“I’ve seen firsthand with some family friends who have paid scholarships to universities,” Fayetteville head coach Kathryn Whitehead said. “I know these kids could very easily walk away with a full paid scholarship, so I want them to have that opportunity, all of them. These two obviously walked away with $7000 in scholarships last weekend.”
Harbin and Butts both agreed the scholarship would go a long way toward helping them pursue their career ambitions. Butts is still undecided, although he has looked at a few schools as possibilities. Harbin has a more specific school in mind.
“My parents, they don’t make too much, so getting that scholarship is really going to help out a lot,” he said. “My hope is to go to Wallace State and become a game warden.”
During the State Championship, the final weigh-in occurred at the Shelby County Expo Center in Columbiana on Saturday May 11. Butts and Harbin, who also play for the Fayetteville football squad, captured the top weight at 29.18 pounds.
Harbin said the most difficult part of the entire weekend was waiting for other individuals to go through the weigh-in process.
“When they were still weighing the boats, we were a nervous wreck,” Harbin said. “When they finally said the scales were closed, I went crazy. Because I’ve won stuff before, but I’ve never won something state-wide. It was about the happiest thing I’ve ever done.”
In order to compete in the State Championship, high school teams had to place in the top 10 at two out of four regional competitions. Fayetteville did so at the Guntersville Regional and the Tuscaloosa Regional, an impressive for a team in their very first year of formal competition.
“It was surprising with it being our first year and us going up against schools that have been doing it for three or four years now,” Butts said. “It surprised and it actually felt really good to do it in our first year.”
Harbin thinks the individual title will lead to the team being able to recruit more members for next year’s team.
“I know people have wanted to get a fishing team here for years now,” Harbin said. “Now that we’ve finally got one and we won state, that’ll probably get a lot more people interested in it and we’ll get a bigger team and we’ll have a better chance to win over and over again.”
Fayetteville Athletics Director John Limbaugh said he was certain the team would be successful, but was impressed by how quickly they found success.
“I’m very proud of them,” Limbaugh said. “Kathryn Whitehead has done an awesome job this year. It really was the whole community that won this, because we received a lot of support. It just shows what can happen when the whole community comes together. I knew great things would happen when we started this program. I just didn’t think it would happen so quickly.”
Butts and Harbin were on the water early in the morning.
“We had our limit at about 7:30 or 8 a.m., right in that range,” Butts said. “We had them pretty early in the day. We caught them on top water jigs and swim bait. We were mostly hunting shad spawn by pea gravel rock banks. That’s mainly what we caught them on the whole time.”
Harbin said early morning indications did not look promising at first.
“The water was somewhat murky and kind of muddy,” Harbin said. “It started off real slow and we just got to throwing whatever we thought would work and they just went to hitting. We ended up catching probably about 25.”
Whitehead helped the two anglers, along with the entire team, by making sure they complied with Talladega County safety regulations, preparing the necessary paperwork and preparing them mentally.
“She put her heart out there to get this going,” Butts said. “I respect that from her. She helped out a lot. She made sure we got to bed on time, that we were getting ready for the tournament, made us think about it and get it going and think about what we were going to do and how we were going to do it—mostly getting our mental thoughts ready for it.”
Whitehead credited Butts and Harbin with their win due to their passion for the sport.
“These boys eat and sleep fishing,” Whitehead said. “They’re out there every chance they get. Seth’s grandfather helped get the fishing program started. I’m proud of them.”