Despite being surrounded by bodies of freshwater at every turn, most high school students in West Michigan probably wouldn’t think of taking on a career in fishing when planning out their futures.
Ron Scharphorn hopes to change that way of thinking.
Scharphorn, who also works as a design manager for Kenowa Industries in Holland, recently helped establish a high school fishing program at Grand Haven High School.
Scharphorn’s son, Hunter, needed to be affiliated with a high school team in order to qualify individually for any national tournaments when he was a high school student. Scharphorn used that opportunity to help set the foundation for what is now the Grand Haven Bassmasters club team.
“In 2013, we didn’t have a high school team at Grand Haven, and we needed one in order for Hunter to advance,” said Ron Scharphorn. Just a year later, we finished second at the state championships as a club. We’ve seen a lot of growth in terms of participants, so now the challenge is teaching all these inexperienced kids the more advanced aspects of fishing.”
Scharphorn didn’t have to set up any billboards or advertisements to get the ball rolling with the club.
“There wasn’t a huge campaigning effort, but we had to find an affiliate from within the school for paperwork and legal reasons,” he said. “Jason Hunter is an Earth Science teacher at the school, and he was willing to sign up as a school affiliate pretty early on in the process. He was a big supporter of the club, and he’s a huge reason we even got this thing started.”
Scharphorn’s main motivation moving forward is to develop a passion for the sport at an early age within the community and give others something he never had growing up.
“I like teaching the basics of bass fishing and helping young fishermen grow and develop their skills, he said. “I wanted to start this program to give them an opportunity that I never had as a kid.
“I wish I could have been involved with something like this growing up, but you can’t turn back the clock. To allow these kids the chance to look at this as a career opportunity is what motivates me to keep doing this.”
Bassmasters go National
The latest group of high school anglers under Scharphorn’s tutelage competed on a national stage last weekend in the Battle of Chickamauga Classic in Dayton, Tennessee.
Grand Haven juniors Keegan Findley and Bailey House finished No. 72 out of 160 teams with a weight of 3.66 pounds for the two-day event.
“We did well,” said Findley. “We had a good pattern going during the practice rounds, but it got a little cold overnight the night before the competition started, so a lot of the fish we thought would be at certain spots weren’t there anymore.”
Findley credits his growth as a fisherman to the Bassmasters club and hopes to chase his dream as pro bass fisherman after college.
“It’s been a huge learning curve for us, so the club has been a huge help,” he said. “We learn a lot about bodies of water and what fish do. That helps us understand how to approach navigating an area and how to attack certain spots.
“I hope to continue my fishing career in college with the FWL (Fishing League Worldwide) series and then pursue my dream of being a professional bass fisherman.”
Scharphorn is proud of his young anglers for competing at such a daunting event, and believes it will only make them better fishermen because of it.
“I think it’s wonderful that they were even there,” he said. “You’re going to someone else’s home water, so it’s really an uphill battle at tournaments like that. They caught a good-sized fish in the last 10 minutes of the tournament, but otherwise it seemed like it was difficult for most teams to catch anything significant during the competition.
“No matter how long you’ve been fishing, you’re always learning something. I think they probably learned a great deal from going up against some of the best fishermen in the country, and they’ll be happy they pushed themselves like that down the road.”
Like father, like son
Scharphorn’s passion for fishing didn’t fall far from the tree, as Hunter Scharphorn will be competing in the Fishing League Worldwide National College Championships this weekend at Lake Keowee in South Carolina.
“I’m pretty excited about it,” Hunter said. “It’s difficult because you have to learn a large body of water in two days, but I think Jake (Dorony, his partner) and I will be ready for that challenge.”
Hunter believes team chemistry is important to success at national tournaments and he and Dorony, who both attend Lake Superior State University, have plenty of it.
“We’re both diverse as fishermen,” he continued. “We complement each other pretty well. I drive and navigate more, and he handles the rod and reel preparation. When one of us has an off day, the other can usually pick up the slack. We know each other well, so it’s fairly effortless when we’re out there on the water.”
The competition starts today and wraps with the championship round on Saturday. Hunter’s goal is to still be out fishing by Saturday afternoon.
“My goal is to make it to day three of the competition,” he said. “If we can get rolling early on, that would take a lot of pressure off of us. We don’t want to be forcing things late in day two.”
The ability to disconnect from the rest of the world is one of the biggest perks to fishing according to the younger Scharphorn.
“I’ve been fishing for over 19 years now,” he said. “What I love most about fishing is being able to get away from the grind of everyday life and just disconnect for a while. I don’t think there’s a greater thrill out there than reeling in a big fish, either.”