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Fishing provides purpose to local high school students
4 local schools competed in state meet Saturday on Lake Lanier
East Hall seniors Quentin Sears and Kolby Ray hold up fish at the weigh-in of the 2014 Georgia State High School Fishing Championship, Saturday, at Laurel Park. It is the third event East Hall has competed in this season. Sears and Ray caught over 11 pounds worth of bass. The top-five finishers in the tournament qualified for the Southeastern Championship Regional Event. - photo by CHARLES PHELPS

Lane Miller was failing five of his seven classes this year.

“He pulled them up in about two weeks, when I got onto him,” teacher Kevin Merck said. Now, Miller’s passing every single class.

“I guess, just knowing if I wanted to fish it’s just something that had to be done,” the East Hall High sophomore said. “It’s just something to work for.”

Miller is one of six students on the school’s bass fishing team; it’s the inaugural year of the group, led by Merck.

Another high school, North Hall, is in its second year of the fledgling program under the leadership of teachers Mitch Davis and Ronnie Turpin.

The team at North Hall High has grown to 10 participants this year. Turpin said it’s growing in popularity as more students hear about it.

The students compete in fishing tournaments; in fact, Miller and his teammate Dakota Crumley are heading to a state tournament in the fall.

“We just love fishing,” Crumley, a junior at East Hall, said about being on the team. “We’ve done it all our lives.”

They’ll get up early to fish on the weekends and sometimes before school, though they’ll usually go after class.

It’s standard practice to head out to where a tournament is planned the day before to boat over the water.

High school tournaments are much like they are for the adults, Merck explained; held on Saturdays, the students begin fishing when the sun comes up and will typically report back mid-afternoon.

They keep their five best fish to weigh for placing at the end of the day. All fish must be kept alive, and are released after the competition.

“Bass fishing is a lot different than these other sports,” Merck said, laughing. “They’re pretty secretive about a lot of their tricks. Some of the kids have their own guys who help them, maybe more specific baits and things like that.”

But while the competition is serious, the benefits extend to providing one more way for students to get excited about coming to school.

“We keep the same rules that you would if you were on a varsity sport,” Merck said. “We do that to make sure the guys keep their grades up.”

The East Hall team participated in the 2014 Georgia State High School Fishing Championship, Saturday on Lake Lanier. It’s the third tournament they’ve fished in this year.

East Hall seniors Kolby Ray and Quentin Sears reeled in more than 11 pounds worth of fish. The teams of Tristan Thomas and Hunter Buffington, and Dakota Crumley and Lane Miller hauled in over eight pounds a piece.

None of the teams placed in the top five to qualify for the Southeastern Championship Regional Event.

Merck hopes the group can expand as more students learn of the opportunity and become interested, though his goal is to be inclusive of everyone.

“I don’t really keep the guys off the water if they want to be on there,” he said. “If a student wants to fish, he gets to fish.”

Dawson County’s Tristan Melton and Cameron Hudson snagged second place, catching 16 pounds worth of fish. North Forsyth’s junior duo of Cole Cloud and Ronnie Warsop took first place.

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