Youth will be served! That was the theme of the Bassmaster Toyota Trucks All-Star Week Elite High School Experience, Sept. 22.  During an educational and action-packed day, 130 young men and women got an up close and personal look at the world of professional bass fishing at Nelson Park.

B.A.S.S. co-owner Jerry McKinnis welcomed the group before turning things over to Bassmaster Elite Series anglers Brent Broderick, Randy Howell, Travis Manson, Brandon Palaniuk, Skeet Reese, Fletcher Shryock and Byron Velvick, along with Carhartt Bassmaster Classic bracket winner Matt Lee of Auburn University.

At a lunch provided by Yamaha, in association with Skeeter, the students had an opportunity to meet with Carhartt Bassmaster College anglers from eight Illinois colleges. Those anglers will compete for bragging rights on Lake Shelbyville today and will be weigh-in their catches on the B.A.S.S. stage.

“It’s great to see this many students showing up, because they’re so keen on fishing,” said Dave Ittner, Yamaha tournament and pro staff manager. “This is future of bass fishing. The kids here light up when they see young anglers like Brandon Palaniuk and realize what he already has accomplished in this sport. It’s great to encourage them to set their goals and aim for their dreams.”

Ittner says he remembers when Palaniuk was still in high school six or seven years ago. Ittner encouraged him to pursue professional bass fishing, a path that involves hard work and one that rewards education.

“When we are looking at pros for our team, education is always something that factors in,” Ittner said.

Jon Stewart, senior manager, B.A.S.S. Federation Nation, said the common thread from all angler seminars at the event was the importance of education.

“Illinois has the largest organized high school association, and it was great to see the response our program received,” Stewart said. “The students and the coaches learned that we have anglers who come from all different backgrounds and that whatever their dream is, these young people can attain it if they work hard. Everyone encouraged them to stay in school. I think a college education and maybe an emphasis in business or marketing would benefit young people who want to be bass pros.”

Fletcher Shryock told the students about his unique path to the Elite Series. Before becoming a full-time fishing pro, he spent several years on the professional motocross tour. When he switched his focus back to bass fishing, it took him just 2 1/2 years to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic and Elite Series.

“Dirt bike riding made me learn a strong work ethic,” Shryock said. “I wanted the students to know if they have that commitment, they can learn bass fishing. I did a lot of my research on the internet in the beginning.”

Brandon Peters and Chris Clark, two students from Okaw Valley High School, were impressed yesterday with a seminar by 2007 Bassmaster Angler of the Year Skeet Reese, who demonstrated flipping and pitching techniques..

“He was accurate every time,” Peters said. “I also liked hearing from Randy Howell about how important it is to take care of your tackle.”

Clark said he was impressed meeting 23-year-old college Bassmaster Classic bracket winner Lee, who spoke to the group about life lessons and shared fish stories, as well as a few casting techniques.

“It’s great that he gets to compete in the Bassmaster Classic,” Clark said. “My dream is to be a professional one day, too.”

Image courtesy Bassmaster

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