Dreams Do Come True

 Oregon’s Jacob Wall Fishes His Way from the TBF Junior Program to the FLW Tour.

The sport of fishing has granted me many gifts in my lifetime. From fishing with my dad as early as I can remember to facing off against him in a battle for a milkshake the day before his 88th birthday catching sea trout off the west coast of Florida.

But last weekend I was treated to another of fishing’s great gifts as I found myself talking to the proud parents of one of the FLW Tour’s new rookie anglers. During our conversation the father looked at me and said “I think I should know you”. Well, as fate would have it, we had met before. The year was 2008 and the place was the TBFJunior World Championship in Columbia South Carolina. Their son, young Mr. Jacob Wall was an aspiring 13-year-old who had qualified through the Oregon TBF’s Junior Program to participate in this annual event which pitted youngsters in two age groups (11-14 and 15-18) against each other.

This event still goes on today and it annually coincides with the FLW Cup, one of the largest professional events in the country. At that time, I was the National Youth Director for the TBF and it was my job to help organize and run this event which brought not only 40 young anglers from across the country together but all of their family members, TBF State Youth Directors and Presidents as well.

Young Jacob didn’t win that event but the experience set the stage for what has now become a meteoric rise to one of the top professional tours in the country, the FLW Tour.  But that was not to be our last encounter! As fate would have it our paths crossed again in 2012 when Jacob qualified for the Student Angler Federations High School National Championship at Lake Murray. High School fishing had just begun its wildly popular growth and once again Jacob proved his worth by winning the Oregon High School State Championship and the SAF Western Regional to qualify for SAF High School National Championship which was once again held in Columbia South Carolina. There he finished a very respectable 2nd place and that paved the way to a spot on the University of Oregon’s Collegiate team. After a very successful career with the Ducks where he qualified for the 2015 Yeti FLW Collegiate National Championship, Jacob fished his way through the FLW’s Western Costa series to qualify for the 2019 FLW Tour.

So when I say fishing has granted me many gifts, one of them was seeing this young man and his family again at Lake Chickamauga in Dayton Tennessee and watching him go across that stage with two good bags of fish that netted him a 62nd place finish and a very nice payday. After the weigh-in, as promised, his parents brought him by the Lew’s/Strike King activation trailer where I now work and I had one of the most pleasant conversations with a young man that I can ever remember having. To see him progress through a system that has given literally thousands of young people another avenue in life as well as a professional career was without a doubt one of fishing’s greatest gifts to me.

 Jacob Wall is not alone in this process as there is a wave of very good young anglers who have come through the Junior, High School and Collegiate programs that have made their way to the top tiers in the sport. Jacob Wheeler (IN) fished the 2006 TBF Junior World Championship(JWC); Shane Lehew (NC) won the 2007 JWC, and recent 2017 Forrest Wood Cup winner Justin Atkins (MS) fished the 2008 JWC. Additionally angler such as Miles Burghoff and Andrew Upshaw who are also on the FLW Tour are also great examples. These two were both collegiate champions and Upshaw just recorded his first FLW Tour victory earlier this year at Cherokee Lake in Tennessee.  Burghoff entered the Chickamauga event leading both the rookie of the year and angler of the year races in points. In addition to that Burghoff and his good friend Joey Nannia also a past TBF Junior Angler have their own TV show that is as enjoyable to watch as any fishing show on TV.

The pleasures and gifts of life sometimes come when you least expect them. You can bet I’ll be watching and waiting to receive another one as Jacob Wall continues his rise to the top and hopefully an FLW Tour Championship!

Mark Gintert

Executive Director

Future Fisherman Foundation

Lew’s/Strike King is Proud to Offer Freshman Scholarships

For Immediate Release

Lew’s/Strike King is Proud to Offer Freshman Scholarships

Lexington, S.C. (May 6th, 2018) – Supporting youth and the future of our sport has been at the core of our brands since their inception. This effort has been supported in many fashions throughout our history. The most notable is the highly-successful Mach High School Program, which has enabled Lew’s to support many high school bass clubs across the country. In addition, Strike King is, and has always been, a proud sponsor of numerous high school and college fishing teams and events.  To ensure the future success of this mission, the Lew’s/Strike King brands have even developed a fully functional Grass Roots Activation Team that heads up our nationwide efforts to support and equip youth anglers.

These efforts have helped us lay the groundwork for our most exciting development to date.  To further support our youth anglers and thank them for carrying the love and passion for fishing forward, we are excited to announce the Lew’s & Strike King Freshman Scholarship Program!

“Our new Freshman Scholarship Program is yet another way for our brands to give back to the sport we love. We recognize the important role that fishing has played in our lives and we feel an obligation to ensure that it gets passed on to our youth,” explains Ken Eubanks, CEO of Lew’s Holding Company. “We’ve set up a fund that will award five deserving high school anglers a scholarship towards their freshman year of college. We are very excited to see the support and success of our brands translate into tangible support and success of youth fishing” Eubanks concludes.

The Freshman Scholarship Program will be awarded to five deserving high school anglers who must complete an application that will be available on both the Lew’s and Strike King websites. We are proudly partnering with the Future Fisherman Foundation in the screening and processing of all applications. More information and the actual application can be found on our websites www.lews.com and www.strikeking.com .

