Belgreen fishing program flourishes
By Matt Wilson
For the FCT
Belgreen High School started the first high school fishing team in Franklin County in 2011 and has turned it into an important program over the past four years.
Emily Blanton is the sponsor for the team and said she was happy to join in the effort of starting the team and being a part of the program.
“In early spring of 2011, Franklin County board member Shannon Oliver approached me and asked if I would be interested in starting a bass fishing team at Belgreen,” Blanton said.
“I grew up fishing with my dad and it is still my favorite thing to do when I’m not working, so I immediately agreed to help get it going.”
Blanton said that with the help of Eddie Britton, Hal Bray, Steve Pounders, Shannon Oliver, and a few others, Belgreen was able to start the first high school fishing team in Franklin County.
Belgreen joined a newly established high school fishing organization known as Alabama Student Angler Bass Fishing Association (ASABFA).
ASABFA was recognized by the Alabama legislature on April 26, 2011 and has been promoted by both state Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow and state Sen. Roger Bedford.
Blanton said that for such a small school, there is a lot of interest in the fishing team at Belgreen.
“Some join the team simply to learn more about the sport of bass fishing, while others join to use their knowledge and skills of bass fishing to see who can catch the largest bass and have the most weight,” Blanton said.
“Not many people will give up their off days from school and work, to get up before daylight and spend most of the day out on the water, in all weather conditions, figuring out how to catch some beautiful Alabama bass, but the ones who are avid fishermen and women do it.”
For student anglers to compete in tournaments, they are required to have an adult, at least 21 years old, to operate the boat.
Blanton said those adults who volunteer their time are vital to the program.
“I can’t say or do enough to show how much I appreciate the men who volunteer their time, tackle, boats, and money just to spend some time with these kids fishing,” Blanton said.
“They operate the boat and guide the student anglers on how to fish, tie on lures, read depth finders, all kinds of things.
“Some of the boat captains are family members of the student anglers, but most of them are local fishermen in the community who completely volunteer.”
This was the first season Belgreen awarded two scholarships to graduating seniors. One scholarship was awarded to Chris Smith for $400 to NWSCC for a 4th place team win at the 2014 Timmy Horton Tournament.
The second scholarship was awarded to Lexie Bragwell, recipient of the first annual Casey Stockton Memorial Fishing Scholarship, for $750 to the college of her choice.
“I have had great fishing teams for the past four years, but I am so proud of the accomplishments they have made this year,” Blanton said.
“Most of them have been on the team since it began four years ago and they have learned so many valuable things about bass fishing and have become very impressive anglers.
“I’m confident that the student anglers from Belgreen High School will be responsible fishermen in the community and maybe even find themselves in a fishing career someday.”