Young Competitors

Encouraging young anglers through the thrill of competition will build their long-term involvement.

Efforts to introduce kids to fishing are nearly as numerous as fish in the sea. And while all are no doubt well-intended, programs to keep kids fishing for the long haul are fewer and farther between.

One noteworthy exception is the Student Angler Federation. Launched nationally in 2011 under a partnership between The Bass Federation and FLW Outdoors, the non-profit SAF offers high school-aged youths nationwide the chance to experience the thrill of competitive bass fishing. The group sanctions and supports high school fishing clubs, which compete with other school-aged anglers in their home states and are eligible to participate in regional and national SAF championships.

Federation members also automatically qualify for the annual High School Fishing World Finals, which offer more than $20,000 in scholarships and other prizes. At the 2014 event, held July 15-19 on Arkansas’ Lake Dardanelle, Brandon Branch and Hunter McPherson of Florida’s Eagle High School took top honors against more than 100 teams from across the country.

As proof the concept works, McPherson and Branch have become completely hooked on the tournaments thanks to the SAF program. They’ve competed as a team for a couple of years, are the reigning Florida High School State Champions, and finished 14th at last year’s World Finals.

Zachary Francis of Abingdon, Virginia, is another testament to the program. He and a partner won the SAF’s Virginia state championship this spring, and in July, he topped 142 adult co-anglers competing at the Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division tournament on New York’s Lake Champlain. He said the win, along with collecting the Ranger Z117 first prize, was an “unreal” experience. No doubt here’s another young gun hooked for life.

Fueling the competitive fires of young anglers is a great way to further their fishing careers. For more information, visit the Student Angler Federation

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