By Jane Beathard
Butler County resident Angela Poling calls her last seven years as advisor to the Cincinnati Youth Bass Club “an awesome journey.”
“It’s been so rewarding watching the kids grow up and learning to become their own person in life,” she said.
Poling and her husband, Rodney, founded the club in 2009 after their son, Nathan, became interested in fishing.
Membership was limited to kids age 11 to 18 and remains so today. Nathan and five friends made up the first roster.
The boys soon learned it wasn’t all about getting up early in the morning to catch and release fish.
“We wanted to include a community service component,” Poling said.
She devised a point system that gives members a chance to win top year-end honors whether or not they hook the biggest fish.
In addition to points earned for participating and performing well in the club’s four annual tournaments, members also score points for attending meetings, joining in stream clean-ups, helping disabled anglers in local “Fishing Has No Boundaries” events, and bagging candy for troops in the Mideast.
“We donate a check annually to the Yellow Ribbon Support Center,” Poling said.
The center supports men and women in the Armed Forces and remembers prisoners of war. It was founded by Keith Maupin in memory of his son, Matt, a Clermont County resident who was captured and killed while serving in Iraq.
Club membership took off as parents learned via word-of-mouth and the internet of its activities and purpose. It attracted home-schoolers in need of healthy socialization, as well as the sons and daughters of other outdoor enthusiasts.
At the start of this year’s season, the club roster numbered 32, including 11 “tadpole” anglers younger than 11. The Polings initiated the “tadpole” program four years ago.
“We could have 100 kids (in the club) if I had enough volunteer boats,” Poling said.
Parents and local members of the Ohio Bass Federation currently provide boats needed for tournaments. Poling has served as co-director of the federation’s youth division for three years.
There’s now a two-year waiting list of kids seeking to join the Cincinnati club.
“Some age-out before they can get in,” she said, regretfully.
Members hone their fishing skills by watching more adept parents, pro anglers — and each other.
The process has paid off. Members routinely earn high honors at state and regional bass youth tournaments.
In addition, some see a fishing-related future.
Eighteen-year-old Cole Wessner, who placed second in a regional high school tournament in September, earns $800 to $1,000 monthly by posting fishing tips on YouTube.
Wessner said he posts two or three videos a week that “star” fellow member and buddy Dan Hechler.
“Dan has a pretty face,” Wessner joked.
The YouTube site has 46,000 subscribers. It attracts both advertisers and autograph seekers. Wessner said it’s merely a starting point for similar endeavors.
“I want to make a living in a fishing-related business,” he said.
Member Bill Wheatley, 18, is already creating handmade cedar bass lures for Topwater — a manufacturer of artificial bait. He will have four new ones, priced $15 to $25, on the market next year.
Seventeen-year-old Blake Beiting lives just across the Ohio River and qualified for the Kentucky Bass Nation high school world championship scheduled for later this year. Member Alex Redwine also qualified.
Recently, Beiting initiated a recycling program for artificial bait. He placed wooden boxes at boating access points on some Kentucky lakes where anglers can deposit their old and damaged lures.
Cincinnati area businesses line up to sponsor club activities. They now include Dixie Marine, Wieda’s Marine, Topwater Lures, Inline Label, Schneiders Scrap Metal, Signalysis, Lake Fork Trophy Lures, Lazer Lures, Strictly Bass Lures, Bayview Cottages and Sonny Marie’s Pastry.
Is your kid interested in fishing? Here’s a list of youth clubs under the auspices of the Ohio Bass Federation.
Cincinnati Youth Bass Club
Advisor: Angela Poling, 513-235-4560
Fayette County Jr. Bassmasters
Advisor: Bill Green, 740-335-1913
Gallipolis Jr. Bass Busters
Advisor: Jamie Caldwell, Search Gallipolis Bass Busters on Facebook
Shelby County Jr. Bassmasters
Advisor: Ken Sparks, 937-726-7864
Prime Time Junior Bass Anglers (Richmond Heights)
Advisor: Tony Farmer, 440-317-0320
Northwestern Ohio Jr. Bassmasters (Perrysburg)
Advisor: April Mercer, 419-262-1956
Perry County Jr. Renegades (McConnelsville)
Advisor: Jeremy Keffer, 740-624-4861
S.S. Minnows Jr. Bassmasters (Delaware)
Advisor: Bryan Spratt, 614-580-8536
Tri-County Jr. Bass Masters (Wooster)
Advisor: Ted Vitro, 330-264-0884
Trophy Jr. Bassmasters (Kenton)
Advisor: Bert Grubbs, 567-674-6108
Walnut Springs Fishing Club (Westerville)
Advisor: Dwight Black, 614-406-6061