If you’re the quarterback of the high school football team, people know you. And if you’re the cleanup hitter for the baseball team or the leading scorer for the basketball team, people take notice.
But what if you’re the top bass angler in your class? Do your classmates even know there is such a thing as competitive bass fishing in high school?
Turns out there is, and more and more people are paying attention.
The Costa Bassmaster High School Nation Series is one of the fastest-growing areas of competitive angling. Hundreds of teams from around the country are competing in tournaments from such fabled fisheries as Lake Guntersville in northern Alabama, to Toledo Bend Reservoir, which straddles the Louisiana-Texas border. There are countless other high school-sponsored teams competing in state-level events throughout the U.S. as well.
The lion’s share of teams in Louisiana hail from the western part of the state and the Baton Rouge and River Parishes areas. On the north shore, one of the state’s population centers, there is only one team making the rounds at national qualifying events. That comes from Northlake Christian School — a small Class 2A school located in the piney woods just south of Covington.
Bass fishing is a big deal for Christopher Capdeboscq and Dillon Wilson, the tandem comprising the Northlake Christian team. Since getting clearance from school officials to compete under the NCS name, the freshmen have fished in a state event at Bayou Segnette, and then in national qualifiers at Guntersville and Toledo Bend. Their best showing came June 20 at Toledo Bend, where they finished 18th among the 98 teams entered, finishing less than 2 pounds out of the running for one of 10 national qualifying spots available in that event.
Capdeboscq’s father, Richard, is their coach and serves as a mentor on the water. Though the boys must catch the fish (up to the usual five-bass limit), their coaches can call the occasional “timeout,” during which they can talk basic strategy, location and so on.
The elder Capdeboscq has been fishing for his entire life, but Christopher, the oldest of his four sons, chose other sports (particularly baseball) in his earlier years. After an injury to the ulnar nerve in his right elbow forced him to give up baseball, he finally decided to pay attention to fishing. His dad had stocked a small pond on their property with 2-to-5 pound bass he caught in his own father’s pond in Husser, and Christopher began honing his skills.
The floods that inundated much of the north shore in March chased the bass from the Capdeboscqs’ Covington pond, but it didn’t stem Christopher’s desire to fish. It was right about that time when he and Wilson teamed up to start a team at NCS.
“I got the bug,” Capdeboscq said. “I couldn’t shake it and I still can’t. It came easy to me, because all my family fishes. But I still have to work hard. It was a natural progression for me.”
Capdeboscq continues to fish right-handed, though he had to rehab the elbow off and on for two years to get it back into shape. He’s ambidextrous, however, so he could switch to fishing lefty if need be. He said Wilson also suffered an injury playing another sport, which in part, led him to bass fishing as a means for recreation and friendly competition.
When he and Wilson teamed to finish 18th under tough conditions at Toledo Bend — they caught five fish that totaled 8 pounds — the Northlake Christian Facebook page lit up with well-wishes from the school community, many of whom said they didn’t know the Wolverines had a fishing team.
Tony Agresta, Northlake Christian’s athletic director, said it’s more of a club for now, but the school certainly wants to support the boys in whatever way they can. They wore their school colors (yellow jerseys emblazoned with maroon lettering) at Toledo Bend and smiled widely for the crowd gathered at Cypress Bend Park for weigh-in.
“We’re all for it,” Agresta said. “I’m just really proud of the way they came to us and wanted to represent the school like this.”
Agresta said he was surprised when the boys gave him a tax form a few months ago. Teams in the Bassmaster High School Nation Series can win money for their high school athletic programs. The winning team earned $1,000 for their school at Toledo Bend.
“I thought, ‘No. You’re giving this to the wrong person,’ ” Agresta said. “Turns out they weren’t. It’s a neat deal that doing well can help out your school as well.”
The Capdeboscqs said they see similarities between competitive fishing and baseball. They’ve spent enough time on the field, and on the water, to know.
“They’re both about strategy,” Christopher said. “You have to be one step ahead. It’s like when the first pitcher comes out, you have to adjust to the reliever. Fishing is the same. You make a plan and go with it, but sometimes you have to be able to adjust.”
Richard said there’s pressure on the coach to put the team in good position to catch fish, but there’s less confrontation in the boat than there can be in the dugout.
“The hardest part for me is not being able to fish,” he said. “But it’s neat to watch them figure things out on their own. You see them learning and then going with their instincts. That’s rewarding.”