By: Alex Garoutte Kickapoo High School Angler
When I was first made aware of the opportunity in high school to fish competitively, I couldn’t believe it. Before June 2014, football and wrestling were a huge part of my life, and by the end of my freshman year, I was a prospect for the NCAA for both sports. Due to an injury in football, an MRI revealed a deeper danger that could’ve done serious damage. The MRI revealed what is called a Chiari Malformation (My brain stem was open below the protection of my skull). By the grace of God, we were able to find this malformation and in the summer of 2013 I had brain surgery to help eliminate the symptoms. Due to the surgery itself, I am no longer allowed to play contact sports. Then came the opportunity with Teen Anglers. Now I am able to compete in a sport which involves a passion that I have had since I was a kid.
April 11, 2015 was my first experience in tournament fishing with Teen Anglers at Stockton Lake. When I saw all of the boats waiting in the cove and heard our boat number called, I realized very quickly that this was not just another family crappie trip. Even though we only brought back two fish to be weighed, it was just as mind-blowing as it would’ve been had we brought in a full limit. That feeling I got in this first tournament has been the same at each and every tournament since. My favorite memory I would have to say was the two-day Teen Anglers Championship at Stockton Lake. The ride into the complex in our bass boat to weigh the fish, was just like the pros in the Bassmaster Classic. Seeing each of the teams drive in, with their fish held high, sent the crowd to their feet cheering. The Teen Anglers staff has the heart to give youth anglers a life-empowering experience that only tournament angling can offer.
High school fishing has not only given me a taste for tournament fishing, but has also opened my eyes to an industry that expands beyond just catching fish. Anglers are given the opportunity to see the world through the eyes of actual pros at the Tuesday night seminars at Bass Pro Shops in Springfield,Mo. Here we have been shown what it takes to be successful both in fishing and in the industry. It’s not all about winning tournaments. It’s being able to promote business, conservation and the passing on of this angling legacy. Being involved with Teen Anglers has also helped me in school as well as practical uses in regular everyday life. Fishing these tournaments teaches you to use critical thinking especially when conditions change, moment to moment. The opportunities provided by Teen Anglers have given so much to Missouri high school and middle school students. For me, Teen Anglers has helped me grow in the sport and provided me with a means to help continue my education.