When Stacy Berry’s son told her in 2016 that he wanted to bass fish competitively against other kids, the family soon realized they had a problem: There were no bass fishing clubs for kids at his school.
They approached the school about starting a club, but Berry said they didn’t find much support.
So, they decided to look outside the school. They soon found none of the area’s schools had bass fishing clubs. Not only that, there were no community kids’ bass fishing clubs in New Braunfels, nor any in Comal County. In fact, there were no bass fishing clubs for kids anywhere in the area. The closest community club was in Round Rock — too far to be feasible.
That’s when they decided to take matters into their own hands, and in February of 2017, Guardians Bass Club was formed.
“As a club our focus is to essentially give youth anglers the opportunity to compete in tournaments,” Berry, who is now the club’s advisor, said. “We started off three years ago with nine anglers from one small school.”
They quickly realized Guardians filled a gap that had been sorely felt for some time. Membership in the club grew quickly, with 44 kids last year from New Braunfels, San Antonio, Boerne, Helotes and other communities throughout South Central Texas. Membership is open for sixth- through 12th-grade boys and girls from all schools or homeschools. Berry anticipates the club will have around 50 members this year.
“Every kid who wants to fish but doesn’t have a school team, they can fish with us,” Berry said, explaining some of the original members of Guardians have gone on to start bass fishing clubs at their schools.
During the season, which runs from September through April, the club competes in six tournaments with two kids per team. At the end of the tournaments, each team weighs their five biggest fish, and the team with the heaviest weight wins. In the qualifying tournaments, prizes are often trophies, but at the championship tournament in May, winners earn scholarships.
“The sport of bass fishing is huge and it’s growing,” Berry said. “More and more colleges are creating bass fishing teams — Schreiner University just started their program and it’s under the athletics department. They’re giving scholarships for kids to go to college there and fish. The goal for most of our kids is to be able to compete at the collegiate level.”
Angler Jacob Heidrich, 15, attends St. John Paul II, and though he’s new to the club, he’s been fishing for longer than he can remember, though until recently, he mainly fished in saltwater.
His father, Andy, who drives the boat for his son, recalled Jacob fishing with a Pirates of the Caribbean rod when he was only about 3 years old. He took him weight fishing when Jacob was too little to touch bottom — Andy let him fish from an inner tube he tied to himself.
“He just bobbed along, fishing,” he said with a laugh. “He caught a 13-pound red fish that day.”
Jacob said it takes a certain type of mindset to be an angler.
“If you’re patient, you can definitely get into the sport,” Jacob said. “That’s the main thing. You’ve got to be patient and you’ve got to be ready not to succeed every time. You can skunk one day and catch a bunch of fish another day. You can’t go in thinking you’re always going to catch as many fish as you did the day before or last week.”
Jacob was the most recent Angler of the Year for the South division, an award based on points the members earn for their school grades, community volunteerism and attending meetings and tournaments. He was also Top Gun in Guardian Bass Club.
His dad also enjoys the club, though for different reasons.
“The club is real family oriented and there’s a lot of good people in the club — good kids, good parents,” Andy said. “We travel a lot, spend time in motels together. It’s fun. The one-day tournaments are never more than a couple of hours drive away. The kids all act like they’ve known each other their whole life when they get together — they’re just wired the same.”
Blake Martinez and Alex Herrera are both seniors in high school — Martinez at Canyon High School and Herrera at St. John Paul II — and both are officers in the club. They met and became friends before the club formed when they were fishing in the same pond.
Before tournaments, the pair get together to talk strategy and map locations, doing their homework to win. They both hope to win scholarships and go to college together.
Guardians Bass Club is accepting new members, but registration to join will close Monday — sort of.
“It’s not a hard closing date,” Berry said. “It’s just the last date that the kids can get jerseys in time for the first tournament. They can still register after Aug. 12, they just won’t get a jersey.”
Members meet about once a month and attend six tournaments throughout the season.
For more information about joining the club or volunteering with it, go to www.guardiansbassclub.com.