As the Aug. 22 start of public school within the Killeen Independent School District (KISD) fast approaches, academics aren’t the only classes available to students this year.
Thanks in large part to Mr. Henry Niemiec, KISD lab aide at Ellison High School’s Eagle’s Nest Lab, competitive bass fishing will be offered to the district’s middle- and high-school students for the third year in a row.
Niemiec, a retired U.S. Army veteran and competitive amateur bass tournament angler, oversees the Central Texas High School Tournament Trail (CTSHTT) series of interscholastic fishing tournaments, aided by a host of volunteer boat captains — adult boat owners who offer their fishing boats as mobile fishing platforms from which the students compete.
The CTHSTT’s first competitive event will take place on Sunday, Aug. 21 on Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir. Therefore, those students interested in participating in this year-long series of tournaments should be registered by a parent before that date. Registration is as simple as contacting Niemiec by phone (254-368-0294) and following his guidance.
Last year’s reigning 2-man team champions were Justin Tatum, of Salado High School, and Hunter Garrett. of Belton High School, fishing for the Cen-Tex Bass Club, with a total weight in the season’s final event of 17.18 lbs. Tatum’s 6.64 pound largemouth anchored their five-fish limit and weighed in as the largest fish captured during this event. For their efforts, each received a trophy and split $2,500 in scholarship money.
CTHSTT falls under the umbrella of the Student Angler Federation (SAF), an arm of The Bass Federation (TBF), which sponsors competitive adult tournaments nationwide. The SAF provides guidance, structure, scholarships, gear discounts, and liability insurance to efforts like Niemiec’s across the nation. Niemiec also incorporates SAF’s ready-made curriculum to fold science, math, and language arts into the Ellison High School club’s activities.
Colleges nationwide have taken notice of the burgeoning interest in competitive bass fishing and have begun to offer scholarships to student anglers as well as funding and gear to equip those anglers representing their schools. In Texas alone the list of colleges with fishing teams competing in the CarharttBassmaster College Series is extensive. According to the Bass Angler Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.), Dallas Baptist University, Hardin Simmons University, Lamar University, Sam Houston State, Stephen F. Austin State University, Tarleton State, Tarrant County College, Texas A&M University, Texas A&M University Corpus Christi, Texas A&M University Galveston, Texas A&M University Kingsville, Texas A&M University Texarkana, Texas State University, Texas Tech, and the University of North Texas all currently have college students competing in intercollegiate tournament events.
When asked why he works a full-time job with KISD Monday through Friday and then devotes portions of his weekends coordinating the students’ tournaments, Niemiec said, “I do it for the kids, the advancement of interest in the outdoors, and for the advancement of the sport of fishing. The kids are the future. All of our tournaments are catch-and-release tournaments. We’re pretty proud about going into our third year without having had a single dead fish brought to the scales.”