Teacher shares love of fishing

Most people outgrow childhood pastimes as they grow up. Then, again, some people's pastimes grow with them as they grow up.

Case in point: Avonworth physical education teacher Phil Coffin, who started bass fishing as a child and just recently earned one of the top spots in competition in the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society [BASS] Nation Championship in Florence, AL.

But to go back to when it started.

“I have been fishing since I was a little boy,” Coffin said. “My parents have pictures of me fishing from 4 years old on.”

“My dad -- stepdad -- taught me how to fish and it blossomed from that,” he said.

He explained that bass fishing is very exciting to him for many reasons.

Two of those reasons: “Trying to figure them out, and the element of surprise,” he said.

And while other kids his age back in the day might have tuned in to “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” or “Dungeons & Dragon,” Coffin says that he was watching bass fishing programs on TV as a child.

His dedication to what began as a childhood hobby that developed into an adult avocation paid off when Coffin recently competed in the BASS Nation Championship.

“Most states have a bass 'nation,' he said. “For example, there is the West Virginia Bass Nation, or Delaware Bass Nation, and in my case, the Pennsylvania Bass Nation”

He added that fishermen/women must qualify through their state to make a regional championship, and if they win that, they qualify to fish the BASS Nation Championship.

“The winner of this event qualifies to fish the Bassmaster Classic -- the 'Super Bowl' of bass fishing, with roughly $1 million dollars in cash and prizes,” he explained.

He finished fourth out of 65 in his division and 25th out of 130 overall.”

Coffin said that his favorite local spots might be found in Pittsburgh's Three Rivers locale.

“There are a ton of fish in our rivers. You just have to know how to catch them.”

Being taught how to catch them is the best way to know how to catch them.

Enter the Avonworth Bass Fishing Club, recently approved by the Avonworth School Board, with Coffin as the sponsor.

“The Bass Fishing Club will be an Avonworth club, but I recently accepted the Pennsylvania Bass Nation Western Youth Tournament Director position, so I can help any Western PA middle school or high school student interested in bass fishing and/or tournament fishing,” Coffin said.

The club will be open to boys and girls, grades 7-12, with all tournaments scheduled for over the summer, starting June 15, official opening date for bass fishing.

While the club is just for Avonworth students, any high school student in Western PA may contact Coffin through an e-mail address provided by contacting BASS at bassmaster@emailcustomerservice.com.

Coffin explained that being Western PA Youth Director for BASS makes him responsible for all Western PA middle and high school students. “They can contact me and I can help them get involved in their own school or they can just jump right in and fish BASS tournaments without being part of a club.”

Plans for off-season activities range from “how to” clinics that address issues ranging from how to make lures to tips for equipment maintenance. Members also will be offered safety programs, as well as have access to guest speakers and activities focusing on environmental and charity topics.