High school bass anglers in northwest Georgia now have a closer-to-home avenue to compete on a regular bass-tournament circuit without having to drive to middle and south Georgia, where most of Georgia’s tournament fishing takes place. Bradley Nelson and Greg Crider, founders of the Northwest Georgia High School Anglers Association (NGHSAA), report that they have experienced amazing growth in a short amount of time.
High school fishing is the fastest growing high school sport across the nation. In just a little more than a year, the NGHSAA has grown so much that they now have trouble finding boat ramps large enough to hold the crowds that their tournaments bring. At any given tournament, there can be 500 people there; from parents, anglers, volunteers and coaches.
NGHSAA offers the sport of competitive bass fishing to students who currently attend high schools in the counties of Catoosa, Chattooga, Gordon, Murray, Walker and Whitfield.
“We’re geographically challenged. There are lakes in middle Georgia that are much better, but they’re too far away for that many people to drive to, especially our volunteers,” said Bradley.
The NGHSAA fishes four lakes—all in Tennessee and Alabama—that include Lake Chickamauga, Lake Nickajack, Lake Guntersville and Lake Weiss.
“This is a great way for students who are not interested in playing a sport to be involved in the outdoors,” said Bradley.
In its beginning, the NGHSAA received very little support from high schools, with only 35 boats and approximately 75 kids competing in tournaments. Now it has grown to 14 high schools teams consisting of almost 190 kids competing in fishing tournaments.
Teams consist of at least two anglers and a boat captain. All captains are volunteers who must be at least 21 years of age.
Each season consists of seven tournaments spread across each of the four lakes. Teams must fish in at least six of those seven tournaments to qualify for the Classic at the end of the season. Approximately $15,000 to $20,000 in scholarships and prizes are given out to winners at the Classic. This year’s Classic will be held on June 4 on Lake Chickamauga.
“This changes the lives of so many kids,” said Bradley. “I had an angler who at one point was ready to drop out of school until he became involved in fishing with us. Since then, he has finished high school and is attending college where he currently holds an internship tutoring middle school students.”