Melvin Lawhorn knows an opportunity when he sees one — especially when it comes to fishing.
That’s why Lawhorn jumped on the chance to coach the bass fishing team at Boyd County High School like a bass jumps on a dragonfly.
“I don’t have any kids,” Lawhorn said. “It’s my way of giving back.
“I look at it this way, it took me 30 years of trial and error to teach yourself. I can get these kids and teach them and give them a shortcut.”
This is the first year the Kentucky High School Athletic Association has sanctioned bass fishing as a sport. The regional fishing meet will be at Yatesville Lake in the spring. Meanwhile, Lawhorn is teaching bass fishing to his 22-member club from the beginning.
“You have to start somewhere,” he said. “I’ll give them the full expereince from learning how to cast, what bait is used when and where, the water conditions, the time of the year ... it all affects bass fishing.”
Lawhorn, 51, is the voice of experience. He has been a bass fisherman since he was 20.
In 1998 he set a Yatesville Lake record with 32 pounds and 6 ounces of bass during a fishing tournament. He has belonged to several bass clubs throughout the years and simply loves the sport both recreationally and competitively.
“I wished anything it would have been there when I was in high school,” he said. “I’ve had back surgery that’s cut down on my tournament fishing. I just thought ‘What a better way to use what I’ve learned.’’’
He has Boyd County’s fishing team hooked up with Pure Fishing where they can order rods, reels, lines and tackles.
Lawhorn has some seniors who “know their stuff” and can help him instruct. He has a 22-member team, but 12 will compete in the regional tournament. Until the weather breaks, they are in the classroom.
“Right now we’re doing a lot of classwork and training, trying to get them to where they know more what’s going on,” he said.
Lawhorn said he has some seventh-grade anglers who have grown up with bass fishing through their parents’ interest in bass clubs.
“A couple of them, when it comes time to show people how to cast a bait-caster, they can do it,” he said.
Danny Houston, a sophomore, saw joining the fishing team as a way to expand from recreational bass fishing to competitive bass fishing.
“I’m counting down the days,” he said, referring to when the team hits the water for competition against another school, which is expected in mid-April. “He (Lawhorn) seems to be a very good fisherman from what I hear. We’re learning new techniques all the time.”
Houston is looking forward to be part of a fishing team.
“I’ve always been a team player,” he said. “I think I can handle that part very well.”
Boyd County’s fishing team will be hitting Yatesville Lake a week from Sunday if the weather cooperates, Lawhorn said.
“We also have a pond by the high school I talked them out of not draining,” he said. “We can do demonstrations on the pond, lure presentations, things like that.”
He plans to expand the team into the summer and wants parents can take their teens out on boats at Grayson Lake.
Of course, safety is No. 1 on Lawhorn’s to-do list.
“Before they can even go out they have to be certified in first aid, CPR and boater safety,” he said. “If a situation arises at a tournament, if somebody is hurt, my whole team is going to be prepared to help.”
Boyd County is one of several area schools listed in Region 4 on the KHSAA website.
The region list includes: Bath, Boyd, Breathitt, Carter, Elliott, Fleming, Floyd, Greenup, Harlan, Johnson, Knott, Lawrence, Leslie, Letcher, Lewis, Magoffin, Martin, Mason, Menifee, Montgomery, Morgan, Perry, Pike, Rowan and Wolfe.
The top four teams advance to state bass fishing competition on April 25 through 28 at the Land Between the Lakes, with Murray State University serving as host.
Boyd County’s bass fishing team will have a Tackle Swap Meet from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the high school.
Boats and pickup trucks of all brands will be on display. Those who want to rent a table may call Lawhorn at (606) 928-7956 and leave a message. Or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MARK MAYNARD can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2648.