BY CHRISTINE FERNANDO
When Bloomington High School South juniors Colby Reed and Jenna Albertson, both 17, began fishing at age 10, they didn’t expect their angling ambitions to be anything more than a weekend pastime. That changed six years ago when Jenna’s father, John Albertson, started the Southside Anglers. The club of 30 students from Bloomington and Bedford, ages 8 to 18, is divided into two-person teams that compete in four state tournaments each year.
“Usually, fishing is passed down in families,” John says. “But competition fishing is a completely different animal.”
During state tournaments—one each at Geist Reservoir and Brookville Lake and two at Lake Monroe—150 teams compete.
“You have eight hours to catch the five biggest fish you can while 300 people are doing the same thing,” Colby says. “It’s stressful. It’s very intense.”
Fishing has grown in popularity since John started the club. Now, 25 Indiana high schools send teams to competitions, and some colleges offer scholarships. John has formed a high school fishing board of six people to help organize the ever-expanding tournaments.
“It got so big,” he says, “I couldn’t run it myself.”
The week-long national tournament, held on Kentucky Lake in Paris, Tennessee, invites the top 600 students in the country to compete. Each year, the Southside Anglers set out to send at least one team. So far, they’ve sent two or three every year.
Despite increased competition, Colby and Jenna have stayed on top. The two have fished together since eighth grade and credit their teamwork and experience for getting them to nationals three years in a row.
They practice from sunrise to sunset a few days a week, using different baits, rods, and lines at various depths and locations.
“We’re trying to figure out where the fish are so that we know where to go on tournament day,” Colby says. “You have to be versatile. You have to be able to use every lure in your box.”
On competition morning, they wake up at 4 a.m., check in, and launch their boats.
“You’re trying not to just get lucky,” John says. “You’re trying to show them that you’re consistently the best two kids in the state.”
For more information, contact John Albertson at email@example.com.