House backs high-school bass fishing

Legislative resolution urges LHSAA to add bass-fishing teams to high-school sports.

The House Education Committee unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday that could lead to the establishment of competitive bass-fishing tournaments for Louisiana’s high schools.Senate Concurrent Resolution 22 is expected to gain final passage by the full House by next week, if not sooner.

That would put the Louisiana High School Athletic Association in position to fish or cut bait. Sen. Gerald Long (R-Winnfield) said his resolution only “urges and requests” LHSAA to act, but it also reflects the sentiment of the entire Legislature.

“Fishing is as much a part of Louisiana’s culture as is football and as much a pastime of Louisianians as is baseball,” Long said.

LHSAA Executive Director Kenny Henderson did not immediately return a phone call Wednesday requesting comment.

However, the momentum is building in the state, said Long. The Bass Federation’s Louisiana chapter recently held a tournament at Caddo Lake and attracted 40 teams representing 20 LHSAA member teams. The Association of Louisiana Bass Clubs earlier this year also unanimously approved a junior division to help attract high school participants.

Across the state line, high-school athletic associations in Illinois, Kentucky, New Hampshire and South Carolina already sanction bass fishing as a championship sport.

“It is literally jumping off the map in terms of popularity,” Long told the House Education Committee this week.

The state of New Hampshire is the latest, having hosted its first tournament last week.

“It was overwhelmingly the most-enthusiastic response to anything we’ve offered, that I can recall,” R. Patrick Corbin, executive director of the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association, told National Public Radio.

Members of the committee acknowledged that some high schools and colleges in Louisiana already have unstructured bass-fishing teams, but they said the recognition sought under Long’s bill would bring more credibility and an official framework.

“Are you fishing for support?” Rep. Henry Burns (R-Haughton) asked Long. “Well, you’ve caught me. In Northwest Louisiana, this is one of the biggest activities — tournament fishing is — that draws tourism and economic development and all that.”

The committee did express a few concerns, beginning with the cost to schools.

“Most of the expenses are paid for by the participant,” Long said. “They purchase their own rods and reels and equipment.”

Rep. Pat Smith (D-Baton Rouge) said she hoped there would be an effort to include students who do not live in areas where bass fishing is accessible.

“Have you looked at the diversity of the students who might be able to take part in this?” Smith asked.

Long said he was hopeful as well that outreach will extend beyond rural communities.

“We need to be creative in helping in that area,” he replied. “But this particular sport, like all others, crosses all economic and social lines that can be drawn. Kids love to fish. So I would expect a cross section of our children to be participants.”

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