Laura Ann Foshee has made history.
The Gardendale High student has become, as far as any records show, the first female high school bass angler to sign a college scholarship for competitive fishing.
Foshee signed the scholarship with the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) on Monday, in a ceremony at the Gardendale Civic Center.
Foshee, who was the only girl on the inaugural BASS High School All-American Team last year, was also the top-ranked female angler in the Alabama Student Angler Bass Fishing Association in 2014-15. She’s been a member of the Rockets’ team since it was formed three years ago; her mother Tammy coaches the team, and works for lure manufacturer Big Bass Baits.
Foshee had some big-name support by her side as she signed the scholarship papers — Randy Howell, winner of the 2014 Bassmaster Classic and a family friend.
Hank Weldon, who manages the college and high school tournament trails for the Bass Angler Sportsman Society (BASS), said he knows of no other female angler who has signed a scholarship specifically to be on a bass fishing team.
“There’s about 12 institutions across the country offering scholarships, up from just two in 2008,” Welson said. “But she’s the first girl to sign a scholarship.”
Much like in the elite professional level of the sport, BASS sponsors one of two tournament trails for college teams. Fishing League Worldwide, until recently known as FLW Outdoors and sponsor of the Forrest Wood Cup mega-tournament for the pros, runs the other college trail. Many college teams take part in both.
Foshee’s signing is indicative of how much the sport has exploded at both the college and high school levels. The ASABFA, the sport’s official sanctioning body in the state, has grown exponentially in the number of teams involved. Locally, Hayden High’s team has won four of the five state championships awarded and placed third last year; Corner and Mortimer Jordan have also placed in the state’s top 10 in the last two seasons.
SCAD has fielded fishing clubs in recent years, but this is the first year the school will put official varsity teams on the water. The school is best known for its graphic and design programs, but also fields several sports teams in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
The art and design programs attracted Foshee, though — some of her paintings were on display, and she presented one to Howell during her signing ceremony.
Foshee may be the first female to earn a scholarship for competitive fishing, but she doesn’t think she’ll be the last.
“I do notice there are a lot more girls than there used to be in fishing tournaments,” she said. “When we first started the team, there were about three to four in each tournament. Now there’s about 15 or 20.”
Eventually, Foshee wants to move up to the major pro fishing trails and win either the Bassmaster Classic or the Forrest Wood Cup, or both — but not just for the money and fame. She wants to use her fishing career as a platform to share her faith.
“Winning would be the best thing that could happen to me, and it would be a great way to reach all those people with my testimony. After that, I could honestly be perfectly fine with dying, because that’s my ultimate goal,” she joked.