By JOSH FRYE
News Sports Writer
Two Escambia Academy fishing team freshman anglers, Robert Stanley and Luke Bell, are bound for nationals after capping off their first season within the Alabama Bass Nation High School Tiger Division with a second-place finish for Angler of the Year at the state tournament and $1,000 in scholarship money at Lake Weiss in Leesburg, Ala. on June 13.
According to fishing team coach Spence Overton, the honor is a big deal. Overton stated that this was the first year EA has fielded competitive fishing teams at this level. Expectations going into fishing season were unknown. The main goal for the EA anglers was to qualify for state, where at least 200 angler teams from across Alabama would compete for a chance to go the national level of competition.
“Not only did the kids do well,” Overton said. “Now we have two kids with first class tickets to the national competition after being able to come out on top of almost 200 other teams.”
According to Overton, the importance of being invited to the Mossy Oak Bassmaster High School National Championship Series is not stressed enough.
“The honor is not an easy one to receive,” Overton said. “There are only 200 teams throughout the country who make it to this level. Some try to reach the nationals for years on end and never make it. For people who do not know anything about the sport, they have no idea just how big this is. These kids have made their school, team and community proud. Now they have a chance to bring home not only a nice piece of hardware, but also endless amounts of college scholarship money as high school freshmen.”
With the qualification for the national tournament at Lake Chickamauga in Tennessee, Stanley and Bell create not only school history, but also county history as the first two student athletes ever to be invited to the tournament. Overton explained that the tournament is by far not an easy one to win. The tournament will feature some of the best student anglers in America who will compete before the eyes of bass angler legends.
During the first day, 200 teams from across America will compete. By the second day, only 12 teams will remain. Those 12 teams will then have two days to earn the number one spot. For Bell and Stanley, the chance of winning will be a much-earned feat. According to Overton, if victorious, colleges will be beating Stanley and Bell’s door down to offer them college scholarships. Overton added that for Stanley and Bell to have the chance to become successful and compete, they will need to raise $4,000 to help fund the trip to Lake Chickamauga. The money will be used to help fund the trip in general, but will also aid in team jerseys for the tournament. The team is asking for donations to help fund the costs and any company who donates will have the opportunity to get their company logo featured on the team jerseys. To donate, contact Escambia Academy, Spencer Overton at (251)769-1253, Robbie Stanley at (251)359-2759 or C.J. Bell at (251)294-3468. The team needs to fulfill the donation goal as soon as possible and is set to take the biggest stage in high school bass fishing for a chance to write history during the Mossy Oak Bassmaster High School Championship Series at Lake Chickamauga in Dayton, Tenn. July 26-31.