When students approached Freedom High School agriculture teacher and FFA advisor Dustin Haigler last year about starting a bass fishing team, he had no idea what went in to putting together an official team. Now, several months into it, the rookie fishermen have their first big win.

Freedom students and bass team members Daniel Brackett and Wesley Smith won the Riley’s Cup on Lake Norman on Saturday, Oct. 27. The two caught 11.67 pounds of fish, more than the other 56 boats in the tournament. The win qualifies them for the state bass fishing finals later this year. They received a trophy and prizes for their win.

“It was an idea that was always tossed around, with several students interested in fishing and partaking in their own excursions,” Haigler said of how the FFA bass team got its start. “Hunter Keller and Gabe Crawley put this idea to action over the summer, researched what it would take to get a team started, and what tournaments to fish in.”

Haigler said much work has gone into starting the team and the students have done most of it themselves.

“It's not a small task to put an official team together, but the boys put in the work because they want to see it grow and succeed,” he said. “From the first official meeting, the students set up goals as to what they would like to see in a successful high school bass team, including setting up dues, reaching out to new members, participating in upcoming tournaments and raising enough funds to be able to financially support themselves for gear, fuel, insurance, entry fees, et cetera. They've done an outstanding job thus far. Even in the infancy of their club, it is plain to see that the input of the students, as well as their parents, has made a tremendous impact.”

Haigler said the team was fortunate to get its first tournament win and the students are learning valuable life lessons.

“These students are building relationships amongst themselves and the community, practicing record keeping and boater safety, as well as leadership and team skills,” he said. “Add this to the memories that will be shared and the potential to even compete professionally or at the college level in the future, you find yourself in the midst of something special.”

“The team appreciates ag teacher, Mr. Haigler, for all his support, and all the volunteers that helped them get to the tournament, and all the upcoming tournaments left to fish in this season,” said Scott Brackett, the father of one of the team members.

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