The Unit 9 School Board has agreed to consider a request to form a bass fishing team at Watseka Community High School.
Students Shawn Farris and Justin Bunting spoke to the school board members Tuesday night about the request.
A bass fishing team is sanctioned by the Illinois High School Association. It is co-ed. The students said there are several teams around the area already including Manteno, Momence, Grant Park, El Paso and Oakwood.
A survey was taken of students at the high school, and between 30 and 40 students showed interest, Bunting said.
He said the team would provide several main objectives the team members would learn. “The main objective would be safety on the water,” he said. “Respect would be the next thing.” This would include being respectful to others on the water as well as among the team members.
Conservation would be the third objective. The students would maintain good conservation practices including not littering and being respectful of nature.
Bunting said there is also interest from businesses and individuals to help fund the team. He said they estimate they would need about $4,000 to get the team started. The money would go toward life jackets, entry fees and transportation costs.
“We would raise it ourselves through donations, sponsorships and fundraisers,” he said. A fish fry was one fundraiser they are wanting to plan.
Farris said some people have volunteered boats that the team could borrow for the tournaments.
Bunting’s father, James — Glenn Raymond School principal — has said he would volunteer his time to help with the team. James was present at the meeting and said he would be willing to do so because he thinks the program would be good for students.
Farris said they are going to try to raise all the money themselves so that it would not cost the district any money. The team would need a team shirt and poles. If the group cannot raise all the money, team members might have to a pay a fee to participate, he said.
Bunting said there are different locations for different sectionals around the area. He said it appears as thought Watseka would be in the Braidwood sectional. Other tournaments around the area are also conducted, with teams competing against other schools. Willow Slough is one area and there are also some around Danville.
“You just have to make a regular season with other schools,” he said.
Transportation is often done by adults and the students ride with those adults to the events.
Bunting said during the regular season the teams can fish as many boats as they want. At the sectional, it is limited to two boats with up to four kids per boat. Two of them are in the boat and two of them are on shore and they can switch out as the event goes on.
The sectional is during the spring, but the IHSA website says that the season can be all year.
Board member Rusty Maulding asked if the students can participate in bass fishing and other athletics.
Bunting said students are allowed to do a spring sport and the bass fishing. If there is interference then the students will have to choose.
Maulding also asked whether the students are insured through the school insurance. Interim Superintendent Gary Miller said yes they are insured through the school insurance.
James Bunting said Feb. 1 is the deadline for IHSA to get into the state series.
Justin Bunting said the practices would be practicing casting at different ponds and lakes around the area and then fishing as a group.
Winning a bass fishing tournament is determined by weight of a set number of fish. The fishermen have to keep the fish alive during the tournament and then release them at the end of the tournament.
James Bunting said, “I think if we can get kids away from a computer and a cell phone for awhile and out in nature and teach them something about it, I think it would be a good thing for our school and our community.”
James Bunting said if the team could do three tournaments and the sectional this year he feels that would be a good start.
“If we can help some kids out, “ he said, “and I hope we get kids who want to participate who have never touched a fishing pole in their lives. These guys are here because they love to fish and they love being outdoors.”
Maulding said he loves the idea but wants to make sure there isn’t a cost that hasn’t been thought of yet.
Principal Carolyn Short was asked what she thinks of the idea.
“I think it’s a great idea,” she said. “I think it will draw students who maybe don’t have an interest in athletics.”
The board agreed to think about the request and will talk about it at a future meeting.