SMITHVILLE, Mo. — Twelve boats took to the waters of Smithville Lake at 6 a.m. on Sunday, May 3 participating in the Park Hill South Panther Classic — a high school open bass tournament. Five different schools participated in an event Park Hill South fishing sponsor Clay Lenhert said was designed to get new schools involved in the sport.
“It’s a great day to see high school kids out here enjoying the water and fishing, catching fish,” Lenhert said. “Everybody seems to have a smile on their face and a little sunburn. A lot of kids got awards and prizes. Everyone’s going home happy.”
Currently, about 45 schools have contacted the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) with an official agreement to offer a team.
MSHSAA members voted in 2013 to allow bass fishing as an emerging activity. When the decision was announced, the governing body said a state championship would be added with ‘sufficient participation’ — or 50 teams.
Most of the schools who have the agreement on file are located in southern Missouri around the state’s popular fishing lakes — Truman Lake, Table Rock Lake and the Lake of the Ozarks to name a few.
“The south part of the state has done their part, “Lenhert said. “Now it’s up to us to grow the sport around here, so go back to your schools and tell your friends, tell the administration you are interested. The purpose of our tournament is for these kids to take their love of fishing and the exciting time they had and share it back at their schools. If they share it with their friends and athletic directors and administrators in hopes those schools will contact MSHSAA and decide that, ‘Hey, this could be really great for our kids.’”
Park Hill South is the only Kansas City metro school to offer the program as of now, but participants from Kearney, Liberty and Liberty North to go along with a boat from Helias took part in the tournament.
Kearney’s Clay Chisam and Max Ivy won the event with a five-keeper total of 17½ pounds. Liberty North’s Bryce Kiely and Justin Dixon took second after catching the biggest fish of the day (4.19 pounds), and Park Hill South’s Jeff Hatten and Valor Bowles — fishing in their first ever tournament — took third (14.3 pounds).
“When I went out, I was just hoping to catch a fish to get on the board,” Hatten said. “We ended up catching three big ones. I was excited when I hooked the first big fish. I couldn’t be happier. It was the best time of the weekend.”