MARYVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Hobbies like fishing can help people learn about the value of nature, improve their patience and strengthen their observational skills. Those hobbies can also be pricey.
So Carson Holbert, an Eagleton College and Career Academy sophomore, decided to make fishing a little more affordable for his fellow students. One of the two members of the ECCA fishing team, he secured funding and help from professional fishers to start a lending locker program at the school, enabling students to borrow supplies and resources for free.
ECCA science teacher and fishing team coach Hollie Reagan Writesman explained that fishing “can easily run into thousands of dollars.” A preliminary list of costs includes tackle, bait, fishing rods, reels, a boat and fuel.
“This is good because a lot of our students can’t afford this stuff. Some of the baits in the lockers are $15, $20 a piece,” she said.
Those costs represent an obstacle that Holbert hopes to start overcoming. Located outside of Writesman’s classroom, a set of lockers are stocked with tackle boxes, fishing rods and reels, bait, introductory fishing guides and a recycling tin for soft plastics.
“It’s kind of like a library,” Holbert said. The rules for use are simple and posted to the side of the lockers. Students can send a request for the equipment to the fishing team email address and will have a week to use anything they’ve borrowed before their loan is up.
Holbert said the idea for the lockers came to him a few months ago. Thinking of the small number of people he personally knew who fished as a hobby, he started to consider how to make the sport more welcoming to people who might not have the ability to bear major startup costs.
Since acquiring such expensive equipment is beyond the means of most high schoolers, he turned to the professionals for assistance. Many of the resources in the lockers came directly from Ott DeFoe, the 2019 Bassmaster Classic champion. DeFoe presented Holbert with the 15 fishing rods, reels and other equipment Tuesday, Jan. 3.
The Ike Foundation, a fishing advocacy nonprofit started by Mike Iaconelli to promote the sport among children and teens, also contributed to the program. Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and Tennessee Bass Nation High School sent resources as well, Holbert said.
The work he put into reaching out to fishing professionals and relevant organizations for the project was impressive, Writesman said. “I would have never thought of this.”
“I think that’s the good thing about us (ECCA) being so small. He’s able to go out with his ideas and set things in motion,” she said.
But with ECCA expanding every academic year, Holbert said that he hopes that the lockers’ effect will also grow over time, as more students are able to use them. And with more students able to try fishing, he said, maybe people can work out better connections with the natural environment.