Back to School Means It’s Time to Get Hooked on Fishing

Rapala and the Student Angler Federation Celebrate Long-Term Partnership and a Joint Mission to Introduce Youth to Competitive Bass Fishing.

All across America, middle school and high school students are discovering that there’s an alternative way to feed their competitive passion – competitive bass fishing.

Launched by The Bass Federation in 2007, the National High School Fishing Program and its Students Anglers Federation (SAF) is the fastest growing segment in fishing today. Today, more than 40,000 students will compete in an SAF-sanctioned tournament. To get your school signed up or your High School fishing events sanctioned visit

For the 2021-2022 school year, the SAF plans to conduct more than 60 no-entry fee high school events, across 48 states and Canada, and will sanction hundreds of more high school events under the SAF umbrella.  The granddaddy of all high school events, the 13th annual High School Fishing World Finals and National Championship, will be held June 22-25, 2022 and conducted, in Florence, Alabama on Pickwick and Wilson Lakes with over 3 million dollars in scholarships and prizes up for grabs at that week-long event. More than 1,200 participants representing more than 40 states and multiple foreign countries are expected to attend the World Finals and National Championship alone.

Instrumental to the growth and success of SAF has been Rapala®, which became a sponsor of SAF in 2018.

“We strive to partner only with well-known, respected and trustworthy brands such as Rapala,” said Kelly Gohman, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for the Student Angler Federation, “Rapala’s support has enhanced our credibility. The long-term partnership that we formed with Rapala has been absolutely essential to our growth and success.”

Hooking Young People on the Future of Fishing
In all sports, people – especially young people – are inspired by professionals who push the boundaries of their sports with new approaches, new techniques and out-of-the-box thinking. The relentless drive to excel, as seen in the performances of top bass anglers such as Mike Iaconelli, Jacob Wheeler and Seth Feider, has served to inspire thousands of young anglers across the United States to try competitive bass angling at the middle school and high school level.

“By creating connections between the top pros in bass fishing and the Student Angler Federation,” said Matt Jensen, Rapala’s Director of Marketing, “we are building a legacy that will hook a new generation on fishing.”

“That’s critically important to the future of fishing,” added Jensen. “People who care about fishing and spend their money on fishing licenses allows for more federal and state investment in quality fishing, including creating more opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds to access it.”

Competitive high school bass fishing also has created other opportunities. According to SAF statistics, 61% of anglers competing in high school fishing were not previously engaged in a sport at their school.

“Over the course of the past 14 years, we’ve learned that high school bass fishing has created new opportunities for young people who didn’t have a sport,” said Gohman. “They maybe didn’t feel comfortable playing football or chess. We’ve created another alternative that both boys and girls can compete.”

“It’s amazing the number of people who come up to me, especially the number of parents,” added Gohman, “who say, ‘I wish they had competitive bass fishing when I was in high school.’ Which is why we founded the national high school program because we felt the same way.”

Pathway to a Career in Pro Bass Fishing
The growth of competitive high school fishing has spawned the growth of competitive collegiate fishing, creating a distinct and credible pathway — similar to high school, college and pro football – that allows the most passionate anglers to move from amateur status to pro status as they build their experience and skills. Today, there are more than 600 colleges and universities that offer competitive bass fishing clubs.

“Many parents might be shocked to learn that there are colleges and universities offering scholarship opportunities for student anglers,” said Gohman. “And that coaches from those student teams do scout SAF tournaments looking for students to join their teams at the collegiate level.”

Like their pro bass fishing heroes, student participants in SAF also have the opportunity to experience the interaction with the media. SAF tournaments are featured during a 13-week block on the Pursuit Channel. The High School Fishing World Finals, sponsored by Rapala, as well as other select events, will air during the Federation Angler TV block between January and June, 2022, reaching more than 40 million households.

“By broadcasting SAF student-anglers, we’re creating the opportunity to reach millions of elementary, middle school and high school students with positive messages and images of young people who love fishing,” said Gohman. “We’re so glad to have Rapala be part of that message.”

“Rapala is honored to be part of the Student Angler Federation story,” said Jensen. “Investing in SAF is an investment in the future of fishing. We hope all Rapala anglers take some time to learn more about SAF and the incredible influence they’re having on a sport that we all love and cherish.”

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