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More Schools Will Break Out the Rods and Reels

Concord — High school bass fishing has turned out to be a real catch in New Hampshire.

Nearly doubling its participation to 42 schools from last spring’s pilot season, bass fishing will take place in the fall this year and include a state championship tournament in October, the NHIAA announced Thursday at its annual media day.

The brainchild of NHIAA executive director Pat Corbin — whose two grandchildren are avid fishermen — the league is encouraging participating schools to organize their own regular season tournaments on lakes, ponds, rivers and streams throughout the state. On Sept. 26, it will hold a qualifying tourney on Lake Winnipesaukee, with the top 14 teams advancing to the championship Oct. 5 on Winnisquam Lake.

A team champion will be crowned for the first time, scored by total weight of up to four fish, with individual medals issued for both the largest small mouth and large mouth bass. Two fishermen will occupy each team boat, with reserves on shore.

Kearsarge High was the lone Upper Valley-area program enrolled last year, while Stevens will be bringing a new team — along with a new boat donated by a Quechee fisherman — to the sport this year.

“Last year we had 5,000 kids who wanted to fish and didn’t have 5,000 boats to put them in,” Corbin said. “We’ve never had such a positive response of any sport we’ve ever offered. It was a pretty cool thing, to see all the boats take off.”

Last year’s NHIAA individual tournament was held in May, departing from Lees Mills in Moultonborough,

New Hampshire Fish & Game springtime catch-and-release regulations made it difficult to weigh and measure the fish, Corbin said.

“It went really smoothly,” he said. “I live on a small pond, and my grandkids fish all summer. The youngest one wants to be out there all day. People laughed when I first proposed the idea, but the same year I brought it up, Illinois did it and it was successful. Now it’s been successful for us.”

No live bait or trolling is allowed, but any iteration of rods-and-reels are welcome.

The NHIAA also introduced details of its “Life of an Athlete” program, a prevention/intervention regimen promoting healthy lifestyle choices of high school athletes and catering to the influential relationship between coaches and players.

Developed by Olympic trainer John Underwood and implemented in 39 states, the program includes development of a code of conduct, meetings that promote parental involvement, training for coaches and student leaders and agreed-upon treatment and discipline for violations.

Refraining from drug and alcohol use is a major point of emphasis in Life of an Athlete, along with adequate sleep, diet and lifestyle choices.

Coaches and/or administrators from 44 schools attended a four-day Life of an Athlete training seminar in Concord earlier this month, with many pledging to work toward policy changes that would incorporate LoA guidelines into their schools. Representatives from Hanover, Lebanon, Newport and Stevens high schools were on hand, according to program director Donna Arias.

The program is being funded by the nonprofit New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.

“(The NHCF) has given us a 10-year commitment to this program, which is almost unheard of,” Corbin said. “We’re hoping it can make an impact on some of the choices that high school athletes make. We’ve tried to reach out in the past to (school administrators) about updating the policies, to strengthen codes of conduct. Some of the feedback we’ve gotten has been along the lines of, ‘It’s not up to us to regulate the choices they make outside of school.’ So hopefully this program will help people see the way some choices can impact performance.”

Football realignment was another topic of discussion, with some media personnel lamenting the loss of traditional rivalries because of schedule changes.

All six divisions now have four conferences (North, South, East and West) with the top two teams from each conference meeting on Nov. 9 to determine which teams advance to the respective division’s semifinals.

With four conferences in each division and an extra playoff round, concerns were raised that chances have increased for a division’s two best teams to meet in a round other than the state championship game.

“You might have two undefeated teams meeting (in the semifinals) and a team with four or five losses (in the same division) getting to the final. There was some talk about re-seeding the tournament after the (conference) title games, but the football committee decided this was the best way to go,” said Corbin.

“I can tell you, they talked about each and every concern, including that one, at length. They worked hard to come up with the system they did.”

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.