High School Fishing
March 2020, Volume 111
When you think of high school sports, if you’re like most, Friday nights under the lights come to mind. The roar of the crowd and the home team coming from behind to win the big game. Cheerleaders on the sidelines cheering, parents in the stands supporting the team and coaches on the field all while 22 young men fight over a ball. We love our football but let me tell you about Saturday morning.
It is 3:30 a.m. and the alarm is sounding but he’s already up. He’s been up 20 minutes, singing along as the headphones blast “Exposed” by Charlie Farley. Gear is packed, breakfast in hand, sunglasses around the neck and out the door he goes, “It’s Tournament TIME!”
Pulling up to the boat launch with the anticipation of a five year old on Christmas morning, he jumps out to ready the boat for launch. All clear and in the water it goes. Now the wait.
Numerous high schools across the state are jumping into the fishing arena. Most electing to fish as a club instead of through Louisiana High School Athletic Association because it offers more freedom for the anglers in team numbers and especially in participation. Central, Live Oak, Silliman, Morgan City, Brusly, Denham Springs, and many other high schools throughout the state have teams representing them at various levels of bass fishing.
The next qualifier for state will be March 14 on Caney Creek Reservoir, aka Caney Lake launching from Jimmie Davis State Park, 1209 Park Rd, Chatham, La. If it’s anything like the previous qualifiers there will be upwards of 150+ teams on the water that day.
Members of the Walker High School Wildcat Fishing Team listen in on recent club news at a recent team meeting.
Coach Jeremy Ferachi delivers news and instruction to the Walker High Bass Team.
We have visited many clubs around the state and even fished with some of the up and coming bass anglers. You may recall our feature on Connor Rushing of Central High fishing our home lake of Concordia or our trip down to Morgan City to fish a dogfight in the Basin with the #AtchafalyaKid Peyton Grizzaffi. These kids are at the top of their sports but there is no crowd cheering them on, at least not during the “game.”
It’s a game of solitude. At most, just 3 people in the boat in a remote part of a body of water looking for the biggest 5 bass you can find. It’s 8, 9, 10 hours on your feet with only a short time out for lunch before the next cast. It’s not only competing against other anglers but the ever elusive bass. A million decisions in a day lead to moments of glory.
Walker High School has a bass fishing team headed up by Coaches Jeremy Ferachi and Erich Matherne. They both have boys on the team but are there for every student that competes regardless of skill level. I had the opportunity to go down and meet with the club back in November. I talked with the guys and a few things stood out.
The guys told me about their breaking down of a lake. Looking at videos, google maps, and finding areas that look like they would hold fish is the first steps in preparing for a day on the water. They had several ideas of how to start looking for fish and the different strategies for finding them but two things stood out, they are going to throw a frog and fish the spillway if at all possible.
Walker High offers many opportunities and the bass fishing team is just a small part of the experience. The guys told me of the various plans for their future after high school and each involved fishing in some capacity. Whether they continue to fish at the college or pro levels one thing was certain, they would continue to fish.
Just a couple weekends ago the club fished in the Louisiana High School Bass Fishing state qualifier at Bayou Segnette State Park.
There were 170 boats there February 15th representing numerous schools from around the state and 106 of those teams caught fish! Walker High as a club had a great showing as Luke Ferachi and Hanson Chaney finished 5th overall with 5 fish and 12.47 pounds. Also in the top 20 were Peyton Matherne and Stephen James finishing 17th with 9.43 pounds and a 5 bass limit.
Parker Koenig and Jade Woodburn finished 49th with 3 fish weighing 5.65 pounds while Brady Forbes and Garrett Thomas landed in 66th place with 4.03 pounds for their 2 fish, while Jace Martello and Austyn Matherne pulled up in 73rd place weighing 2 fish for 3.38 pounds.
I was recently at Walker High for the scheduling fair the school hosts to promote the many opportunities it offers for Wildcat students. Several of the fishing team members could be seen in their jerseys promoting the team and Walker High.
I wanted to get Coach Ferachi to weigh in with a few comments and he told us, “It has been amazing to see the growth in the sport of High School Bass Fishing not just in the state but across the country. This is the fifth year I have captained a boat on the Louisiana Bass Nation High School Trail. When we started five years ago there was one trail consisting of three qualifiers that averaged about 40 boats per tournament. In five years that has grown to three state trails each with three qualifiers that average close to 200 boats per tournament.”
He went on to tell us, “Not only has there been an incredible growth in participation but the skill level of the anglers has also increased. The percentage of teams weighing five fish limits at each tournament has steadily increased and the degree of separation on the points leaders has decreased. Literally, every ounce counts when it comes to finishing at the top of any of the three state trails. And this skill level is evident even at the next level after High School. We have former Louisiana High School Anglers having early success at the college level as well as professionally. Just from our area we have Alex Heintze who was not only a three-time Bassmaster High School National Championship Qualifier but also won the championship with his partner in 2015. He graduated from Live Oak High School in 2017 and the next year won Angler of the Year in the co-angler division of the BASS Opens Central Division. He is now having success at the professional level and is making a good run at qualifying for the Bassmaster Elite Tour.”
Speaking a little closer to home, “My oldest son, Mason was the first high school student in the state to make the Louisiana Bass Nation Team as a co-angler where he finished 7th place competing against 190 (Adult) anglers from 19 states in the 2018 Bass Nation Central Regional on lake Guntersville. He made the state team again this year as a co-angler along with two other high school anglers, Trace Day and Connor Rushing. They will be competing in the Bass Nation Central Regional on Toledo Bend May 28-30th. High School Fishing as well as the Bassmaster Junior clubs are giving these young anglers opportunities to hone their skills at very young ages.”
“For me, as a coach and a boat captain it is a blessing to see this sport develop to the level it has at the high school level. I will never forget when I realized the profound potential this sport can have in the lives of young men and women. Several years ago, I was walking across the parking lot at Cypress Park on Toledo Bend to get the truck and trailer after competing at a Bassmaster High School Open and two young men probably about nineteen or twenty stopped and asked me what was going on. I told them that this was a national high school fishing tournament and that these anglers had come from all across the country to compete. They both looked at each other and one of them said. “If they would have had a fishing team at our high school, we both probably would have not dropped out.” The other young man nodded in agreement. That is when I knew this sport had the potential to reach some students that other clubs or sports could not. That is what it is all about!”
Jeremy told me a parent can’t do it alone, nor can a school but it takes support at all levels and people willing to take a chance to help children pursue their dreams. Take Walker High for instance, Coach told us, “Walker High School was the first school in our district to have a fishing team. Our School Board Representative, Mr. Jeff Cox, who is an avid bass tournament fisherman himself, was instrumental in getting the team started. As soon as he hear about the opportunity he went to our principal, Mr Jason St.Pierre, and the two of them started our team without hesitation. We are forever grateful for their foresight and support.”
Fishing on the bass team does more than offer a kid a chance to fish. It is so much more they get from being a member. The team collaboration and comrade make each and every member a better angler but it creates a sense of pride in themselves, their team, their school and community. It builds the character and citizenship that just makes you proud.
If you haven’t taken the opportunity to experience high school bass fishing, I highly recommend you do as soon as possible. The sport offers an excellent opportunity for students, parents, school faculty and community to be a part of one of the fastest growing activities in the world. Reach out to your local high school and see if you can be a part. Boat captains, sponsors, volunteers and many other opportunities are open to you to get involved. If you’re in the Walker area check in with Jeremy or Erich or Principal Jason St. Pierre, they will make sure you get the chance to get involved with the Walker Wildcats!
Follow Walker High School Bass Fishing online and on Facebook.