Metro high school anglers casting for a national championship

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Who knew? High school bass fishing teams exist.

Young anglers from one school in the metro have risen to the top of their sport, and now, they're casting for a national championship.

It's a team sport, just like football or baseball. Three anglers representing Basehor-Linwood High School have dedicated themselves to reeling in bass fishing victories. In a few weeks, they'll travel to a large tournament in Kentucky, to fish for the high school's biggest trophy.

The roaring sound of monster outboard motors means action is sure to follow. The three-man Kickback Bass Club knows how to catch fish, and championships too. Kickback Coach Chris Whisenant leads two young anglers, both of whom attend Basehor-Linwood High School. They've qualified for the Bassmaster National High School Fishing Championships, where they could be recognized as the best in their game.

Team bass fishing is not a sport recognized by the Kansas State High School Activities Association.

Kickback Bass Club operates as a club sport with assistance from school leaders. Whisenant is a volunteer coach, and a non-school district employee, who donates his time and use of his boat to help these anglers.

“It's a blast, being a coach,” Whisenant said. “To see things that you've taught or you've shown kids how to do, and to put it to action in a tournament, to put your head down and grind and for them to catch the fish while you are there.”

These bass fishing teams are judged by the combined weight of their five best fish caught during a competition. Sixty-six teams entered the Midwest Open Regionals in April at Lake of the Ozarks. These Leavenworth County anglers were tops of their class, with five bass that weighed nearly 17 pounds.

“Whenever you go to weigh in, you get in a line, and a guy checks to make sure none of your fish are dead or anything,” Trevor Whisenant, a Basehor-Linwood High School freshman, and the coach’s son, said. “When the guy told us that's the biggest bag he'd seen all day, and we had a chance to take first place, we were pretty stoked.”

The win at regionals is also good enough to give each high school fisherman a $10,000 dollar scholarship to McKendree University in Illinois, which is in the St. Louis area.

“When you're on the boat, and you're catching fish, you're so excited, you're jumping up and down. If you catch a big one or something, it's really fun. It's an adrenaline rush,” Brett Lasley, a Basehor-Linwood High School freshman, told FOX 4 News.

“Making it there is just half the battle. You've made it there. They're already a big time success in high school angling. Hopefully, they can just go there and make it happen for Kansas,” Coach Whisenant said.

The sport of high school bass fishing is on the rise for schools in the U.S. Midwest. Coach Whisenant says the state of Kansas already has 10 active teams, and several schools in the metro also have teams, including Pembroke Hill Academy and Shawnee Mission Northwest.

At the college level, groups at the University of Kansas and Kansas State University are forming competitive teams.

The Kickback Bass Club will compete for the national championship in late July at Lake Barkley in Kentucky.