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Everybody in central Arkansas knows about the Salt Bowl high school football game between Benton and Bryant, but that rivalry also extends to the water.

Since 2016, the schools have also competed for bass fishing supremacy.

Benton won the 2nd Fish Bowl on Saturday at Hurricane Lake in Saline County. Its three teams brought 13 fish to the scales that weighed 26.64 pounds. Benton's heaviest stringer, caught by Ryan Mozisek and Chandler Holcomb, weighed 12.3 pounds.

Bryant High School fielded only two teams because boat trouble forced its third squad to withdraw. Bryant tallied 10 bass that weighed 18.45 pounds.

Along with Mozisek and Holcomb, Nick Ward, Richard Shamlin, Will Musteen and Bryson Kindy represented Benton. Ken Kaczmarek was their coach.

Representing Bryant were Brandon Davis, Ethan Thompson, Cory Shields and Hunter Howard. Jason Scoggins was the coach.

The Fish Bowl was established in 2016 as an adjunct to the Salt Bowl rivalry.

Kolby Stoll of Bryant is a ninth-grader who fishes on Bryant's team. His father Scott Stoll said anglers look forward to competing in the Fish Bowl, which features each school's top three teams based on points from the previous year.

"They came up with the Fish Bowl to add another element to the Benton-Bryant rivalry," Stoll said. "The kids are pumped up about it. It's a big deal for them to finish in the top three in points so they can fish in it the following year."

As with any rivalry, bragging rights are important, but the Benton-Bryant rivalry is a notch above most. The communities look for any edge.

"It's good-natured, but it's typical fishermen," Stoll said. "There's the typical ribbing one another back and forth. It's a fun rivalry."

Many volunteers donate time, material and other resources for the event, Stoll said, including the Hurricane Lake Estates Property Owners Association. Hurricane Lake is privately owned, but the association allowed the teams to fish there for the event.

"We couldn't put this on without the Hurricane Lake Estates Property Owners Association," Stoll said. "They volunteered their time and their lake, and they cooked food for everybody there."

The anglers caught most of their fish on topwater baits in the morning while the sun was low. Mozisek said bass were schooling over grass flats, and that he and Holcomb caught their limit by 8:30 a.m., on bone-colored River2Sea Whopper Ploppers and white Zara Spooks.

The bite slowed as the sun rose. Mozisek and Holcomb spent the rest of the day flipping soft plastic baits into heavy shoreline cover. The other teams fished similarly, but with a mix of spinnerbaits and crankbaits.

White was the top color due to the stained water.

"It was a pretty tough day," Stoll said. "I don't think most people caught over five or six keepers total."

Since 2007, when the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission started the Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program, outdoors-related sports are increasingly popular among high school and junior high students. The Game and Fish Commission's Archery in Schools Program added an additional layer, but high school fishing is unique because it is not subsidized with state money. It's an entirely private, grassroots effort that is supported by the Bass Angler Sportsman Society (BASS) and Fishing League Worldwide (FLW), the two predominant global bass fishing organizations.

High school fishing provides an additional competitive dimension for youngsters of all backgrounds, regardless of athletic ability. Like football, basketball and baseball, it also provides a route to a professional career, or at least a career in the outdoor industry.

"Several of the kids aspire to a professional fishing career," Stoll said. "You can feel it when you're talking to them."

Stoll said he can relate. He has always been an avid hunter and angler, but competitive outlets for those particular passions didn't exist in the late 1980s and early 1990s when he was in high school and college. Involvement in competitive fishing and shooting allows more kids to show their school pride.

"Arkansas is just now getting its steam up," Stoll said. "Other states around us have had programs for high school and college fishing. Arkansas is just now getting a high school Bassmasters program. Other states have had a program for several years, and they average 400 boats a tournament. This gives kids another outlet who are not involved in other sports, that have a passion for fishing to get involved in a high school team and have pride in representing their school."

Sports on 09/07/2017

Print Headline: County rivalry extends to fishing

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