Central Catholic bass fishermen take 7th place in state championship
Kids don’t fish anymore. That’s a common lament, but not at Central Catholic High School in Oakland, where a popular fishing club has propelled two students to success in tournament bass fishing.
Two juniors, Austin Aikins, 17, of Lower Burrell and Richie Shulik, 17, of Brookline, won seventh place among 21 teams at the PA B.A.S.S. Nation High School State Championship held in September at Raystown Lake. The pair qualified for the championship by snagging fourth place at the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society’s high school regional qualifier held in August at Harveys Lake near Wilkes-Barre.
A bass fishing team earns points based on total pounds of fish in their boat’s livewell, weighed at a scoring station, then released back into the lake unharmed.
Not only did the Aikins-Shulik duo represent Central Catholic, in an informal way they represented all high schools in Western Pennsylvania. Their team was the only one from the western half of the state to compete in PA B.A.S.S. Nation youth tournaments in 2018.
“I’ve watched tournament bass fishing on television since I was a kid,” Austin said. “That made me want to fish competitively my whole life. I never knew there was a high school league for fishing, but then we heard about it at school and entered some events late last summer. I loved it.”
Because of the way high school sports are administered here, Austin and Richie had to enter the tournament from the school’s fishing club.
“Competitive fishing is not an official WPIAL sport like football or basketball,” said Ernie Watkins, youth director for PA B.A.S.S. Nation, which runs youth tournaments in the state for the national organization devoted to bass fishing. “So fishing has to run as a social club rather than a sport to participate in our events.”
Austin and Richie helped start the fishing club at Central Catholic. “Our principal [Brother Anthony T. Baginski] was all for it. Anything we needed, he was there,” Austin said….Full Story