Two members of the Elizabethton High School Bass Fishing Team, Hunter McClaskey and Blaine Poiroux, made the national high school championships with their second-place finish last weekend at the Bass Pro Shops FLW High School Fishing Douglas Lake Open.
McClaskey and Poiroux brought a five-bass limit to the scale, weighing 13 pounds and 8 ounces. They finished second to Karns High in a 42-team field that launched at the Mountain Cove Marina in Sevierville. The tournament included teams from Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia and Virginia.
David Campbell, STEM engineering teacher at Elizabethton, said the fishing team is more like a club sport. He said it receives no school funds for their competition. He said it is largely a father-and-son effort, but they compete against some schools from West Tennessee that have been integrated into their athletic departments.
That puts Upper East Tennessee schools like Elizabethton at a disadvantage in the Bass Pro Shops High School Tournament Series, but Campbell said the real problem is that all the sponsors are down state, like the Bass Pro Shop in Sevierville, and the schools must compete on someone else’s home turf, uh, home lake.
“We have to learn the lake that they already know,” Campbell said. But that also makes them better fishermen. He said they go to a different lake for each tournament, so they learn what to look for and quickly adapt.
Even so, Campbell hopes the Bass Pro Shop in Bristol might sponsor some tournaments as more high school teams are formed in Upper East Tennessee. He would love to see tournaments on Watauga, Boone, South Holston and Fort Patrick Henry lakes.
Despite the regional handicap, the EHS team of McClaskey and Poiroux are ranked third out of 75 teams.
Other EHS teams have also shined. At the Norris tournament, EHS students Jaden Anderson and Hank Howard placed fourth out of 61 teams in that competition, with a five fish total of 13.57 pounds.
Noah Winchester and Jacob Eden also competed at Norris and placed 27th out of 61, with three fish at 5.71 pounds.
While the students get to enjoy fishing while completing high school, Campbell said it could lead to even more opportunities.
“There are colleges that are providing scholarships for fishing,” he said.