Will Hutton and Drew Harman competed at regionals and earn a spot in the state tournament.

Participating in extracurricular activities can be challenging during a pandemic, with student gatherings discouraged and new rules requiring kids to leave the building as soon as the school bell rings. One student group at Lake Highlands High, though, is thriving – enjoying the fresh air and sunshine of “lake life” around North Texas.

The Lake Highlands Bass Club was formed last year by then-seniors Drew Harman and Turner Stone and then-sophomores Jackson Marburger and Drew Dubuclet. The team has flourished this year, joining the Texas High School Bass Association and competing in tournaments against schools all over the metroplex.

The team recruits new members by texting friends, pitching the group around campus and posting photos on Instagram of shimmering waters and big mouth beauties. COVID canceled a few tournaments last spring, but now they’ve got their lines back in the water.

“We formed the bass club because we love the sport of fishing and want to compete in tournaments,” Marburger told me.” “We want to continue to fish in high school and compete for scholarship money for college. We also want to inspire younger students to join the club and be a part of the team.”

This year, juniors Marburger, Dubuclet, Will Hutton and Joe Krejci welcomed freshmen Luke Smith, Hudson Durham, Gage Dunn and Hayes Mall to the group. For tournaments, they break off into 2-man teams, which have done well given their beginner status. Their recruitment pitch touts tourneys where they placed in the top ten, advancing to regionals and state.

Unlike some anglers who recall learning to fish in their grandfather’s boat, Marburger took a Generation Z approach – he studied videos online.

“I started fishing in 7th grade, because all of my buddies did. I was taught a little by my friends, but it was just the basics, like how to tie a hook and put the worm on the hook,” he explained. “I started to watch lots of YouTube videos to get better. I would look up different techniques – how to fish amid structure and trees, how to fish different lures. I started fishing in local ponds to understand and to learn.”

The best thing about joining the club, he said, is spending time with friends who share his passion for the sport. But that doesn’t mean every outing results in a fine mess of fish.

“One of my first fishing memories was going to a pond with some of my friends,” Marburger recalled. “It looked like a pretty good and solid pond. My friends were catching some fish, but I wasn’t having any luck. Soon enough, I got a bite and I am reeling in and super happy. As soon as it came to the surface, I realized that it was a small soft-shell turtle.”

Competing in tournaments isn’t easy, with the guys pre-fishing and researching to develop a plan before the big day. They wake up at 4 a.m. on practice days to be on the water by 6:30 and work 10- to 12-hour days during tournaments. The toughest thing team leaders have to do, though, is turn participants away. Four students have expressed interest in participating, but 2-3 more boats and boat captains are needed to bring them onboard.

The guys have recruited sponsors, including Dobyns Rods, Local Resident Realty, Jack’s French Frys, Realtree Fishing, Yo-Zuri Lures, NTX Custom Baits, Texoma Tackle and Culprit Fishing. Students pay a $60 membership fee and $30 for each tournament.

If you’d like to chauffer a team in your boat or sponsor them with a donation of cash or goods, you can email JacksonMarburger@gmail.com. You can follow the team on Instagram here.

Hudson Durham is one of 4 freshmen on the team this year.

Drew Dubuclet with Drew Harman in Fannin County