All high-school team members must belong to the Association of Louisiana Bass Clubs. There will be a $10 membership fee to join the ALBC.
All high-school teams may set their own rules and set their own dates for their club tournaments.
All high school teams must have a sponsor, who can be a volunteer, a teacher and/or a local bass club.
• When the high-school teams participate in an ALBC-sponsored tournament, the junior members must be accompanied by an adult, and that adult must be the boat-motor operator and must show proof of insurance on the boat being used. The junior members should be the operator of the trolling motor while fishing.
• Junior members may also help sell raffle tickets and receive a refund of a third of raffle tickets sold to be used by their team or club.
• All junior members must abide by all state and federal laws.
As an enticement to high-school teams, the ALBC will conduct District Junior Division tournaments in the six districts of the ALBC in which each high-school junior division team in each district will be eligible to participate.
The winning team from each district will be invited to attend the ALBC Best Six Tournament on Toledo Bend during the first weekend in May to participate in the Junior Division State Team Tournament. This will be a one-day tournament event for the junior division.
Plaques and trophies will be awarded to the winners, and one high school team will be crowned as the best high-school team in the state by the ALBC.
"So many kids in this age group already spend a great deal of time fishing anyway," said Touchet, "especially around this central part of the state. I recently went to a high-school tournament in Jonesville, which featured nine or 10 teams from as far away as Vidalia and Ferriday. So, you see, there are plenty of teams already formed and competing."
He said he is looking forward to continued growth in the division.
"Our high-school teams are growing in record numbers," Touchet said, "and the ALBC not only wants to help and nurture that growth, but also to give them a goal — a state high-school championship — to which they can work toward."
Call Greg Lewis at 318-729-0713 or Touchet at 337-258-7961 for more information.