E.A. Sports Today

Oxford angling for new sport


A new school year is about to begin at Oxford in a few days and with it will come a new sporting endeavor.


By Al Muskewitz

East Alabama Sports Today


A new school year is about to begin at Oxford in a few days and with it will come a new sporting endeavor.


The Yellow Jackets are about to cast their line into the waters of competitive high school bass fishing.


The sport is sanctioned by the Alabama Student Angler Bass Fishing Association rather than the Alabama High School Athletics Association — and recognized by the Alabama Legislature — but it is popular enough to involve more 100 schools statewide and offer college scholarships.


Alexandria, White Plains, Munford, Southside and Pell City are but a few of the East Alabama schools currently participating in the sport.


“Not everybody has a goal in life to play what you would consider the traditional sports and fishing now has become pretty big at the college level,” said Darrell Cline, who has traded his tees and ball markers as the Yellow Jackets’ golf coach for bait and tackle. “Instead of being able to make your way from an athletic field or court, it’s a way for these kids to earn some scholarships.


“There are some scholarship monies out there and colleges look at it. It’s just a different element of sport that’s come on.”


Cline, who fishes “pretty regularly” when he’s not coaching football or golf, said he was approached about his interest in starting a bass fishing program about a year ago. The idea sort of lay on top of the water until it got some nibbles recently.


The sport is a year-round activity open to boys and girls in grades 7 through 12. Events are scheduled to start as early as September, leading to the state finals in May. The Yellow Jackets haven’t had an official meeting yet, but Cline said they already have 20 commitments.


“The demand came from the community, so I think there’s a good core of kids out there (to participate),” Cline said.


Schools need a minimum of six anglers to field a club and can enter a maximum of five boats with two student anglers in each event. The boats are furnished by what are called “boat captains,” who drive the boat and provide supervision. The Yellow Jackets have 10 boat captains, five employed in the school system and five from within the community.


Taking a page from his days as a golf coach, Cline’s competitive roster ultimately will be built through a process that includes resume reviews, interviews, practices and qualifying.


“Being in the first year of the program you won’t really know until you compare yourself at tournaments against other schools and kids of their age how competitive you can be,” Cline said. “Just because you fish doesn’t mean you can go out there and stay in a boat for eight hours and be able to concentrate and fish competitively for that length of time.”


Al Muskewitz is Content Editor/Senior Writer of East Alabama Sports Today. He can be reached at musky@wrightmediacorp.com


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