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Focusing on tomorrow’s stars

Focusing on tomorrow’s stars

When you read this I will be out practicing on Lake Conroe getting ready for the biggest week in bass fishing.

We’ve got a real diverse and talented field that likely will make this another great GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods. And while there will be considerable media focus on Classic veterans and local favorites, I’d like to turn some of that spotlight on scholastic fishing, the fastest growing segments of our sport.

I think it’s a fitting topic at this Classic because Southeast Texas is a real hot bed for high school and collegiate fishing teams.

There are 500 high school teams in that region alone, and every college has its own fishing team.

If you attend this year’s Classic and Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo, you will see a lot of these young men and women walking around sporting their school jerseys.

And while it’s not surprising that competitive bass fishing is popular at all levels in Texas, we’re seeing rampant growth in scholastic fishing nationwide.

I’ve seen it blossom here in my home state of Michigan where my sons are members of the Grand Valley State College fishing team and in a state that has developed several other collegiate teams the past couple of years.

These programs are sprouting stars of tomorrow.

Just look at this year’s Classic. Jordan Lee, a product of the Carhartt Collegiate program, has become a fierce competitor on the Bassmaster Elite Series and as a Classic qualifier. Also, Tennessean John Garrett, a college junior, qualified for the Classic through the Carhartt College Classic Bracket program and will be going head-to-head with the nation’s best anglers next week.

Anytime I encounter scholastic anglers at outdoor shows and events around the country, I try to visit with them and come away impressed with their passion and enthusiasm for the sport.

It’s not only beneficial for these kids to hang around with people who have similar interests, but they’re on the fast track to being better anglers. The best way to become a successful angler is to fish with as many good anglers and on as many diverse bodies of water you can. These scholastic programs help make that happen.

In addition, school fishing programs provide a team spirit for kids who may not have the physical ability to play for their school’s ball teams. Scholastic fishing teams and the competition they embrace cultivate comradery and sportsmanship traits that are important in whatever career you ultimately choose.

The kids also learn the basics of the business side in their pursuit of sponsorships, the importance of presenting themselves in a professional manner and the proper and effective use of digital and social media.

Sherry and I realized long ago the importance of scholastic fishing’s role in the future of our sport. In fact, our Kevin VanDam Foundation bestowed our first collegiate scholarships to young anglers in the Michigan Collegiate Bass Circuit last year.

During the Classic Outdoors Expo next week, my foundation will launch a promotion that will help us expand our support for the next generation of anglers. I’ll provide more details in next week’s blog.

Remember, it’s all about the attitude!