The Rewards of High School Fishing Coaching
By Kyle Morris
In 2012 I took a job at my alma mater, Cullman (AL) Middle School, and the next year, I was thrust into my first head coaching job, leading the fledgling Cullman High School Fishing Team.
Several students (Lee Mattox, Mason Jones, Chayse Freeman, Wil Blaylock, Eli Parker and Jake Smith) had a loose organization, but needed me as a faculty member with knowledge of the fishing industry to lead them, and my time with the University of Alabama’s Crimson Tide Bass Anglers had prepared me for this new challenge.
The first season we were very competitive, with each of the boats placing well enough to earn us high rankings.
The next year only Smith and Blaylock returned, but we added an additional 14 anglers, and used our strong finish in the first season to propel ourselves into competition with two top 10 boats in the State Championship that season. By 2015-2016, we had lost all but Blaylock from the initial group and had a very young core. Even with 20 plus anglers, we did not have the experience to compete at the highest levels, and struggled mightily, only posting one Top 50 throughout the season.
It was an extremely trying time as a coach who had always had success in the first two years, sending Mattox, Freeman, Jones and Smith to the collegiate level where they had shown their mettle by competing for national championships, to be humbled and just hoping to compete for Top 100s. My advice to any other coaches is, use those moments to teach perseverance and how to fish through tough conditions. “DO NOT LET THE CIRCUMSTANCES DEFINE YOU” became a theme as we overcame high water, flood conditions, unfamiliar rivers, and many other factors. And as that season wound to a close, I knew my young team and it had grown significantly.
Opening the 2016-2017 season with a team win on our home lake was a huge boost that drove us for the remainder of the year. By winning the Smith Lake 6-Man Team competition through the B.A.S.S. Nation, we qualified a 6-Man team to the State Championship for the first time since we began B.A.S.S. Nation competition in 2015. After finishing up a great season, putting our first two anglers (James Cobbs and Justin Lowery) into the National Championship in the Bassmaster High School Southern Open, we had the 10th place team in Alabama B.A.S.S. Nation AOY Standings, and Cameron Glasscock received a $10,000 scholarship to the University of Montevallo to kick off our State Championship weekend.
Glasscock and his partner, Lawson Graves, anchored our 6-Man Smith Lake Champions into a team State Championship! Glasscock and Graves, David Dueland, Keaton Kinney, Cy Lambert and Houston Smith all showed the drive and tenacity to be champions that weekend. And now, as we prepare for the 2018 State Championship, I am able to say a coaches’ favorite thing, “They are all back”.