Don’t look now, but Sonoraville High School’s fishing team means business.
Since starting up in 2014, Sonoraville joined the Northwest Georgia High School Anglers Association, and head coach Michael Farley said fishing is the fastest growing sport in North America both on the high school and collegiate levels.
“It’s a sport that’s definitely getting more TV time from ESPN, Fox Sports and Outdoor channel,” Farley said.
The 2019 team is comprised of 12 boys, but Farley said girls have previously participated in Phoenix fishing.
Two of those 12 on the team this year are sophomores Bryson Dowdy and Will Hall. Dowdy is in his second year of fishing with Sonoraville and Hall is in his third.
Dowdy said he has known Hall since first grade and that fishing has brought the two closer together.
“(I had) always watched competitive fishing on TV,” Dowdy said. “I really never thought I’d have the opportunity to actually fish tournaments.”
Hall said a highlight of his time on the Sonoraville fishing team was when he and Dowdy placed in the top five at Lake Guntersville in Scottsboro, Alabama back on March 16. The team’s catch weighed in at 11.37 pounds.
“I’d like to also put Sonoraville on the map,” Dowdy said. “I want it to get to where (people go), ‘Oh, here come the Sonoraville boys weighing in. Get ready.’ I want to get it to get to that point to where it’s like they know.”
Sonoraville has had its fair share of success out on the lake since joining the NGHSAA.
In 2016, Will Pritchett finished fifth at a tournament on Chickamauga Lake. Pritchett and partner Myles Bennett represented Sonoraville at the world championships in 2017 and 2018 at Pickwick Lake in Florence, Alabama, both times finishing inside the top 20.
“The interest (in fishing) here has always been very high,” Farley said. “You have a lot of kids that are interested, but then they see some of the requirements and the things it takes to be on the team and they shy away from it.”
Fishers are required to have a boat captain aged 21 or older and must pay a fee for a team jersey and memberships into professional fishing organizations. Being a part of these groups allows fishers the ability to participate in tournaments and qualify for national and world championships.
There are also transportation and fuel costs to consider, and Farley said interested individuals need to find a boat captain.
“I put it back on them that if they’re serious enough about this sport, they need to be finding their own boat captain,” Farley said. “They need to have that contact.”
Despite the numerous responsibilities that come with being a part of the team, Farley pointed out an upswing to being involved in fishing.
“Fishing’s one of those things (the kids) can do for the rest of their lives,” Farley said. “Football, wrestling, all that stuff is going to come to an end for the majority of students when they graduate high school.”
Farley noted the importance of the boat captains, as each captain volunteers their time, money and equipment.
“I think the success of the association and the success that the anglers here at Sonoraville see is hinged very heavily on the boat captain’s willingness to take them and be there to support them,” Farley said. “Three of my boat captains have no relation to any of the kids on their boat. They’re just local community members that are investing … in young kids’ lives and, for that, I’m very appreciative.”