ABOUT Strike King

Strike King is a Collierville, TN based supplier of fishing tackle and sunglasses. The Company supplies hard baits, wire baits, soft plastics and related accessories through the mass market, sporting goods, and specialty outdoor channels. For further information about Strike King, please visit www.strikeking.com.

ABOUT Lew’s

Lew’s Fishing is a Springfield, MO based supplier of fishing equipment and tackle. The Company supplies branded fishing reels, rods, and related accessories through the mass market, sporting goods, and specialty outdoor channels. For further information about Lew’s, please visit www.lews.com

Free Youth Fishing Clinic

High School Fishing Makes a Difference


By John Kainrad,  Freelance Writing LLC


Three years ago, Justin Hevey was on the fast track to nowhere.

 He had just completed what he referred to as a “pretty dismal freshman year” and he was about to enter his sophomore class at Okeechobee High School not far from the shores of the legendary Lake Okeechobee in Florida. Fortunately for Justin, the winds of change and a little well-timed fate intervened when a local law enforcement officer and a few like minded parents decided to start a fishing team at the school.

For Justin, it was a turning point in his young life. His ability to join the Okeechobee High School fishing team that year was truly the difference between quitting school and eventually graduating this spring with his senior class.

 “I had pretty much checked out, and quitting school was without a doubt where I was heading” Justin said. “Then the opportunity to become part of the inaugural fishing team at our school happened and all of a sudden I had a reason to go to school.”

Justin’s story is not a new one; it is repeated hundreds of times across the country each year with the emergence of the wildly popular high school fishing.

 The National High School Fishing movement continues to grow rapidly since it was founded by the Student Anglers Federation (SAF)  more than a decade ago and it is filling the void for a lot of students. In Justin’s case, like many others, his situation at home was less than ideal and he found himself on his own more times than not. Fortunately, fishing is a family-oriented sport and his “fishing family” came to the rescue.

“I’m not really sure where I would be without our team,” Justin said.  “Having to make eligibility each week gave me a reason to go to school and actually study. Now I’m just a couple of months short of graduating and I absolutely have to give the credit to our high school team.”

Team “mom” “Kimberly Wojcieszak also has seen the difference fishing has made at the school of 1,200 students in southern Florida.

 “We started our first year with 14 students, and in just our third year we are at 36 team members and still growing,” she said. “And as you can see in Justin’s case, it has been the difference maker in his life.”

Principal Dylan Tedders is another big supporter of high-school fishing. He is impressed by the way the program has brought school pride to Okeechobee High School.

 “The program has given many of our students a sense of purpose and a great deal of pride in representing not only the school but the OHS fishing team,” he said. “If this program helped just one student like Justin, then it is most certainly a win for us and we believe that our program will continually grow each year.

“It takes a little effort to get a club started but I think that every school in the country that has any access to water should consider adding a team to their program.”

Mark Gintert, the executive director of the Future Fisherman Foundation and the former Bass Federation national youth director, including SAF, has seen many more success stories in high school fishing.

When we first started our high school fishing program, we coined the phrase ‘Promoting Education through Fishing’ “he said. “Justin is a great example of the power of this program.”

“Some say it is just fishing or that the national high school program has no impact beyond those who already fish.” But that’s not the way Gintert sees it.

 He points to the fact that it’s not unusual to see 100-plus boats—each with an adult volunteer and two high-school anglers—on lakes, rivers and reservoirs across the country on every weekend in the heart of the fishing season. Ten years ago those type of events never happened and if the program changes one students life for the better it is all well worth it.

So just how big is the high-school sport? Estimates have this program at around 45,000 active students participating in high school clubs, circuits and regional trails across the nation. That equates to approximately 2,500 high school teams or clubs. Add to that over 22,500 boat captains, 2,000+ team coaches and another 3,000 volunteers to those respective teams and you can add another 27,500 adults who serve this program. Add the students and adult volunteers together and it easily pushes over 72,000 people actively participating in this program annually.

That leads us to the economic impact. As far as individual expenditures, recent surveys tell us that the average high school angler has over $600 in tackle and equipment. That would put the tackle sales to this group at approximately $26 Million! Now that number may seem a little daunting but F3 Director Gintert claims that entry into the sport is relatively easy for students and as they progress their natural tendency is to acquire upgraded equipment. There are also programs like the Future Fisherman Foundation’s Tackle for Educators and Lew’s High School Grant Program that help clubs and organizations with equipment for students who can’t afford it” added Gintert

 Add in the boats that are upgraded or purchased by adult coaches, gas for outboard motors and trip expenditures such as motels and meals, and you can see that high-school fishing has an impact on local economies and the fishing industry as a whole.

For Justin Hevey, just as his academic life has improved, so has his fishing ability. Recently Justin and his partner John Pearce won a Florida Southern District Regional event and have qualified for the High School National Championship and World Finals. He feels that he has become a very versatile angler with the ability to fish any type of water but admits that catching a nine-pound largemouth on a frog was one of the highlights of his young career.

As for life after the Okeechobee High School team, Justin is looking at both the college fishing opportunities or joining the Coast Guard when he graduates in May.

 Regardless of his choice, high school fishing and this young man’s determination has paved the way to a better life.