The Kentucky Surge in High-School Fishing Teams

Written by Anietra Hamper | Photos by Robb Schneeman

Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills, Kentucky is known for its basketball and football teams, so when the school started a fishing club in 2018 no one could have anticipated the impact it would have on the lives of students.

“The main reason we started a fishing club was to give more students an opportunity to participate in something here at school,” said Robb Schneeman, Head Bass Fishing Coach at Covington Catholic.

In just eight years the extracurricular club evolved into a Kentucky High School Athletic Association (KHSAA) sanctioned Varsity fishing team now producing members like Sam Scroggins who will be heading off to college on a fishing scholarship.

The 20204 Covington Catholic Bass Fishing Team.

The 20204 Covington Catholic Bass Fishing Team.

“I love tournament fishing. I love the fact that it takes patience and study. Most people don’t know what it takes to do this on a large scale,” said Scroggins who is a senior.

Scroggins’ brother Eli is also on the team as a sophomore and is already recognizing the value that the comradery and competition offers people who connect through a common interest.

“Some people look up to me and I have people I look up to as well. We are all one,” said the younger Scroggins.

Each season 10-20 students participate on the Covington Catholic team competing in four-to-five tournaments on Lake Cumberland. The lake is 3½ hours away, so the distance means the team must get creative to hone important skills during practice like knot trying and using local ponds for perfecting lure presentation.

Assistant Coach Bill Smith captains the boat during competition on Lake Cumberland 

Assistant Coach Bill Smith captains the boat during competition on Lake Cumberland 

Assistant coach Bill Smith is a Bassmaster Elite who combines science and athleticism during team workshops to instill best practices used by tournament pros. Team members learn how to study lake topography, assess water conditions in different seasons, identify underwater structures, and practice casting and lure selection based on water temperature. 

Smith’s son Brandon is a junior on the team and joined for the chance to compete in the sport like his father.

“Fishing has taught me about so many uncontrollable things such as weather and mishaps that you can never predict how the day will go,” said Smith.


Fishing tournaments oftentimes have upwards of 200 boats competing which challenges the students to up their game in an outdoor sport they enjoy. 

Their collective ambition serves them well. Covington Catholic has placed in the top 15 in the state tournament the last three years which offers a sense of pride especially for a team so physically removed from a major body of water.

Covington Catholic Bass Fishing Coach Robb Schneeman, Assistant Coach Bill Smith with team members Sam Scroggins and Brandon at competition weigh-in.

Covington Catholic Bass Fishing Coach Robb Schneeman, Assistant Coach Bill Smith with team members Sam Scroggins and Brandon at competition weigh-in.

“It’s fun to watch them succeed especially at state tournaments where kids get interviewed and weigh-in their fish,” said Schneeman.

Covington Catholic’s growth in team participation since its inception is representative of a larger high school fishing boom taking place in public and private schools across the U.S.

Public schools in nine states currently have competitive bass fishing as a sanctioned high school sport according to the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation with private schools adding to the surge of teams in recent years. The popularity and growth of high school fishing is also recognized by Bassmaster that has experienced a continual increase in participation its Strike King Bassmaster High School Series. This also provides a platform for young competitive anglers to advance through college and even professional levels.

Sam Scroggins and Brandon Smith with their Day-1 catch from the 2022 KHSAA State Tournament.

Sam Scroggins and Brandon Smith with their Day-1 catch from the 2022 KHSAA State Tournament.

“They’re learning how to become lifelong fishermen,” said Schneeman. It’s an accomplishment to watch the team grow from the first year and now seeing kids get college scholarships for fishing. It’s fun to watch them succeed on this level.”

The bonus to competitive fishing is the lifelong friendships that students make in the process.

“Since I have joined the team, I have met a lot of people that I would have never talked

to before,” said freshman Aidan McLindon.

“You make friends with people who have the same interests and spending eight hours in a boat brings you closer to them,” said senior Hagen Conley.

Boats gathering at pre-launch for a high-school bass tournament on Lake Cumberland.

Boats gathering at pre-launch for a high-school bass tournament on Lake Cumberland.

Competitive fishing also helps students recognize the value of lessons that happen during their less than stellar days on the water.

“Not all tournaments are going to go your way,” said senior Patrick Theissen. Sometimes you might not catch a fish all day and sometimes it will be a rainstorm. So, stick with it because everyone has ups and downs.”

While the idea of competitive fishing might be intimidating for new students, current team members note the rewards that come with determination and encourage anyone who has an interest to give it a try regardless of their skill level.

“You definitely have to be dedicated to it, but anyone can join the fishing team and once you join and learn more it’s fun,” said junior Phoenix Parks.

As the Covington Catholic fishing team wraps up another strong season, the momentum is growing even more for next year both in participation and team success.

Anietra Hamper is an award-winning outdoor writer and author who specializes in outdoor adventure and fishing for some of the largest species around the world. She is a career journalist with a background as a top-rated television news Anchor and investigative reporter.

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