Rival schools use fishing to break boundaries

Published 7:00 am Saturday, July 20, 2019

Rodney Sampson had a vision to start a fishing program in the area to let high school students have the opportunity to enjoy nature’s gifts.

The idea manifested into the PRC Bass Assassins during the 2012-2013 school year.

Sampson said the group started off small, only consisting of a couple of kids that participated in a pond fishing tournament.

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However, since then the program has grown exponentially, and Sampson credits the students for the increase in numbers.

“Really it’s just been the kids promoting it,” Sampson said. “It’s just been a good thing for the young kids to be a part of.”

Eventually word spread to other local areas, and Picayune Memorial High School joined with the Picayune Riptide, and the Poplarville Hooks following soon thereafter. The Bass Assassins compete in tournaments once a month, starting at daybreak and fishing until the afternoon.

The competitions have an interesting dynamic in that anglers are paired off as a team.

However, the way Sampson and the other captains run the programs, they’ll have kids from different schools spend the day fishing together.

Students who attend rival high schools, and would never have the opportunity to interact with each other are now best friends.

“It’s a lot of competition amongst one another, but it’s more of a friendship than a rivalry,” Sampson said.

The season runs from January to August, or about the start of football season because Sampson says a lot of the anglers also play football.

Sampson said that fishing is an important high school program for a variety of reasons.

One being that it allows students who aren’t able to play active sports the chance to be a part of something.

“A lot of kids get left out and this is something they can do,” Sampson said.

“It’s also more family related. A father and son can go out and fish, and a grandfather and grandson can go out and fish.”

The tournaments are based on a points system, with the better fisherman able to accrue more points and come out on top. However, another interesting twist is that Sampson and the other captains will pair a beginner with a veteran to form a team. 

Sampson said this gives both anglers the opportunity to learn from each other, and improve as individual fishermen.

“It’s more a competition between you and the fish than it is a team effort,” Sampson said. “It doesn’t take a team effort to catch a fish, it takes you.”

The pacing of fishing also means that it gives students a more relaxing experience than other sports.

“You get to slow down life a little bit, it’s not a rat race out there,” Sampson said.

“You get out and enjoy nature, it’s peaceful out on the water.”