BHS Anglers get advice from Horton
BELGREEN — If you listen to members of the BHS Bulldog Anglers talk for a few minutes it is clear they have a passion for fishing, with many of the members quickly expressing interest in becoming a professional angler.
Earlier this month, they were able to pick the brain of Franklin County native Timmy Horton, who has 14 years of experience as a pro angler and was named the BASS Angler of the Year in 2000.
Horton was impressed with the club, which is one of several school-sponsored angling clubs in the state and is working to have fishing recognized and sanctioned by the Alabama High School Athletic Association.
“This is something I wish we would have had when I was in school,” Horton said. “When I was in school at Russellville we organized a few local tournaments, but you are so far ahead of that.”
Horton encouraged the BHS Bulldog Anglers to continue to pursue recognition of the sport by the AHSAA and said they should no underestimate the power they have when it comes to promoting the sport. He said fishing is a big business in Alabama thanks to its natural resources and the sport deserves recognition.
“Alabama has more waterways than any other state,” Horton said. “There is no reason it should be behind (Illinois, which sanctions high school fishing).”
Horton and the BHS Bulldog Anglers are not the only ones wishing to see the sport succeed at the high school level. Earlier this year the Alabama Legislature passed a joint resolution “recognizing the Alabama Student Angler Bass Fishing Association as the official organization for student bass fishing anglers in the state of Alabama for grades 7-12.”
Although the BHS Bulldog Angler club has been around for less than a year, its members are making an impact in tournaments across the state.
In March Zach Martin and Jessie Smith finished 29th out of 72 teams at a regional tournament in Decatur. A month later Chase Hester and Jacob Davis finished 27th out of 70 teams at a regional tournament in Montgomery.
In addition to the regional tournaments, the club hosts tournaments for its members. Davis won the first tournament, Chance Landers won the second and Smith won the third. The club will hold one more tournament in September.
The club’s sponsor, Emily Blanton, said she has seen quite a bit of improvement in many areas since the club began.
“They have learned a lot this year already and have shown improvements in their attitudes toward school,” Blanton said. “I am really proud of them.”
Horton encouraged the members of the club to chase their dreams of being professional anglers, but told them not to limit themselves to only one activity. He said it is important to have many interests and to pursue their education.
Horton gave them some advice on learning how to fish, telling them to go out on occasion and practice only the techniques they are not comfortable with. He also told them to appreciate what they have around them and the waterways of Alabama can give you a good foundation for fishing anywhere in the world.
“When you are young and watching fishing shows, you always think the grass is greener on the other side, but there is not a more diverse place,” Horton said. “Nowhere else can you catch all three species of bass within an hour’s drive.”
Current team members include Clay Adkins, Jordan Bray, Phillip Prince, Andrew Bolton, Joseph Gravitt, Brock Hester, Chase Hester, Chance Hester, Martin, Smith and Davis. Coaches include Blanton, Shannon Oliver, Gary Fleming, Robert Boyd, Hal Bray, Ty Hester, Casey Blanton and Tim Cleveland.
Ronnie Wray, Don Ezzell and Dustin Wright are also other fishermen who have volunteered their time and help to make the BHS Bulldog Anglers a success.
Blanton said she is happy with the progress the club has made and hopes other schools in Franklin County will start clubs soon.