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Fishin’ Buddies! founder aims to lure Chicago schools into IHSA bass fishing

John Kidd Jr. thinks Fishin’ Buddies! can use its experience teaching fishing urban kids — such as Dylan Carter 2007

John Kidd Jr. thinks Fishin’ Buddies! can use its experience at teaching fishing to urban kids — such as Dylan Carter in 2007 along the Chicago River — to get Chicago schools involved in IHSA bass fishing. | Dale Bowman

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Updated: July 26, 2012 6:00AM

John Kidd Jr. can count. He’s a businessman. He’s also one of the founders of Fishin’ Buddies!, which has taught urban kids about conservation, the outdoors and fishing since 1991.

With that experience, Kidd knows that to teach kids fishing, you need to reach them early. So he was not surprised that only a few Chicago schools participated in the Illinois High School Association’s bass fishing.

He’s willing to help. But he and FB need help.

The IHSA started the world’s first statewide bass fishing — other states are beginning similar programs — four years ago. Sectionals for the 2012 championship are Friday at various lakes across Illinois.

Bass fishing started as a statewide activity with 199 schools in 2008-09. The expected explosion of participation never happened. Only 232 schools, less than a third of the IHSA schools, are listed for 2012 sectionals.

This year, only seven Chicago schools will participate. Six are Catholic schools; only one, Taft, is a Chicago Public School. But the Northwest Side school qualified for state the first two years.

Kidd noticed that Simeon and Harlan, two other CPS schools, no longer have teams. Both schools have predominantly African-American students. Harlan qualified for state two years ago.

This lack of CPS participation wasn’t a mystery to anybody who knows youth sports or fishing. Great programs have feeder programs, whether you’re talking basketball, football or bass fishing. For bass fishing, Downstate schools and even some suburban schools have an advantage where a fishing rod is part of life, from family picnics to summer vacations. Not so with most Chicago kids.

‘‘Once they finish school, where can they go fishing?’’ Kidd asked.

To help out, FB resurrected the fishing series it used to run. In conjunction with the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, the Fishin’ Buddies! Youth Fishing League 2012 will be Saturdays at Cook County lakes — Wampum, Arrowhead, Tampier, Turtlehead and Midlothian Reservoir — beginning April 28.

‘‘Our goal is to open up fishing and conservation to inner-city kids,’’ Kidd said.

They are attempting to follow the model of other youth sports, beginning with finding coaches and sponsors for the teams. Sponsors put in $250 to pay for T-shirts, breakfast, hats and prizes. Team T-shirts have sponsor names, like kids wear in other sports.

Kidd is good with sponsors. Most are already filled for what he hopes is a 15-team series. The Illinois Conservation Foundation came through with rods and reels. His business is auto repair, so auto-related sponsors are plentiful, and he has Henry’s Sports and Bait, which has been with FB since the beginning.

What Kidd needs most is fishing coaches, people who have skills with both fishing and kids. A coach needs to be able to commit to five straight Saturdays. This is not a one-and-done fishing derby; it involves more.

‘‘It changes the course of kids sometimes,’’ Kidd said. ‘‘It’s a chance to talk to them about other things. Hopefully, we get good volunteers.’’

Each team will fish five kids, with a sixth as an alternate. The competition is based on measuring any fish caught and released in inches, then totaling for the team.

This is one of those things in life measured in inches but valued in lives. For information or to offer help, go to or call (773) 233-3250.

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