Around six months ago Justin Bunting, a Watseka student, had to come up with an idea for his civics project that would help out either the school or the surrounding community.
Knowing he has a huge passion for fishing, Bunting and his friend Shawn Farris helped put together a brilliant presentation on why Watseka should introduce bass fishing as its latest spring sport.
“Fishing was always a passion I have had from a young age,” Bunting said. “I felt that having a bass fishing team could benefit many other kids in the school. It would have offered another activity for the kids who maybe did not already have an activity.”
Bunting’s presentation was only supposed to be for a school project and nothing more. However, due to his seriousness about the subject, Bunting and Farris took it a step further and presented the idea to the school board.
“Actually the team came about because a couple of the students had to do a civics project for school to find something that would improve either the community or school,” Watseka bass fishing coach James Bunting said. “So, there project was creating a bass fishing team for our school district and it was just for a grade, but they took it a step farther and took it the school board.”
Watseka’s school board quickly approved Justin Bunting’s idea partially due to the fact that it would not deter student-athletes from having to pick between fishing or another spring sport.
“It doesn’t interfere with anything at our school,” said Watseka athletic director Barry Bauer. “We’ve got to be careful about how many different activities you present to the kids because we only have so many students and we don’t want to get too thin.
“It was something they could do in the spring and still be on the track, baseball or softball team plus the fact there wasn’t a lot of expense to it other than the start up cost which they fundraised for.”
Justin’s dad , James Bunting, helped his son accomplish his goal by becoming the volunteer head coach. James took the job because he saw this as a great a opportunity for Watseka student-athletes to get outdoors.
“To me, it’s more just getting kids involved,” James Bunting said. “It’s an outdoor activity and it keeps them away from their cellphones, and keeps them away from video games and social media for a while, which I think is healthy for all of us.”
Since coach Bunting doesn’t have as much competitive fishing experience as he would like he elected to bring in two more volunteer assistants, Jimmy Craighead and Josh Voy, who have more experience on the competitive side of bass fishing.
Once they got approved, the newly-assembled Watseka bass fishing team began fundraising from February through April. The 15-member squad went around to local businesses asking for donations. After all their hard work and efforts, the team raised about $4,000.
So, by the time the season would have started around late March, Watseka’s fishing team would have had everything they needed. The newly-formed fishing team had three coaches, three fishing boats (provided by the three coaches), a 15-member team, and all the necessary funds to compete in a handful of fishing tournaments.
Sadly, like every other high school spring sport, Watseka’s first fishing season was canceled due to the coronavirus.
“The bright side of it is that they did get it started and it will probably continue next year so they did all the leg work and got it started,” Bauer said. “They just weren’t able to participate.”
Luckily this seems to be just the first bump in the water for Watseka’s bass fishing squad. Everything the team worked towards this year will be saved for the Warriors to use towards next year’s team.
“The funds that we have raised already will go to the team next year,” Justin Bunting said. “Any fundraising that we have already done has been put on hold had we have ended it for the year.”