Now they look the part.
Oakman will participate in today’s Alabama Student Angler Bass Fishing Association tournament at Lewis Smith Lake.
The Wildcats will be one of approximately 100 teams taking part in the one-day tournament.
Oakman’s first-year fishing team looked a bit out of place while taking part in last year’s tournament on Smith Lake.
“We were out here in blue T-shirts last year,” coach Brad Murray said. “We didn’t have anything. If you had an Oakman hat, you were special.”
The Wildcats got help from the Chamber of Commerce of Walker County and Carol Alexander of White Pepper Realty to land professional uniforms starting with today’s event.
“Carol Alexander saw what we were wearing last year and said, ‘We are going to have to do something about that.’ Now here we are,” Murray added. “When I first saw the proofs for the uniforms, I thought, ‘These look good.’ When I got them out of the box, I thought, ‘Wow! These are fantastic.’”
“We are proud of these uniforms,” said Mike Tubbs, one of the captains for the team. “Last year, we were wearing whatever we had. This is what the pros wear — the Iaconellis, the Swindles, the whole nine yards.”
Alexander, who works tournaments for the Chamber of Commerce picking up competitors at the dock, picked up Oakman captain Brian Grace at last year’s tournament on Smith Lake.
“He told me that, ‘We don’t have any fancy shirts, but we’re here to fish,’” Alexander said. “I said, ‘You may not look good this time, but if I have anything to do with it, you will look good next time.’”
From there, Alexander started collecting money for the team.
“Everybody jumped on board and we bought the shirts. Those kids deserved better. We wanted them to look the best they can,” she said.
The Wildcats finished 18th at Smith Lake last season with their top boat taking sixth place.
“We are hoping to come back strong at this one,” Murray said. “We have a couple of kids who have been on the lake fishing every day this week, including today. They are ready to go. They are very excited.
“This is a great opportunity to get Oakman High School out there and to get fishing out there as a sport.”
There are a total of 12 anglers on the team: Colton Atkins, Austin Caldwell, Clay Dawson, Jordan Goodwin, Adam Grace, Case Key, Logan Key, Mason Millwood, Bradley Swann, Austin Swindle, Fisher Tubbs and Dylan Willcutt.
Oakman will have the maximum of five boats and 10 anglers taking part in the tournament.
Two anglers will serve as alternates on the team.
While bass fishing is considered a club sport at the collegiate level, Murray sees an opportunity for high school anglers who want to fish at the next level.
“We were at a college recruiting meeting two weeks ago. In the next couple of years, I believe there will be ahtletic fishing scholarships at colleges. It’s coming. I would encourage other high schools around to have this. The kids love it,” Murray said.
This is Oakman’s second tournament of the season. Oakman will also take part in the next tournament set for next month on Lake Wheeler. The state tournament is set for Lake Henry in May.
Today’s weigh-in will be held at the Smith Lake Dam from 2 to 4 p.m.
“It’s going to be a long day. I’m just hoping to see the boys catch some fish,” Murray said.