Catching On


Halfway through its third season, the Richmond Hill High School Wildcat Bass Fishing program has caught on… no pun intended.

Bass Fishing is a relatively new sport to the Georgia High School Association (GHSA), but has been a club sport in many high schools for more than a decade. The season starts in September and ends in May, with the GHSA Championship usually taking place in May. Coached by Amy Elkins, the Wildcat team consists of 21 guys and 1 lady this year. According to Coach Elkins, the team owes much of its success to the volunteers who help make it possible. “We are blessed to have 11 parents (relatives) who captain the boats for our 11 teams. Each team is made up of a volunteer boat captain and two high school anglers,” says Elkins. In the case of most Wildcat teams, the captain owns the boat and is the parent or relative of one or both of the anglers.

Boat captains must drive the boat when the “big” motor is on, but that is the extent of their job! The anglers do all of the fishing, netting, fixing their poles and lines, and are the ones who weigh the fish at the end of the day. Each team competes together to try to catch the five biggest fish of the day. When a 6th fish is caught, the team is able to trade up for one of the other fish in their live wells. Tournaments normally start around “first safe light” on a Saturday and teams fish for about eight hours before they come in to weigh. The objective is to have the biggest bag of five fish. Each fish must be a bass species and generally must be over 12 or 14 inches, depending on the tournament.

There are two different types of tournaments, BASS Tournaments and GHSA Tournaments. “At GHSA tournaments, we are only allowed to enter six teams to compete,” says Coach Elkins. “At BASS tournaments, there is no limit to the number of teams we can enter. The RHHS Bass Fishing Team must place in the top 10% of GHSA Tournaments to qualify for the Championship Tournament on Clarks Hill Lake near Augusta.” This year’s championship will be held on May 4th. BASS Tournament requirements are different. Each team must fish in a minimum of three tournaments and place in the top 85% of the angler of the year points to compete for the championship. The BASS Championship Tournament will be held in June.

“Our goal is to place as many teams as we can in the championship tournaments and then, of course, place as high as possible in those tournaments,” says Coach Elkins. In the first two seasons, three Wildcat teams qualified for the GHSA State Championship. “This year, halfway through the season, three teams have already qualified and others are looking promising.”

Bass fishing continues to grow as a competitive sport at the high school and collegiate levels around the country. RHHS Senior Branton Champion signed with Emmanuel University this year, becoming the first Wildcat to accept a Bass Fishing college scholarship!

As bass fishing continues to weave its way into high school sports programs nationwide, it has transcended being merely a pastime to become a competitive endeavor, teaching young anglers about patience, perseverance, and the intricate balance of nature. “It seems to have caught on quickly in Richmond Hill,” says Elkins. “Through team competitions and individual challenges, students are not only honing their skills with the rod and reel but are also learning valuable life lessons in teamwork, strategic thinking, and environmental stewardship.”