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Eight years ago, the Illinois High School Association discussed adding a number of sanctioned activities. When bass fishing got brought up, it raised a few eyebrows.
Could a seemingly recreational sport become popular among the high school crowd?
The IHSA found out the answer six years later when it conducted a survey and discovered at least 100 member schools that said they'd participate. Those results led to the IHSA board of directors' decision to make Illinois the first state to sanction bass fishing.
IHSA assistant executive director Dave Gannaway says 199 schools fielded bass fishing teams last spring in its first season as a sport.
"I didn't think we'd have that many the initial year," Gannaway says. "It was a pleasant surprise."
According to Gannaway, roughly 2,500 kids competed for their school's bass fishing teams with 58 percent of the fishermen being students who weren't taking part in any school athletics before.
Gannaway says that 240 schools have already signed up for this year and expects other states to follow suit once they see how Illinois does in its second year of competition.
"I think it will get to be very big before it's all said and done," he says.