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Promoting fishing clubs in schools

It all started with a challenge . . . the principal of one high school challenging the principal of another to a fishing competition. No, not between themselves, but between their school fishing teams. High school fishing teams? Yes, and it’s a good model for boat dealers willing to invest a little time and  recognize that getting kids fishing has all sorts of short term and future benefits.

Details about the competition later. This story is really about a man with a vision and the commitment to make it happen. He’s Jim Simmons, founder and CEO of the World Billfish Series that sanctions more than a dozen big game tournaments. He’s also spearheading the new Florida Gulf Coast Center for Fishing & Interactive Museum opening in Largo, Fla. But he really imagines kids fishing – and lots of them.

Simmons’ goal is a fishing club in as many schools as possible. His idea is taking off fast. In just a few months, fishing clubs have been organized in 13 of the 17 public high schools in Pinellas County. According to reports in the Tampa Bay Times, more than 1,000 students have already joined. “The response has been phenomenal,” Simmons told the Times’ outdoors editor Terry Tomlin. “We are ready to move into the middle schools and then the elementary schools. Our goal is to have over 10,000 students in fishing clubs by the end of 2012.”

Simmons success illustrates that setting up fishing clubs in local school districts can be well received by educators. Competitive events between club members, as well as the formation of fishing teams to compete with other schools, will add exciting dimensions for the kids. In the competition cited above, for example, the Clearwater High School fishing team challenged the team from Tarpon Springs High. The teams faced off for two hours on March 2 at Clearwater’s Pier 60. Each team was made up of two squads and they alternated fishing. Tarpon Springs chalked up the win.

There’s general agreement in the marine industry that we must reach out to kids. Studies show 80 percent of today’s boaters were exposed to boating as kids. We also know our current boat ownership base is rapidly aging. If boating is to experience long-term growth again, we must think beyond today’s Boomers and Gen Xers. An important part of any growth program should be to get a fishing rod in kids’ hands instead of video game controllers.

I recently blogged about a model program initiated by South Shore Marine in Huron, Ohio that hosts school field trips to the dealership for students to learn about boats and boat services. In a similar way, teaching kids fishing as part of a school fishing club program is another great idea to reach young people. Let’s face it; kids who learn to fish will be predisposed to boats! Kids who come to love to fish can influence parents even now. Kids who learn to fish will be our future customers.


2 comments on “Promoting fishing clubs in schools

  1. Jackie

    My husband and I were on a cruise over the holidays and met a man from the midwest, a retired teacher who was still very involved in his former high school’s fishing team, even taking them to the state championships a few years. Very competitive, very exciting, very rewarding for all who participated. He had mentored many team members through their high school years. We’ve lived in Florida for 25 years and had never heard of fishing clubs/teams before, but when we thought about it, we were amazed that Florida, of all states, did not have any fishing clubs/teams. An excellent idea that is sure to be extremely popular in Florida!

  2. Neil Ross

    You are right on about involving schools and students in boating activities. Once they learn how much fun and safe boating can be, they will become future customers. Also if their parents are not yet in boating, the kids can influence the family to go boating and perhaps buy a small starter.

    Another youth group that the boating and marina industry needs to focus on are Scouts. All Boy Scout summer camps have some types of boating skills being taught many with canoes, kayaks, small sailboats and some with larger sailboats and PWCs. Andy they have a special group called Sea Scouts. More boating businesses should encourage and help Scout programs locally.

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