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Former pro looks to inspire young anglers through Varsity Fishing

Kenyon Hill, of Norman, holds a 4-pound bass he caught on Canton Lake in March. Hill, a former bass fishing pro, has started a new program for youth anglers called Varsity Fishing. [PHOTO PROVIDED]
Kenyon Hill, of Norman, holds a 4-pound bass he caught on Canton Lake in March. Hill, a former bass fishing pro, has started a new program for youth anglers called Varsity Fishing. [PHOTO PROVIDED]

Former pro angler Kenyon Hill of Norman is looking to instill a work ethic in youth through fishing.

"You can teach them something through fishing that will serve them well the rest of their lives," said Hill, who has launched Varsity Fishing, a series of training seminars and tournaments for anglers ages 12 to 25.

"I want to teach these kids if you work hard you will be successful in this world. There is no better way to teach them this than in something that they are really passionate about."

Varsity Fishing, which Hill says he intends to establish as a nonprofit organization, is designed to complement the high school and college fishing programs of B.A.S.S. and FLW. Varsity Fishing will give youth anglers in Oklahoma more opportunities to fish in tournaments and receive training along the way.

"Some states around the country, kids have quite a few opportunities to compete in tournaments. Oklahoma has a medium amount," Hill said. "They just wanted more opportunities to compete, and that is what we are doing."

Varsity Fishing offered a Pro-Am event on Keystone Lake in May and will hold three fishing tournaments in the near future: Aug. 22-23 on Lake Ellsworth, Sept. 12-13 on Keystone and on Lake Eufaula in October at an undetermined date.

Hill said the plan is to have college anglers compete on Saturdays and high school anglers compete on Sundays. The tournaments are team tournaments, but any individual youth angler not on a high school or college fishing team can enter. They will be paired with another youth angler.

"This is not necessarily about high school fishing teams," Hill said. "A kid from Oklahoma City and a kid from Tulsa can fish together."

Hill fished for 30 years on the Bassmaster Elite Series and won more than a $1 million and three major tournaments. Five years ago, feeling burned out, he left that life and didn't even fish recreationally for a year.

Now, his love for fishing has been rekindled, but in a different way by Varsity Fishing. Returning to the professional bass fishing trails is not what he desires.

"I have kind of come back around where I am enjoying fishing again, but I do not know if I want to get back into that level of competing again," Hill said. "I am really enjoying this Varsity Fishing program and getting to fish with some of the kids. I am really feeling that more than getting back in and competing. I may fish a tournament or two just for giggles, but that is all it would be."

Last year, Hill fished some Oklahoma Bass Nation events, a format that pairs anglers by a random drawing, and as fate would have it, he teamed in a Keystone Lake tournament with angler Brian Moorehead.

Hill had thought about creating a program for young anglers, and Moorehead proved to be the spark that ignited the creation. Moorehead, who was a coach for the Enid High School fishing team at the time, later became the high school/youth director for Oklahoma Bass National High School Fishing.

"He has really helped me put this together," Hill said.

Hill said it costs $30 to be a member of Varsity Fishing and $50 per team to enter tournaments. Cash prizes are given at the tournaments. Hill said he has invested thousands of dollars into the venture, but the program is not motivated by profit.

"I will be lucky if I don't lose my shirt on this deal," he said.

Hill said it is all about giving back, perhaps even helping a young angler achieve his or her dream of becoming a pro.

"You can see them froth at the mouth. They are absolutely eat up with this," Hill said of the young fishermen who aspire to be professional bass anglers. "Hopefully, we will give them a leg up."

But even if they don't turn pro someday, Hill hopes the life lessons the young anglers can take from Varsity Fishing will lead them to be successful no matter what career path they choose.

"If you roll up your sleeves and work hard, you can be successful in whatever you do," Hill said. "That's what I want these kids to get out of this."

Varsity Fishing will encourage the young anglers to do well in school, and Hill said as an incentive he plans to reward those with high grade point averages by taking them fishing for a day.

Hill held three youth fishing seminars earlier in the year, and more will be scheduled when COVID-19 becomes less of a threat, he said.

"All of this is a work in progress," Hill said of Varsity Fishing. "We are as green as the grass."

To learn more about Varsity Fishing, go to varsityfishingclub.com.

Ed Godfrey

Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more... Read more ›

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