“The biggest thing we’re going to catch out here today is a cold,” one student joked as the group huddled together with their backs to the biting wind during the lunchtime weigh-in.
Several minutes later, coach Jacob Gibbs announced that the winning boat had hauled in a bag of fish that totaled seven pounds, four ounces.
Hitting the water as a team for the first time was more important than bragging rights, however.
The students arrived at Smith Lake Dam before most of their classmates were en route to school and spent nearly five hours battling the chilly temperatures and uncooperative fish.
Senior Alex Tyler described the experience as “pretty great” and hinted that some bonding had gone on over the bait and tackle.
“It gave us a big chance to talk to people we usually don’t talk to,” Tyler said.
No matter what kind of luck they had with the fish on Friday, the students were rewarded for their effort with an official team shirt as well as a new rod and reel and other fishing gear.
Principal Kathy Vintson said the excitement has been building at CHS since she received permission from the board of education to establish the county school system’s first fishing team.
After she made the announcement to the boys several months ago, Vintson overhead one of them saying, “This is the first thing they’ve offered at this school that I can do.”
Gibbs, a successful competitive fisherman from Baileyton, approached Vintson’s husband, Danny, at work one day about his desire to mentor a few young anglers.
Fifteen students have taken Gibbs up on his offer so far.
His goal is to prepare them to compete against other fishing teams from around the state in a few months.
“We want to host an invitational at Lake Guntersville,” Gibbs said.
Vintson said she has been pleasantly surprised by the overwhelming interest in the new club from not only her students but also other local administrators who now want to start one of their own.
She is excited about the fishing team because it offers boys an extracurricular activity that is similar to Polish, a mentoring program that is popular among girls at CHS.
Both are part of the IHOPE (I Have the Opportunity and Potential to Excel) initiative that Vintson launched shortly after becoming principal last year.
“My goal as always is mentorship and keeping these kids in school,” she said.