If Payson High School counselor and former wrestling and football coach Don Heizer has his druthers, a youth-oriented bass fishing club will soon be up and operating in the Rim Country.
Heizer says there are 76 such youth clubs in existence but most of them are based in the southeastern United States where bass fishing is a way of life and lakes and waterways are plentiful.
“Our goal is to bring these clubs to the Southwest,” Heizer said. “There is a lot of interest among the (Payson) high school students.”
Heizer and other organizers are motivated to jump-start a local club because they staunchly believe that fishing is a sport which everyone can enjoy their entire lifetimes and it is a way to keep teens out of trouble.
“If we can get them on the lake, we will get them off the streets,” said Heizer.
Students with special aptitudes also have the option of trying to make a living on the professional circuit as PHS alumni Clifford Pirch now does.
The first step in beginning a Payson club was to invite Arizona professional fisherman Keith Espe and Brian Chamberlain of Every Kid Counts to visit PHS and talk to students.
The pair was on campus Dec. 8 speaking to teacher J.D. Garner’s animal science classes.
Espe, of New River, won the FLW National Guard Western Series tournament held Sept. 22 to 25 at Roosevelt Lake.
Chamberlain is an official in the Every Kid Counts charity in Phoenix that has been dedicated to helping children in need for over 16 years.
The programs EKC provides are designed to help today’s youth become tomorrow’s leaders through educational, athletic and philanthropic efforts.
In July, a Valley team EKC sponsors, the Desert Bassbusters, took second place in the inaugural High School Fishing World finals on Lake Dardanelle in Arkansas.
On the team were Thomas Chambers, a senior at North Canyon High and Brand Koon, a junior at Shadow Mountain.
A field of 76 teams representing 20 states participated in the first-ever tournament.
In forming Payson’s first club, Heizer also hopes to gain the support of the Bass Federation and other fishing organizations.
“Parents will also be huge in this,” said Heizer. “Once we get the ball rolling with this, we want to hand it off to parents.”
For more information about the club, call Heizer at (928) 474-2233.