Turlock's Bulldog Bass Anglers are heading to the California State Championships as part of the Bass Federation's Student Angler Federation in partnership with the Fishing League Worldwide Tour.
This after the newly-created fishing club team was able to compete with some of the best in the area.
“What is great is that we also compete at the national level,” said President of the Bulldog Bass Anglers Jared Steeley. “We compete locally, regionally, nationally and have a chance to bass fish the World Finals of High School Bass Fishing at Pickwick Lake in Alabama this summer.”
Bass fishing at the high school level is growing at a rapid rate. Just four years ago, 14 teams were competing for the state championship. Now, colleges are offering full ride scholarships for bass fishing.
“This includes life lessons, how to interact with sponsors, how to understand the fisheries' eco system and how the moon phase effects the fish behavior and bite,” said Steeley. “The science behind aquatic growth and water characteristics and overall bass fishing as a sport.”
The Turlock Bulldog Bass Anglers started not long ago. In February, two of Steeley's football players asked him numerous times to start a high school team.
“I coach football at Turlock High School and two of my players asked me five times to start a team,” said Steeley. “After saying no and that I am too busy with my company to manage a bass team four times in a row, I could not look them in the eye and say no a fifth time.”
With the help of the students' parents, who captain the boats, and also their sponsorship, the Bulldog Bass Anglers were ready to catch some bass.
The team currently consists of Carson Steeley, Luke Curtis, Mike Mirza, Andy Owen, Dalton Linn, Clayton Souza and Tyler Soderstrom.
“All of our members are three-sport star athletes at their respective schools,” said Steeley. “They come to meetings after practices, games and homework to learn skills that will help them in tournaments as well as weekend fun fishing trips with friends. Busy schedules do not deter these young men from learning a new sport and hopefully carrying it to the next level.”
Steeley also encourages other students to join the team who may be interested in bass fishing.
“Our club/team requirements are pretty simple: teamwork over individualism, respect the sport and the environment,” said Steeley. “Safety first while on the water and school work is top priority no matter what.”
In their first tournament back in March at the Delta Teen Team, with 58 teams competing, including powerhouse De La Salle, Turlock placed 6th, 9th, 21st and 31st.
“Far exceeding my expectations. We were hoping for at least one top 25 finish and we ended up with three,” said Steeley. “Our second tournament in April was much better. We finished 1st, 2nd, 3rd and had big fish of the tournament, sweeping the podium at Salt Springs Reservoir.”
The SAF FLW California State Championship is expected to have 40 to 50 high schools compete and it will take place at the Cal Delta on Sunday.
“With the knowledge our team has and the boaters we have to take our anglers around, I feel our team has a legitimate shot at winning the tournament and moving on to the regional championships,” Steeley added.
“We would like to thank our sponsors who have stepped up to support our team. I also want to personally thank Todd Owen for his support. Jeremy Linn for his assistance, Matt Frazier for being the pro that he is, Jenn Ellerd, Kevin Stewart for your boat and time and my student athlete anglers for encouraging me to do this as well as Bass Pro Shops Manteca for stepping up huge and joining our team as a sponsor and partner for our events.”