“Fishing club? Are you sure that’s a thing?” This was the response of many kids when asked if they were familiar with the Bass Fishing Club. This isn’t surprising, considering it was started around five years ago. In the first year, the club boasted a large membership of 22 kids, but in more recent years the student participation has dropped to around seven or eight members. However, Joe Harmsen, an LFHS teacher in the Special Education department and the current leader of the club, told me the Forest Scout, “I think a consistent attendance of about eight or nine people is pretty good.”
Mr. Harmsen informed me that Dean Mr. John Maher, the first leader of the club and a close friend of his, got him involved in the Bass Fishing Club. They had already done lots of outdoor excursions together, so fishing with some high schoolers seemed like the perfect mix of work and recreation. That being said, the club was generated exclusively from student-interest. “They petitioned to the administration about having a Bass Fishing Club, so it was totally student-driven,” mentioned Harmsen, a Fond du Lac, Wisconsin native. Ryland Wittman, a junior member of the club, said of Harmsen, “He’s awesome. He tries really hard. He’s just a great resource to have when it comes to fishing.”
Like many other clubs, the members of Bass Fishing Club get to put their skills to the test in competition. Tournaments are just about every week, typically on Tuesdays. In the opinion of Mr. Harmsen, the events are a perfect combination of official and low-key. Although there is a formal weigh in at the end to determine a winner, other than that, “it’s pretty chill.” He also told me that at some point, he’d the LFHS team to host their own tourney.
According to Harmsen, Ryland Wittman has taken a role of leadership within the club. I had the pleasure of speaking with the young man, and he informed the Forest Scout that he has “been to pretty much every meeting… but honestly, I just like when we get out and fish.” Showing up to not only the fishing events, but also the meetings in the fall to figure out the fundraising component of the club is what makes Wittman such a fantastic leader of the club. As for the fundraising, they’re thinking about selling t-shirts in the booster store or even pizzas to get enough money for events in the spring. According to Mr. Harmsen, “It takes all of us to put the club together, from fundraising–which could be selling some pizzas–to organizing rides to tournaments.”
Although taking leadership and raising some money are important aspects of not only the Bass Fishing Club, but many other organizations at Lake Forest High School, the whole point of the Fishing Club is obviously to get outside, fish, and develop a lifelong hobby. Whether it’s in an IHSA-sanctioned event or just an informal affair, both Mr. Harmsen and Wittman agree that fishing is the best aspect of the club. Wittman had one particular event in mind that he insisted on describing to me. “We left school around 12 o’clock or 1 and drove on up to Fox Lake and fished for around 4 hours. Yeah, that was fun.”
Toward the end of my interview with Mr. Harmsen, he speculated on the variety of different types of fishing available within the club. “Even though we mostly fish in bass tournaments, the idea of the club is that it’s about fishing, not just bass fishing. I firmly believe that fishing is a lifelong sport.” He also outlined some future goals for the club, saying, “My goal for our club is to generate interest from both males and females. Although at the tournaments it’s mostly suburban boys, this year we have four girls. It’s great to have kids from different backgrounds.”
Many high schoolers may be interested in the Bass Fishing Club, but decide against it on account of not knowing much about fishing. “I don’t want people to be turned off or be afraid of joining the club because they’ve never done it before,” Harmsen said. “I really like the idea of introducing people to fishing.”
If you’re thinking about getting involved in Bass Fishing Club but are concerned of having little to no experience, join the club! Fishing is a life skill that will stick with you for your entire life and joining the Bass Fishing Club is an excellent opportunity to not only learn that skill but to also have some fun with classmates and teachers. Take it from junior Andrew St. Amand, who stated, “[The Bass Fishing Club] has been a great excuse for me to get out and do what I love–fishing.” After a second or two, he went on to say, “I should probably go to a meeting sometime.” So should you.