Everything has come together for North Forsyth coach Scott Beard. What started as a tongue-in-cheek conversation with athletic director Nathan Turner has turned into Forsyth County’s best kept secret – a juggernaut fishing team.
Beard, a California native, came from Anaheim, Calif., to the back roads, pine trees and docks of Lake Lanier seven years ago. He fit right in.
“I’ve liked being in Cumming and close to the lake. We’ve always been lake people,” Beard said of he and his wife, Julie.
It was during a baseball game three years ago that Beard joked with Turner about creating a fishing team. The Raiders have been state champions ever since.
“(Turner) got an email during a varsity baseball game saying there was a hole in the state championships for fishing,” Beard said. “So naturally, we threw a team together and ended up taking four teams the first year and finished first and second.”
In a matter of a few weeks: That was all the time they needed to collect enough young fisherman to become a dominant program in the state. But how could anyone be surprised? The fishermen were all there to begin with, carrying books through the hallways of the North campus buildings.
Coleman Cloud was one of those anglers in the rough. Cloud, a sophomore during the team’s first year, was a fit by default to lead the Raiders on the water.
“He’s a local kid. Grew up here. Fishes all of the time. He came to me as soon as he heard about the team in his first year,” Beard said.
In the team’s first state championship, Cloud placed second behind Branson Marks. The two are close friends, and Cloud hopes, after hopefully winning a state title on Sunday, to reunite with Marks on the North Georgia College fishing team.
“Fishing has been one of the best parts of my high school experience,” Cloud said. “It’s been great for the communities around the high school and it has really grown.”
North will send 12 teams (teams are pairs of players from the same school) to this year’s championship at Clarks Hill Reservoir near Augusta. Just three years ago they only sent four teams, but won the title anyways. Forsyth Central and West Forsyth also have teams entered.
The High School Fishing Georgia State Championship is a non-qualifier event that welcomes schools with fishing programs. Instead of being a Georgia High School Athletic Association sport, the fishing teams in Georgia compete under the recognition of the Student Angler Federation.
The top 10 percent of competitors in the event will advance to the High School Fishing Conference Championship, and the top 10 percent from that event will move on to the National Championship.
The team relies heavily on fundraising from the Tom Hammond Memorial fund, established by the family that owns Hammond’s Fishing Center in Cumming, and sponsorships on uniforms to keep the cash flow plentiful enough to afford team trips.
“We couldn’t do this without our community,” Beard said.
Beard hopes the exponential growth of his program can be replicated by other schools in the area and help grow the sport.
“We want people to know that they can fish anywhere,” Beard said. “It’s a very tight group of people, especially in our community. Most of the kids and their fathers fish year round. I always hear from people here, who are my age, that they wish they had something like this when they were in high school.”