BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — After a wildly successful debut year, the Abu Garcia Bassmaster High School Combine returns to Wheeler Lake in Decatur, Ala., Sept. 16-18 for a weekend combining skills challenges and recruiting visits in hopes of reeling in college fishing scholarship money. The first Combine generated more than $2.6 million in scholarship offers.
“These high school anglers represent some of the finest athletes in the country, and it took the same drive and commitment to get here as it does to excel in any sport,” said Abu Garcia Vice President of Marketing Communications Marc Kemper.
“They truly represent the ethos of Abu Garcia — Fish to Win.”
Only schools offering bass fishing scholarships were invited to the inaugural High School Combine, and coaches from 19 colleges attended. The experience offered young anglers and college coaches a chance to leverage rare face time to find the best fit for students ready to further both their education and their fishing at the next level.
“The Combine has given me the opportunity to meet and recruit anglers that I would’ve never been able to evaluate otherwise,” said Campbellsville University coach Tony Miracle. “It also gives kids the opportunity to meet and talk to universities and coaches that they never would’ve had the chance to meet. It’s an unbelievable opportunity for both sides.
“I signed two anglers from last year’s Bassmaster High School Combine and am excited to get them on campus and start their journey. I’m also recruiting several high school juniors for next year. I absolutely will be back this year. I wouldn’t miss it!”
The Abu Garcia Bassmaster High School Combine 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.
Fifty-seven scholarship offers came out of the first-ever High School Combine, with many students signing with a university on-site. Overall winner Levi Thibodaux of Thibodaux, La., inked an offer to fish for the Louisiana State University-Shreveport Pilots and Coach Charles Thompson, while Justin Frey of Landisburg, Pa., took home the victory in Casting Accuracy as well as an offer to fish for Bethel University.
“I connected with two universities during the combine that both have fantastic programs at an elite level,” said Frey. “What separated them the most in my mind was that both coaches were awesome, caring individuals. I was ecstatic and very blessed to sign with an athletic scholarship from Bethel University thanks to Coach Garry Mason … it’s been a dream come true.”
Prior to the combine, Frey was not being recruited by Bethel University, which was the first college in America to offer bass fishing scholarships and has claimed 11 national titles.
“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 inaugural Abu Garcia Bassmaster High School Combine was a great success, and we’re looking forward to growing this experience for both these high school anglers and the coaches who attend.”
Registration for the Abu Garcia Bassmaster High School Combine will open at 1 p.m. CT on June 7 at Bassmaster.com/high-school and remain open until 100 participants have registered. The $500 registration fee includes accommodations for two nights and all meals for the weekend.
For more information, visit Bassmaster.com/high-school.