Commercial-News | Scott Hassinger - Pictured from left to right at a recent Three Rivers Bass Fishing practice at Sand Lake in Nottawa are middle school eighth-graders and national tournament qualifiers Collin Balk and Kale Parr.Commercial-News | Scott Hassinger - Collin Balk and Kale Parr get ready to go out onto the water for fishing practice on the boat at a recent practice with their team captain.

TRMS duo qualify for nationals to represent Three Rivers Bass Fishing team

THREE RIVERS — Two Three Rivers Middle School students and members of the newly-formed Three Rivers Bass Fishing team have qualified for national competition late next month.

Three Rivers Middle School students Collin Balk and Kale Parr both took first place at the Michigan Youth Bass Federation Association competition on Wamplers Lake near Brooklyn the first Saturday in June. The competition lasted from 6 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.

The two will now move on to compete in the World Championships on Kentucky Lake in Paris, Tennessee in late July.

Leading up to the state competition, Collin and Kale participated with Three Rivers’ team in a tournament held at Lake Charlevoix where Three Rivers entered five teams. One of the high school teams finished third and one of the middle school teams earned third as well. The group then competed at Wamplers Lake for the state competition.

Both Collin and Kale are super excited about moving onto the competition next month.

“We didn’t do very well at Charlevoix so when we got to state we thought the team that beat us before would catch all the fish again at Wamplers. As it turned out, the two bass we caught to their one allowed us to win. We practiced on the lake before and I think that probably helped us win it,” said Collin Balk, an eighth-grader at Three Rivers this fall.

“I can’t believe we actually qualified for the World Championships in Tennessee. I think I kind of know what to expect on the lake we’ll be fishing in Tennessee next month. But that lake changes every day. It used to be one of the best bass fishing lakes in the world, but it’s changed. I’ve tried to do some research on how to fish the lake online though.”

Collin’s goal is to finish among the top 10 at next month’s competition.

The 13-year-old Parr, also an eighth-grader at TRMS this fall, is pleased to be moving onto nationals.

“It’s pretty cool to be representing the state of Michigan and I’d like to finish at least in the top 10,” Parr said.

“I think the next competition will be difficult, but I think we can do well. I’ve been fishing since I was like four years old. Fishing is a sport that is like a mystery. You never know what’s going to bite at your hook. I think we’re going to use a bunch of things to try and catch a few fish. Having a bass fishing team is kind’ve cool now. Sometimes you have to have the right lures on to catch what you want.”

A couple years ago, a group of students asked Three Rivers High School principal Carrie Balk to start a fishing team. Unfortunately, it was about the time that the covid-19 pandemic hit.

The topic was revisited and Balk sent out a survey in March to both middle school and high school students in Three Rivers if there would still be interest in forming a fishing team. The response was overwhelming with over 93 responding.

“We had a meeting at the high school in April that the Western Michigan University Bass Fishing team attended. A total of 44 high school, middle school and elementary students signed up for the team,” Balk said.

The team has been holding practices every Wednesday at different lakes throughout St. Joseph County from 5-8. Most practices are held at Sand Lake in Nottawa.

“We are part of the Michigan Youth Bass Fishing Association and Bass Federation and the Michigan Bass Fishing Federation,” Carrie Balk added.

“Having a fishing team is pretty fantastic. A lot of times there are conversations about teenagers just sitting inside on the couch playing video games or playing on their cell phones. This type of activity counteracts that perception. These kids are getting out here and on the water, and they love it and are making new friends. It’s a collective group of kids with some that have fished before and some that haven’t. My goal is that we can keep doing this and continue growing it,” said Carrie Balk, who serves as the main coach of the team.
The group has several team captains who supply their boats for the practices and competitions.

“We’ve had great community support. There are six different companies from the community that are sponsoring our team and their names go on the back of our team shirts,” Carrie Balk said.

Scott Hassinger can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 25 or sports@threeriversnews.com.

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