QUINCY — Quincy Public Schools plans to reel in another extracurricular opportunity for high school students.

The School Board approved a plan Tuesday night to add bass fishing, beginning spring 2022, as a new Illinois High School Association activity at Quincy High School.

“This will be another option for our kids, a niche for someone that may not be involved in something else,” Superintendent Roy Webb said. “Research tells us if kids are involved in something in the schools, it helps them be successful in all areas of the school.”

Quincy parent Spencer Schelp helped spearhead the new activity.

“I’m a pretty casual fisherman, but I enjoy it,” Schlep said. “I’ve got friends that have kids that were active in bass fishing in area schools. Some moved here, didn’t have that opportunity and wanted to have that opportunity. I knew other kids were interested. It’s just something that made sense.”

Students involved in the activity not only hone fishing and leadership skills but can earn scholarships to further their education.

Perhaps more important, it’s fun, said QHS sophomore Carter Krutmeier who previously fished with the team at Liberty High School before moving to Quincy and now plans to join the new QHS team.

“I just love the outdoors and fishing,” Carter said.

Fishing in tournaments “really helps you learn a couple things about fishing bigger lakes. Most people around here only fish ponds,” he said. “It helps you learn patience. When you’re fishing on a big lake, you don’t catch as many as on a small pond.”

Bass fishing also offers an “even field” for boys and girls, said Sumaya Fessler, an organizer of the team at Liberty High School.

“It’s just been exciting to watch the kids feel good about something. Not every boy or girl is going to be a track, baseball or softball athlete,” Fessler said, and there’s advantages to the outdoor activity. “They’re not on social media, not on their cell phones.”

Community support, not QPS, will fund the program.

“We’ll need to raise some money, have access to boats, things like that,” Schlep said. “This area has a tremendous affinity and support for the outdoors. This should be another good opportunity for kids locally.”

QHS Athletic Director Matt McClelland welcomes the new opportunity for QHS students.

“It’s a program in IHSA a lot of people have success with, and we’ve got a good group of kids who love to do it,” McClelland said. “We’ll start small, see where the interest is and build it as we go.”

Illinois was the first state to offer bass fishing as a sanctioned activity where boys and girls compete side-by-side and had more than 325 schools involved in spring 2020.

School districts see bass fishing as a low-cost option, beyond entry fees for the state tournament, to broaden offerings. The programs emphasize the importance of keeping up classroom performance, being a good teammate and being responsible.

“Some days you go out there and fish for eight hours and might only catch two,” Fessler said. “You have to figure out the lake, figure out where they’re at.”

Liberty started offering bass fishing four years ago with community support.

“We do our own fundraising, pay for our own fuel and everything, entry fees. We have fish fries,” Fessler said. “It takes a lot of volunteers.”

It’s a natural fit for students who have grown up hunting and fishing — and for students just interested in fishing.

With bass fishing already available at area schools including Liberty, Mendon, Pittsfield and Warsaw, “we may be able to go compete against local schools like we do in other sports,” McClelland said. “Right now we need to get it off the ground, see how we can support it and roll it out for the kids.”

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