After the first two events generated more than $4.5 million in scholarship offers, 112 anglers from 22 states hope to continue that trend by reeling in big-time offers from college coaches when the third annual Skeeter Bassmaster High School Combine kicks off Sept. 15. The three-day event will be held on Wheeler Lake in Decatur, Alabama.
“B.A.S.S. is constantly looking for ways to grow the high school and college platforms and give young anglers opportunities to excel not only in the sport, but also in the industry,” said Glenn Cale, B.A.S.S. tournament manager for the college, high school, and junior series. “This has truly become the preeminent event for colleges looking to find and recruit talent from across the U.S.”
The opportunity to meet individually with prospective anglers and evaluate talent from a wider swath of the country is critical for coaches.
“There is no way — even in a two- or three-year span — that a high school angler could visit, in person, all the universities that are brought to them at the High School Combine essentially in one location, in one weekend,” said Todd Gill, coach of Illinois’ Wabash Valley College. “Likewise, universities are provided an opportunity to sell their college and all it has to offer to anglers who might not otherwise be considering their program.”
Anglers like Jonathan Waschek, a junior from Apple Valley, Minnesota, are taking full advantage of having coaches in one location to advance their college search and test themselves against championship-caliber competition.
“We live up in Minnesota, so we would have to travel a lot to meet this many coaches at the colleges,” said Waschek. “This is a way to introduce myself to several coaches, learn about programs in one trip … and narrow down the list of colleges I want to look at this fall. I’ve enjoyed the tournament fishing experience and the opportunity to compete with other students from around my state, but look forward to the opportunity to use what I’ve learned to compete in new parts of the country.”
At the High School Combine, anglers will perform multiple tasks — casting distance, technical, and casting accuracy — to show their skill set not only on the water, but also to display their knowledge of the sport as a whole. Each of the disciplines will operate on a point system and will be timed by an official judge. After the first day, colleges will have the opportunity to select anglers for a “second look” where they can further explore everything that angler has to offer and see if they would be the perfect fit for their fishing program.
“I will be looking for positive attitudes and how the kids interact with each other. Team dynamic is very crucial to success. I’m looking for anglers that complement my program, not hinder it,” said Tony Miracle, Campbellsville University coach. “I want anglers that work hard to be successful, so good grades are very important to me. It tells me that they take pride in their lives. That turns into pride for your team. Wins mean nothing to me … I look for consistency. Top 20 finishes will get you qualified for nationals; the more teams you have at nationals, the better your chance to win.”
Similarly, the student anglers are hoping to leverage time at the combine to determine where they want to spend the next stage of their careers.
“Currently, I have dialogue with around 10 programs. The combine is a great opportunity to meet coaches in person and start the process of determining where I fit from a goal and cultural perspective. I’m hoping to find three to five programs that are a good fit for me and start building a relationship with the coaches and team members so I can make an informed decision,” said Dylan Sorrells of Dallas, Texas, who finished in the Top 20 at the 2023 Strike King Bassmaster High School National Championship presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors. “I’m excited to test my technical skills against serious anglers who plan to pursue fishing in college. As a junior, it allows me to compare my skills against some of the best and provides feedback on what I need to improve on over the next two years.”
The following schools have committed to participating in the Bassmaster High School Combine:
- Auburn University (Auburn, Alabama)
- Bethel University (McKenzie, Tennessee)
- Blue Mountain Christian University (Blue Mountain, Mississippi)
- Bryan College (Dayton, Tennessee)
- Campbellsville University (Campbellsville, Kentucky)
- Carson-Newman University (Jefferson City, Tennessee)
- Catawba Valley Community College (Hickory, North Carolina)
- Dallas Baptist University (Dallas, Texas)
- Drury University (Springfield, Missouri)
- East Texas Baptist University (Marshall, Texas)
- Emmanuel University (Franklin Springs, Georgia)
- Erskine College (Due West, South Carolina)
- Faulkner University (Montgomery, Alabama)
- Kentucky Christian University (Grayson, Kentucky)
- Lander University (Greenwood, South Carolina)
- Louisiana State University Shreveport (Shreveport, Louisiana)
- Murray State College (Tishomingo, Oklahoma)
- Southeastern University (Lakeland, Florida)
- Troy University (Troy, Alabama)
- University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa, Alabama)
- University of Florida (Gainesville, Florida)
- University of Montevallo (Montevallo, Alabama)
- University of North Alabama (Florence, Alabama)
- Wabash Valley College (Mt. Carmel, Illinois)
- Webber International University (Babson Park, Florida)
The 2023 Skeeter Bassmaster High School Combine is being hosted by Decatur Morgan County Tourism.