Friday Night Bites: South Carolina high schools angling to make bass fishing a varsity sport

Football, basketball, baseball and … bass fishing?

High schools in South Carolina are bidding to make fishing an official high school sport, with teams, leagues and varsity letters. And with pro tournaments and television shows about fishing making it more popular than ever, some say it’s time for schools to recognize the activity as a full-fledged sport.

“They want their picture on the wall just like the football team and the volleyball and basketball and other state champion teams from Camden,” said Daniel Sisk, the fishing club coach at Camden High School in Columbia.

Camden is just one school among many around the Palmetto State that is working with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources to make fishing a competitive sport.

“If it was recognized as a varsity sport, then your benefits would be you can letter in it, you can get scholarships,” said Camden Fishing Club member Catie Charles, a freshman. “But right now you don’t. You just go out there for fun and nobody really notices.”

No one is claiming fishing is as demanding as that other sport that counts ‘tackle’ in its lexicon, but the anglers say there’s more to fishing than sitting back and watching for a bobber to dart underwater.

“Fishing is a very demanding sport, both physically and mentally,” said Sisk “It’s very tough. “We aren’t going out and doing two-a-days as far as practice goes, but it’s eight-hour days.

“I heard that throwing 150 casts is equivalent to throwing 100 pitches in a game,” said Fishing Club member Carson Morgan. And, according to their coach, serious anglers often make 500 casts in a day.

For now, the students fish for fun on the weekends, joining the enthusiasts who pump an estimated $215 million per year into the state economy. But Camden students and their counterparts from 13 other schools have signed a petition asking the South Carolina High School League, which regulates school athletics in the state, to sanction the activity as a sport. They’re looking for at least two more schools to sign on before they submit it.

They have a key ally in the state Department of Natural Resources.

“I want to get as many clubs as possible so that the impact is like ‘Hey look! This really is something that a lot of kids can be involved in,’” said South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Aquatic Director Lorianne Riggins. "There is a lot of interest here.”

In the meantime, the students will fish and hope that the state takes the bait.