By David Klein
Gridiron. Hardwood. Diamond. High school athletes have been making names for themselves on these playing fields for years. Add lakes to that. Bassmaster Magazine, the bible of bass fisherman, named 18-year old Karns High School senior Jake Lee, a Bassmaster’s 2015 All-American last year. Karns High School had a ceremony on Monday, March 21, to hang a Bassmaster’s 2015 All-American plaque for Jake on a wall in the school’s commons areas next to other athletic plaques.
Jakes’ mom and dad, Joe and Missy Lee, uncle Jeff Lee, grandpa Sonny Lee, grandma Judy Parker, Karns High School Principal Kim Towe, Athletic Director Charlie Sheets Jr., and Bass Club Coach Les Pierce attended. The Bassmaster Magazine recognizes outstanding performances in the sport of bass fishing, and Jake was just one of 12 All-Americans in the nation.
“It was a huge honor,” Jake said.” “To be recognized for something I love to do, that’s a real honor.”
“He’s won so many tournaments that the Bassmaster Magazine and their writers chose him to be one of the inaugural Bassmasters All-Americans,” Pierce added.
Not a day goes by that the senior does not get out on the water, he said. “To me, I don’t want to do anything else. I come home from school and my immediate thought is, let’s go to the lake,” Jake said.
Jake fishes on the Karns High School Bass Fishing Club. The club began in 2012 when he and his friend Bryson Elliot got together with Jake’s dad Joe to start the club. Joe was a professional angler
The club went from just a few members to a full roster today. “We have 12 active members, students from Powell, West, a couple of homeschoolers, maybe,” Pierce said.
For tournament competitions, there are three team members on one boat, Pierce said. One boat captain, an adult over 19, drives the boat, and the other two team members called anglers, fish.
Competitions consist of weighing either three or five fish, Jake said. “Whoever’s fish weighs the most wins. If it’s a five fish limit, and if you catch a sixth, and if it’s bigger than your smallest one, you can throw your smallest one back,” Jake said, explaining the process of culling.
Pierce said Karns competes against other bass fishing teams in the East Tennessee area, teams such as Anderson Co., Campbell Co., and Maryville. “There’s probably 10 other teams that have bass clubs,” he said.
Not only has Jake received the All-American Award, he and his teammate won the first-ever Bassmaster’s High School Classic in Birmingham, Alabama, in 2014.
“That was by far my biggest win,” he said.
Additionally, Jake competed in the first-ever Bassmaster High School Open, held on Douglas Lake. There were 30 to 40 high school teams from around the country, Jake said. “It was a two day tournament, and I ended up winning it.”
For high school competitions, every team qualifies for the state championship, Jake said. “If you come in the top 20 in the state championship, you can go to the regional tournament. The regionals, you come in the top five, then you go on to the national championship. I had the honor of going last year, all the way to Grove, Oklahoma, for the national championship. I finished third in it,” he said.
Bass fishing goes year round. “There is no offseason in bass fishing,” Jake said.
All of the hard work has paid off for him. He accepted a scholarship offer from Bryan College’s Bass Fishing Team, starting in fall of 2016. He’s thinking about majoring in marketing.
“Marketing can really help you get to the professional level in bass fishing just because sponsors are such a big deal. If you know how to promote yourself, sponsors will come. You’ve got to be able to promote the sponsors as well.”
Not only do bass fishers have to have good skills, but they also must have a good attitude. “Whenever it’s not going your way, you gotta be able to stay calm and keep pushing hard. If you can get to where you’re keeping a good attitude all day, fish all day, never let up, you’ll do good in this sport,” he said.
For further information, visit the Karns High School Bass Fishing Club Facebook Page.