Two members of the Cleburne High School Bass Anglers Club have qualified for the Texas High School Bass Association Regional Tournament taking place Saturday at Lake Lewisville.
Sophomores Grant King and Gavin Roberts are currently sitting in 21st place among 232 teams in the west Texas division. As a chapter, Cleburne is ranked 19th out of the 35 schools within their division. The team, as regional qualifiers, placed in the top 50 percent among participants in at least three of the five THSBA sanctioned tournaments in 2018-19.
Cleburne’s fishing duo competed in all five season contests, highlighted by their fifth place win at the Lake Texoma Tournament, where their total catch weight, based on a maximum of five fish, was 6.56 pounds. While the rods and reels awarded to the top teams at each tournament are awesome, it’s the prize money in the form of scholarships that inspires the Jacket fishermen to make each cast count.
“We were one place away from a $500 scholarship at Lake Texoma,” King said. “We’re more toward looking for the opportunity to win a title and scholarships. The prizes are a bonus.”
Michael Griffith, faculty sponsor of the CHS Bass Anglers Club, is also excited about the opportunity to see his club members compete for the chance to win scholarships.
“This program is more than just about going fishing,” Griffith said. “It’s a legitimate sport that has now arrived at the high school level. There are some great opportunities for participants. Last year, THSBA awarded $400,000 in college scholarships. The winning team at the state tournament received a $20,000 scholarship. This is definitely a motivating factor for parents.”
“Many colleges have competitive teams and every major high school in the state has a student organization with teams,” he said. “These two guys were doing this individually last year. They were set and ready to go for competition this year.”
Griffith is quick to point out that membership in the CHS Bass Anglers Club and affiliation with the THSBA goes beyond getting a fish on the line.
“Our club’s mission is to teach students an understanding and appreciation of all that the sport of fishing has to offer, through conservation, education, fellowship and participation,” he said. “A big part of our club and the high school bass association is conservation education through fishing. What is caught is released back.”
“We also have a code of conduct within our bylaws,” Griffith said. “We don’t want to just create good fishermen—we also want to create good citizens.”
King began fishing at an early age, while Roberts made his first cast in the eighth grade. For both anglers, fishing is a family affair.
“Growing up, I never really liked fishing,” Roberts said. “Then in eighth grade I started going to the Brazos to fish with my grandfather. Then we started doing tournaments.”
“I’ve pretty much been fishing my whole life,” King said. “It started as a hobby when I was little. My dad, my grandpa and I would fish the ponds at the ranch. Two to three years ago I saw professionals doing fishing tournaments as a living. That really interested me, and my dad and I started going to the lake to fish, and it’s continued on from there. I would never have been able to do this without my dad. He’s been a huge part of this.”
Griffith also credits much of the success of Cleburne’s regional qualifiers to Grant’s father. Robert King has accompanied the team to every contest, in his role of “captain,” and provided a boat that meets tournament requirements: 16 feet or longer with a 40 horsepower engine.
“Robert got these kids where they wanted to go,” Griffith said. “We currently have ten members in our club and five registered captains,” Griffith said. “These captains are parents and adult volunteers who provide a boat, and their time on Saturdays. They have gone through the process required to work with students, including background checks.”
A group of community sponsors has also lent their support to the CHS Bass Anglers Club, including Pinnacle Bank, James Hardie and Lawn Tech, which provided the underwriting for the jerseys worn by members at their tournaments. Assistance with tournament fees has also been a big help. A $60 entry fee is required for each contest, on top of an annual membership fee.
“We’ve had some great support from the community in getting started,” Griffith said. “Next year we would like to expand our sponsors and invest their donations to help more kids pay for tournaments. We’d like to grow our program and we need more kids, but our biggest need is volunteer captains. We’ve connected with the Johnson County Bass Association and appreciate their interest in what our kids are doing.”
The addition of competitive fishing to their list of school activities has made King and Roberts two-sport athletes. King was in district competition this week as a member of the varsity golf team. Roberts competes for the Jackets in basketball. They also excel in the classroom.
Other than that, they are out fishing, according to Roberts.
“I’m pretty much about fishing,” he said. “Every weekend, as much as I can. I like fishing at Granbury; Grant likes Whitney.”
While they may be classified as newcomers to high school sport fishing, the two-man team already have some tournament stories to tell, from fishing in the extreme cold and rain--to the one that got away.
“At Granbury, we caught one then went all day with nothing,” King said. “In the last hour of the tournament we caught two nice ones. Gavin lost a big one that would have put us in the top ten—but that happens.”
Griffith, who is an avid fisherman, says the Cleburne team, and their fellow competitors, are always one seven to eight-pound bass away from winning a tournament, including the regional event, which will advance them to state.
“We’re really looking toward state,” King said. “We’re going to give it a good run on Saturday. We feel we have a good chance to advance.”
“I think we are in a great place in our first year to compete,” Griffith said. “While I love fishing, the reason I do this is to promote these kids getting outdoors and hopefully passing on a family tradition. Fishing is a great way to form a bond between parent and child. So is camping and other activities that can be so crucial in the few remaining years these high school kids have at home.”
“I’m extremely proud, in the first year of this program, to be at this point,” he said. “Gavin and Grant have worked hard and made every tournament, thanks to their captain. Hard work equals success.”
Sophomores Grant King and Gavin Roberts, members of the Cleburne High School Bass Anglers Club, will be among the teams competing at Saturday’s Texas High School Bass Association Regional Tournament at Lake Lewisville. They are pictured with faculty sponsor Michael Griffith.