The Texas High School Bass Association announced it has canceled the 2020 state championships and Angler of the Year challenge because of COVID-19.

In a Facebook video posted Thursday afternoon, Texas High School Bass Association President Tim Haugh shared news that the board voted to cancel the final tournaments of the year.

“... We’ve taken a deep look at everything,” Haugh said. “COVID cases on the rise. Two-thirds of our qualifying teams coming from COVID hotspots in DFW and Houston. Uncertainty daily. With all of that, our board has made the hard decision to cancel state and the [Angler of the Year] challenge. Sole reason for that is looking out for the health and safety of our students and boat captains.”

Twelve fishing teams from Johnson County qualified for the state tournament, which was scheduled for the end of July.

Grandview had five of its seven teams advance, led by Rafe Kirkpatrick and Carson Shell, who finished 15th overall and caught the third-biggest fish of the tournament. Burleson ISD had three of its 11 teams advance to state while two of Joshua’s three teams qualified. Cleburne and Godley each had one team make the cut for state.

Haugh said it was a difficult decision to cancel the state championships.

“We’ve had a lot of concerns about if we’re doing the right thing,” he said. “It’s weighed real heavy on me personally as the head of this organization if we’re doing the right thing. So I put it to a vote this morning: should we proceed or not? And our board has voted to cancel.

“Not an easy decision. Not a lot of you are going to agree with it: ‘Hey, you had drive-thru weigh-ins at regionals, why can’t we do that again?’ We had outright approvals to have those events, without hesitation. We don’t have that right now. We have nothing but uncertainty and we have a large rise in COVID cases across the state. So for the best interest in looking out for the health of our students and boat captains, we’ve made the hard decision to cancel the state championship and our AOY challenge.”

In addition to Kirkpatrick and Shell as state qualifiers were four other Zebra duos: Braden Keith and Ryan Shaw, Jacquelyn Choate and James Choate, Mason Cooksey and Cameron Hyles, and Garrett Vaughn and Isaac Peevy.

Also qualifying for state from Johnson County were Cleburne’s Grant King and Gavin Roberts, Burleson’s Chase Walker, Burleson’s Gavin Vick and Ian Curry, Burleson’s Jacob Roccaforte, Joshua’s Rowdy Bullard and Kaden Gann, Joshua’s Dixon DiBartolomeo and Isaac Horton, and Godley’s Mason Hiler and Will Heiner.

One of Grandview’s boat captains, Shawn Kohrman, said it’s disappointing for the season to come to an end like this. The Zebras were experiencing one of the best seasons out of programs across the state as Grandview had already secured the West Division team of the year.

“We had five teams [qualify for state] and we’ve never had five teams make it to state,” Kohrman said. “This was our best year we’ve ever had and now it’s canceled. It really is disappointing for all of them. My team’s a freshman team and this was their first time to do it. They may not ever make it back to state, you never know. They may have a great year next year, get to regionals and not make it. My son fished three years and went to state two out of the three years but his senior year he didn’t make the cut at regionals. It’s disappointing. But I understand what the Texas High School Bass Association is going through, too. They’re trying to do the best for the kids and keeping them safe.”

In addition to being team of the year for the West Division, Grandview had two teams — Cooksey/Hyles and Vaughn/Peevy — qualify for the Angler of the Year challenge at the conclusion of the year, which was also canceled.

“We were all excited about that and that’s something that’s hard to do,” Kohrman said. “Out of 250 teams, only 15 teams go to that. And they canceled that, too. That chance to get scholarship money is gone. To me it’s sad. It’s sad for the kids.”

Kohrman said one of the more disappointing aspects of the cancellation is the scholarship money student-anglers will now miss out on.

“Some of these kids do this for scholarship money,” Kohrman said. “I know a couple kids who got some money last year and that paid for their books for the whole year. It helps when you get that money. I don’t know what they’re going to do with all of that scholarship money now.”

First place at the 2018 state championships paid out $20,000 worth of scholarship money, according to the THSBA website, with scholarship rewards through 20th place (15th through 20th won $1,000 scholarships).

In the video, Haugh thanked the seniors for participating in the Texas High School Bass Association.

“Unfortunately, this is what we’re doing,” Haugh said. “I hope you understand where we’re at. ... It’s a tough decision all the way around but we feel like we’re making the correct decision for all involved. Seniors, it’s been kind of a tradition of mine that I hang out to the side of the stage and shake everybody’s hand at the state tournament, but I couldn’t do that this year. Seniors, thank you for fishing with us. You will be missed and certainly we wish you the best of luck in what you have going on and where you move in your future. We’d love for you to keep in touch and let us know your successes. You underclassmen, we look forward to hopefully getting back to some sort of normalcy for next year.”

Haugh said any team that had already sent their money in for state entries and/or T-shirts, that money will be refunded. For any teams that still want to purchase state qualifier T-shirts, they will take new orders Monday on the association’s Facebook page.

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