Heroes Among Us: Featuring GHS Fishing Team Volunteers
High school is one of the final steps in preparing our youth to enter the real world. During these four years parents, teachers, coaches, and principals work together to help guide impressionable teenagers down the path to becoming responsible and productive adult members of society. One of the unsung heroes in this equation is the great community of Gainesville in which these students reside, full of citizens devoted to ensuring the present and future success of the students of Gainesville High School.
The community volunteer captains for the GHS Bass Fishing team are just that: Heroes Among Us. The Bass Fishing team is part of a unique club, which is not a UIL team sport and is driven by the lead captain, Nathan Dempsey, who is not an employee of the district nor did he have a student at GISD during these first two years of the club. Dempsey was strictly a volunteer who is passionate about giving opportunities to students in Gainesville, and he happens to be an avid fisherman himself.
“Everybody who is involved in the club as far as captains and students have a passion for the sport,” Dempsey said. “The uniqueness comes from the need to rely on someone in the community who has a boat and is willing to volunteer their equipment and time.” Instrumental in beginning the team with Dempsey were parents Allen Cassidy, Jeff Nichols, and Randy Prestage, all of whom serve as captains.
The volunteer boat captains are not all parents of the fisherman. Like Dempsey, several are simply community members volunteering their boat, time, and gas to support the club, which has no limit as long as each team of two fisherman has one adult boat captain.
It all began when Dawson Cassidy and Hunter Nichols, GHS students, began talking about a fishing team with their dads, who happened to be friends with Dempsey. When presented with the idea, Dempsey agreed that this was a great opportunity for students who want a different way to be involved. After doing background research on the Texas High School Bass Association (THSBA), including consults with multiple schools which had a successful fishing team in place, he brought the idea to Melissa Hutchison, GHS Principal, who fully supported the forming of the club. With the support of the school, the first GHS Bass Fishing team was formed in the fall of 2016.
The fishing team has now completed a second successful year, with 7 to 8 teams each year and numerous advancing to the Regional and State tournament. This year, Cassidy and Nichols teamed up and advanced to the State tournament in May.
Funding for the tournament fees, jerseys, and equipment comes from local business and national sponsorships. This year the school was also able to help support the team through the purchase of rain suits for the teams.
“Team captains secure the local sponsorships from businesses, but Dawson was instrumental in securing sponsors as well,” Dempsey said. “He was able to get $150 Lew rod and reel combos and McCain also donated rods. Some of these kids just started fishing and are building an inventory in tackle.”
National companies such as these are donating to potential future customers, not only giving product, but also offering deep discounts to the fisherman so they can purchase their own equipment.
One of the goals Dempsey has for the club going forward more community involvement. “That’s our next stage. We’ve built it. We made it to Regionals and to State, we have our captains in line, we’ve got our local sponsors and now national sponsors,” Dempsey said. “Now we need to give to our community. We want to have a presence at parades and help coordinate the Parks and Rec annual fishing derby.”
As a 23 year resident of Gainesville, Dempsey is excited for the growth in the community and the schools. “Outside of the box” activities like the fishing team help add to the diversity of opportunity at GHS.
“GHS has a lot to offer. We are diverse in everything. You can play sports, fish, golf, but you can also chase the arts and college education all at the same time,” Dempsey said. “These students have the ability to walk out of GHS with an Associates’ degree from NCTC or have a technical certificate and be ready to enter into technical career.”
Dempsey hopes that the fishing team opens the door to a more broad view of their future careers, tying in the knowledge and love of fishing with their future careers. “You can fish your entire life. These kids are taking on a hobby they can do the rest of their life.”
The THSBA consists of 6 division and over 2,000 fisherman, boasting over 500 fisherman at teach divisional tournament.
The "Heroes Among Us" story series is released twice monthly,featuring local heroes and organizations that exemplify the Totally Texas, All American spirit that is the fabric of the Gainesvile community. Stories are contributed by the City of Gainesville, Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, Gainesvillle Economic Development Corporation, GISD, and NCTC.