Submitted by Drew Snider

Kentucky's High School Bass Fishing Program has grown leaps and bounds since its humble beginnings of just 90 participants seven years ago. For the 2018-19 season there are 2,500 middle school and high school students in the state of Kentucky participating in the program.

Only Texas has more kids competing in high school fishing at this time. The Franklin-Simpson Bass Cats saw huge growth this year with the team doubling in size to 21 members, and with this growth the team has a bright future ahead.

This year the Bass Cats have done some pond, creek, and lake fishing to get both the young anglers and experienced anglers time on the water. At the beginning of the season they missed several tournaments due to flooding issues on many of the lakes they compete on, but when the waters receded and the weather permitted they have been extremely busy. They competed on Lake Barkley numerous times in preparation for their regional tournament where they had some average finishes and some of the young anglers gained some valuable experience.

The team has met once a week since the first of the year to teach the anglers about choosing their fishing tackle and baits for the changing weather and water conditions, as well as how the fish react through out the late winter and spring. This year the club also hired Essential Safety and CPR to come in and train our anglers in first aid and CPR to insure that they know what to do in case of an emergency while out on the water.

The Bass Cats had five boats with 10 anglers compete in this year's KHSAA Region 1 Tournament on Lake Barkley on April 27. The teams were Cody Barnes and Carter Smith with boat captain Gary Sliger, Dondrey Woods and Jaden Vaughn with boat captain Chuck Fleming, Luke Adams and Keagan Thomas with boat captain Brian Adams, Jackson Carter and Jake Carter with boat captain Ryan Forshee, and Kaylee Shaw and Bryson Holder with boat captain Larry Gorham. There were a total of 95 boats competing in the regional tournament, and the Bass Cats had an impressive showing. All 5 of the Franklin Simpson boats brought in fish to weigh, with two of our boats having a 5 fish limit. The 5 fish limits brought in by the teams of Woods and Vaughn and Adams and Thomas were enough to seal their spots in the top 17 for state, with Woods and Vaughn finishing in 11th place and Adams and Thomas in 14th place.

After regional competition it was on to Kentucky Lake on May 10-11 for these two boats to compete in this years state tournament. There were a total of 90 boats from the four regions across the state competing for the highest honor in KHSAA Bass Fishing. The four anglers and boat captains arrived at Kentucky Dam State Park on Wednesday for a couple days of pre-fishing in in preparation for the tournament. On Thursday they had a slight change in the weather and by Friday morning temps had dropped and skies were overcast, which really tested their ability to adapt and find the fish. The teams went out Friday morning at 7 a.m. to start the tournament.

The fishing was tough, but both teams were able to catch their 5 fish limit with Adams and Thomas having 8 pounds 4 ounces and Woods and Vaughn bringing in 6 pounds 9 ounces to put them in the middle of the pack after day one. Saturday was a new day and as the boats went out on day two the anglers had their work cut out for them. They were determined to keep themselves in contention for the title, but with the weather still short of perfect and the fish being very unpredictable, the teams catches were scattered and catching the correct size fish (at least 12 inches in length) was challenging.

But both teams fought through the rain to bring in two more five fish limits on Saturday. The first boat in was Adams and Thomas who showed consistency with an identical 8 pounds 4 ounces of Kentucky Lake bass. Their two day total of 16 pounds 8 ounces put them in and impressive 46th place, which is an exceptional finish considering this was their first year on the team, as well as their first time ever on this body of water. The senior team of Woods and Vaughn were next to come in. After making some adjustments from day one they were able to weigh in a bag of 13 pounds that propelled them to 18th overall with a total of 19 pounds and 9 ounces. A big 4 pound bass caught by Vaughn was a great anchor for their bag. Woods and Vaughn's 18th place finish is the highest finish at the state tournament for the team since it was started at FSHS, as well as the teams first top twenty finish at the state level.

The Bass Cats will finish up their season competing on Barren River Lake this weekend against South Warren High School in a tournament dubbed "The Battle for Woodburn."

The team would like to thank all of their sponsors and parents for their support and dedication to this growing team. They would also like to thank all of the boat captains that volunteered their time, boats and expertise to the team this year.

If your middle school or high school aged child is interested in joining the Bass Cats, or if you are interested in volunteering as a boat captain, please contact Coach Drew Snider at fshsbass@gmail.com.

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