When Travis Spraggins joined the staff at Horseshoe Bend School in December 2017, his first mission was to fill a much-needed void by researching the requirements for a fishing team. To his amazement, the student interest was overwhelming, which led to the school’s addition in the Alabama Student Angler Bass Fishing Association.
“This inspiration goes back to why I got into teaching in the first place. I love to incorporate the outdoors into learning,” said Spraggins, who teaches history and career prep classes and is the HSB fishing coach.
Growing up angling on Lake Martin, the Tallapoosa County native said he wished there had been a fishing team available when he was in high school, as it would have certainly helped advance his skill level.
The Generals will join other local schools – Dadeville Tigers, Reeltown Rebels and Benjamin Russell Wildcats – along with 36 others around the state in seasonal competitions.
“It has been a whirlwind up to this point. I have high expectations for this team, especially in this first year,” said Spraggins. “One of the interesting facts I learned was many schools started with one or two boats. We have seven to start out.”
Horseshoe Bend students participated in the Three-River Throwdown Tournament in the fall pre-season and kick-started the spring by entering the ASABFA tournament on Lake Martin last month.
“Being at Lake Martin really gave these guys a sense of where they need to be in terms of other students. It established expectations and gave them a jump start on their home lake,” said Spraggins.
Of the five boats that caught fish that day, Spraggins said, he was proud that none finished last, and the highest finisher placed 43 out of nearly 200 boats. This ranks the Generals 27th out of 37 high school fishing teams in Alabama.
With 15 names on the roster so far, Spraggins said the squads would be evaluated and ranked among one another from one to seven to find the right match for each tournament.
Right now the team is open to anglers from seventh through 12th grades, but with such tremendous feedback, Spraggins said, a junior division could have to be formed next year.
“It’s super exciting to have this great response out of these kids,” he said. “It provides another option for students who may not be involved in other sports or activities at the school.”
Spraggins said the majority of practice and education is currently being done in the classroom, and he plans to further students’ education with tips from Lake Martin’s semi-pro anglers. There is more to fishing than just fishing, said Spraggins, and these seasoned anglers could provide useful advice on tying knots, lure selection, water temperature and other strategies required for competitive bass fishing.
“Right now, the biggest thing is for boat captains to educate the students while they’re out there on the water,” he added.
During the month of March, the Generals competed in two additional tournaments, which could lead to qualifications for the state championship.
“It’s really been a blessing so far,” said Spraggins. “Anytime we can incorporate school into an activity, it really makes the learning more fun.”