The Lions finished in the top 10 of the 2012 Alabama Student Angler Bass Fishing State Championship.
Munford head coach Noel Stephens said he is elated about the top 10 finish his team earned.
“For the first year ever having it, we finished eighth overall,” Stephens said. “We competed in four regional tournaments and we competed in the state championship. Our overall points from all the tournaments— we finished eighth out of 140 teams and that’s from 1A-6A. We beat out Hoover and Spain Park. We are pretty excited and we are going to go July 15-21 to Lake Darnell in Arkansas to fish in the world championship. It has a buzz going in the community. The kids really enjoy it and I enjoy it.”
New administration and having students interested helped Munford become the first school in the area with a fishing team.
“About three years ago, they started fishing in high schools,” Stephen said. “We tried then, but everything didn’t work out. This year, when Mr. (Anthony) Wilkinson came on board and he had several kids coming to me wanting to do it. I told them that I would be more than happy to. He told them if they found a coach they could do it. They already asked me and the rest is history. We got everything signed up, we got all the entry fees and we got going.”
The fishing team had nearly as many people interested in joining as the football team.
Stephens was able to form a team after they had a fishing tournament at Logan Martin Lake.
“We had over 50 to sign up for it,” Stephens said. “What we had to do is we had to go in and have some local tournament from our own school to try to narrow it down to the top 10. You can only take five boats to every tournament. We had to cut the field down to 10 people. The interest is excellent.”
Being consistent throughout the year and getting a top 10 finish helped the Lions finish eighth in the state.
“Fishing is a crazy sport,” Stephens said. “One tournament, the boat that I had they finished in the top 20 or 25. The only time that we finished in the top 10 was when Gunter Whaley and Chad Batey finished eighth. Chad Batey had the big fish of the tournament with a four and a half pound bass. We were pretty consistent throughout all the tournaments and that is what kept us in the top 10.”
Munford principal Anthony Wilkinson said fishing can open doors for students to get scholarships to major colleges.
“This is something that I think this is outstanding,” Wilkinson said. “There are a lot of kids that play baseball that are also fishing. All of the other students don’t play any sports and they love fishing. Most of the schools of them are small schools, but now the SEC has picked up on it. Auburn and some of the other teams have fishing teams. I think Arkansas officially began signing fishing scholarships and I don’t think it will be long before other schools began following behind them. If we do well, the kids can go somewhere. Somebody can play their way through school and do something on the weekend they love.”
Wayne Parnell was a member of the Munford fishing team. He said he was surprised how many people were interested in fishing on the high school level.
He believes that fishing will be a sanctioned sport by the Alabama High School Athletic Association in the near future.
“When I got to the Regional Tournament with the other schools, there were 100 boats in the water and it shocked me,” Parnell said. ”I didn’t realize how popular it was. I imagine that in the next few years it will be sanctioned by the AHSAA.”
The Lions are seeking sponsorship for their trip the High School Fishing World Championship in Russellville, Arkansas, July 15-21.
“Coach Stephens and I were talking about that,” Wilkinson said. “Sneed was the first one to jump on it and we are going to get with a lot of them this summer. The word is out about what we are doing. Coach Stephens and some of the other boat captains are trying to get sponsorships that can pay for the gas, pay for the rooms. They also can give them some fishing poles or something new that they want us to try. If we can get some sponsorship that will be outstanding.”
Stephens said many schools called with interest about their fishing team.
“We are getting all kind of calls,” Stephens said. “We are the only school in Talladega County School System that has it. I am getting calls from White Plans and other schools outside the county. Even Jacksonville State called and wanted to know about it.”
Stephens said the community support of the student anglers have been unreal.
“The support is unbelievable,” Stephens said. “The buzz in the community and everywhere we go people are asking about the fishing team. I was at an All-Star game in Oxford and several of the kids that go to Oxford were saying ‘man we don’t even have a fishing team. We might need to come to Munford.’ It is just unreal the support you get from the community.”
Wilkinson said he is pleased with the job Stephens did with the fishing team.
“Coach Stephens has done an outstanding job,” Wilkinson said. “For our kids to finish eighth out of 50 or 60 teams and that is just schools- there were actually 140 teams there. For us to finish eighth out of 140 teams, that’s awesome for our first year. Coach Stephens and the boys did a super job.”
Stephens thanked the boat captains: Tommy Kulk, Jabo Smith, Chip Whaley, Scott Batey and Todd Watts for everything they did to make the season successful.
“They spent a lot of their own money, used their boat and their equipment,” Stephens said. “They put a lot of wear and tear on their vehicle and boat. Without them, I couldn’t have done it. I appreciate everything that they have done for us.”