The Bassmaster High School Combine presented by Skeeter returns to Wheeler Lake in Decatur, Ala., Sept. 15-17 for a weekend combining skills challenges and recruiting visits in hopes of reeling in college fishing scholarship money. The first Combine netted more than $2.6 million in scholarship offers, with tallies for the second event still pouring in as athletes sign with teams from a variety of schools.
“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. Nation tournament manager — College, High School and Junior. “The first two Bassmaster High School Combines were a great success, and we’re looking forward to growing this experience for both these high school anglers and the coaches who attend. This has truly become the preeminent event for colleges looking to find and recruit talent from across the country.”
Only schools offering bass fishing scholarships are invited to the High School Combine, and coaches from 25 colleges have already expressed interest in attending. The experience offers young anglers and college coaches a chance to leverage rare face time into finding the best fit for students ready to further both their education and their fishing at the next level.
The Bassmaster High School Combine presented by Skeeter will be a three-day event where anglers will perform multiple tasks to showcase their skills not only on the water, but also 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. Each angler will accumulate points to determine an overall winner. 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.
New to the 2022 combine was an on-the-water Technical Challenge designed to test a combination of skills. To complete the challenge, each angler had three minutes to navigate a Skeeter FXR20 bass boat around an obstacle and make three pinpoint casts to floating targets.
“There’s a couple of things I am watching,” explained Carson-Newman University fishing coach Hunter Sales while observing the challenge from the banks of Wheeler Lake. “You watch someone running a trolling motor and want to see if they are balanced on the front deck. Do they look comfortable or is it new to them? Even in the way they handle the rod; are they comfortable doing both? Is their casting form good? I want to see those anglers who are confident making longer casts and pitches. It really shows to me that they are just comfortable bass fishing … which is key.”
After three challenges — Casting Distance, Technical and Casting Accuracy — the 2022 combine’s overall points winner was Phillip Herring of Richton, Miss. In three total challenges, Herring finished no worse than 10th place out of 98 anglers and won the Technical Challenge. Herring was surprised to take home the highest honor from the High School Combine.
“It feels pretty amazing,” Herring said. “I came in expecting to have the opportunity to talk to a few colleges and maybe even get a couple of campus visits out of it, but I didn’t really have any expectations for the competition part of this event.”
Herring, who signed with the powerhouse University of Montevallo fishing team — one of the schools that attended the combine, has qualified for three consecutive Strike King High School National Championships presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors tournaments and also finished seventh at the 2019 Bassmaster Junior Series National Championship.
Once more, attendees will use the well-placed Ingalls Harbor and Pavilion on the shores of Wheeler Lake as base for the three-day event.
“Decatur is honored to partner with B.A.S.S. to continue serving as host of the Bassmaster High School Combine,” said Don Dukemineer, director of sports development for the Decatur Morgan County Tourism. “Now in our third year, our joint efforts with B.A.S.S. continue to strengthen this prestigious event in providing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these anglers to showcase their talents. Ingalls Harbor and Pavilion offer the perfect set-up for this unique event, and we are thrilled with this beneficial relationship that highlights Decatur and Morgan County as a fishing destination.”
Registration for the Bassmaster High School Combine presented by Skeeter will open at 4 p.m. CT on April 18 at Bassmaster.com/high-school and remain open until 100 participants have registered. The $600 registration fee includes accommodations for two nights and four meals.
For more information, visit Bassmaster.com/high-school.
2023 Bassmaster High School Combine Presenting Sponsor: Skeeter
2023 Bassmaster High School Combine Partners: Academy Sports + Outdoors
2023 Bassmaster Youth Sponsors: 13 Fishing, Seaguar, Shimano