“We make them go to bed at a respectable time,” said Robison. “It is a hard day when you start fishing at day light. You don’t want to stay up all night yakety yaking.”
“But it has been a good experience for all of them,” said Robison. “They got to travel, see different lakes and got to fish with different boat captains and learn different techniques. It has been a good experience for all of them. I don’t think you would find one who wasn’t happy.”
Fishing among both college and high school students is growing at a rapid pace, according to Robison and Eyres.
“Somebody told me Alabama will sell more fishing licenses this year than ever before,” said Eyers. “And a majority of that is college and high school kids buying fishing licenses that never would have in the past. So that is revenue that is brought back into the community. The biggest rewards is we love bass fishing. We sit in that boat all day. We are just happy to see how well they have done this year has been a reward in itself. When we show up to a tournament, there are Sand Rock Jerseys on the stage, there are Sand Rock jerseys in the stands, Sand Rock jerseys at the tank. You can’t look across the crows without seeing several Sand Rock jerseys.”
Eyres and Robison said the parents and community have been “overwhelmingly supportive” of the teams. And the community service angle is another huge plus.
“That is one thing that is a must,” said Eyres. “That is one thing for sure. We had never done anything like this before. The biggest thing I had done was go around finding sponsors for our fishing team.”
“I walked into Thereasa Hulgan’s office at the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce and she opened my eyes,” said Eyres. “I didn’t really know anybody but when I walked in there and sat down I thought ‘well I am from Sand Rock, I will stay on that side of the bridge.’ She said, she said ‘no sir you are from Cherokee County and this community will support you’ and there was no doubt in my mind. I went to her and talked to Mark Collins. He told me ‘We have a Weiss Lake Improvement Authority meeting coming up.’ I got to talk to Mark probably for the first time about an hour on the phone. We talked about this, this and this. We were looking for support. By the end of the phone call they were willing to support us but at the same time, this lake has been so good to everybody at Sand Rock. It was time for not only to have a fishing team but also to have community service.”
“I think the first habitat we did with them, we had 14 kids on Monday or Wednesday, said Eyrse. “Just just to see
Pictured are D.J. Mitchell and Jake Cagle with the Cedar Bluff High School Fishing team who placed in tournaments this past season. Local high school anglers are now volunteering some of their time with the Weiss Lake Improvement Authority.
them get after it, to see them toting that concrete, to see them stacking that brush.
“They wouldn’t have had that opportunity had we not started that fishing team.”
Mark Collins, president, Weiss Lake Improvement Authority, commended the community for its support of local children and future generations.
In addition to keeping students busy and possibly out of trouble if they participate in other activities or go to other places, Collins said, fishing teaches them to be part of a team.
“You are learning to work with people in the future,” said Collins. “You can’t be independent your whole life. You have to learn to work with people.”
When a student joins his/her high school fishing team, Collins said, they automatically become members of the Weiss Lake Improvement Authority.
“You also get your Crappie Rodeo badge and things like that,” said Eyrse. “There are perks for these kids to be members and as for the community service they do it because they want to, not because they have to. When Alabama Power brings those pontoons up those kids are waiting on the bank waiting for somebody else to come along so they can take the next pile of brush out and put a life jacket on. My seven year old loves it.”
What these kids are learning on the lake today may benefit them and their community for years to come, Eyres said.
“Maybe one of those kids that got involved, 20 years from now will be back at home and thing, ‘I need to keep that lake,”’ said Eyres. “But just meeting people like Mark Collins, Thereasa Hulgan, it has been great.”
(Coming in the future: More on local fishing teams)