The Story Of The Deer Valley Fishing Team’s First Season Is A Hard One To Believe •
Story By CHACE BRYSON | Photos Courtesy Of BOB SCUDERO
There was a time last spring when the casts from the poles of the fledgling Deer Valley High Fishing Team were directed only toward the school’s swimming pool.
Then things escalated quickly.
In the span of approximately three months, the team went from dropping lines at the aquatics complex to sending two students to the Student Angler Federation National High School Championships in Florence, Alabama.
And the story of how Isaiah Roddick and Enrique Herrera, both freshmen at the time, wound up fishing the Tennessee River off the boat of Fishing League Worldwide pro Darrell Ramsey, is a whopper of a tale.
Let’s start at the beginning. Yes, high school fishing clubs and teams do exist, and in much greater numbers than one may expect. In fact, Deer Valley was relatively late to the party in its own region — East Contra Costa County, which boasts the bountiful Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, routinely considered among the Top 10 locations for bass fishing nationwide.
Deer Valley’s fishing team began as the brainchild of Ken Roa and Bob Scudero. Scudero got bored quickly after retiring from auto sales and began subbing at the Antioch school. After some time, the school hired him full time as a site safety security member. While on campus, he and Roa, a district employee and former pro circuit fisherman, began to hatch the idea of starting a team.
“There weren’t a lot of funds, but between the two of us we were able to talk Principal Ken Gardner into letting us give it a try,” Scudero said.
Scudero had to do all the background research, but he discovered that with just six students they could register to become a team within the Student Anglers Federation. And just $25 per student would cover the cost of membership and up to one million dollars in liability coverage. Deer Valley agreed to pay that cost and the team began with approximately 14 kids.
“There were probably four of five who had never fished before, and another four or five who may have fished once or twice,” Scudero said. “Then there were four or five who were passionate about it.
“But none of us had ever fished tournaments before. And nobody had a boat but me.”
Roddick was among the passionate group of young anglers, but parts of it were still new to him.
“Really it was my first time bass fishing and using lures,” he said. “I had really only tried bait fishing before that.”
Just as the team was getting off the ground — beginning with weekly after school meetings and a basic boating and fishing safety curriculum that Scudero insisted each student pass before fishing — Roa moved back to his native Ohio. That put more on the shoulders of Scudero who still had to find some boats and some opportunities for the team to compete.
With some more research into the youth fishing circuit, Scudero came into contact with Barry Sterud. Sterud, an Oakley resident, is California’s state youth fishing director for The Bass Federation and the director of the Delta Teen Team Fishing Club. Sterud would eventually invite Scudero to bring the Deer Valley team out to his local tournament at Bethel Island in April. Sterud helped the team find two additional boats and volunteer captains so most of the team, which had since seen its numbers drop by about half, to compete.
Bass tournament fishing involves just two anglers per boat, with the total weight of the boat’s best five fish determining its finish in the final standings. Deer Valley’s boats finished in the middle of the pack during that first tournament, but it gave them invaluable experience fishing the same area in which the High School Fishing Federation State Championship Tournament would be held.
And Roddick and Herrera made the most of that experience.
On May 14, while fishing together in the state tournament, Herrera landed the largest fish of the day: A nine-pound large mouth bass.
“Oh man! The pole was bending all the way. We thought it was going to snap,” Roddick said. “We barely got the fish in the net, too.”
Though the duo only caught four qualifying fish, the nine-pounder helped the boys take fourth-place. The top 5 teams earn automatic berths to the national tournament in Alabama.
“I come back to school and told the principal and the whole school that two of our kids finished fourth in the state and qualified for nationals,” Scudero said. “As soon as that got out, everyone was saying ‘you gotta go!’ … Except we don’t have a boat. We don’t have any money. It would be wonderful, but what are we gonna do?”
A GoFundMe account was set up and raised close to $3,000. Then, in an awesome show of generosity, the school’s 2017 Senior Class’ leadership students voted to donate the remaining funds in their class account — about $3,000 — to Scudero and his pair of freshman fishermen. With approximately $6,000 raised over about 30 days, the team had enough money for round trip airfare and hotel accommodations.
But still no boat.
Scudero twice called tournament directors in Alabama and explained his team’s situation. He was promised a boat rental would be secured for him. But with less than a week before the boys were to fly out, he had still not received confirmation that they’d have a boat. That’s when Roddick’s dad, Robert Payne, thought to put an ad on Craigslist explaining the boys situation, and targeted it for the Florence region.
In less than 24 hours he had a phone call. It was Ramsey.
“He said ‘I saw your ad and thought I’d call you. If those boys got this far, we got to get them on the water,’” Scudero said. “And we went from no boat to having a $50,000 Ranger Pro bass boat with all the trimmings.”
Said Roddick: “Coach had called us that morning and said we may not be able to fish (the tournament). When (Ramsey) called it was such a lifesaver. That guy was really cool, too.”
Ramsey held true to his word and met them at the tournament registration. He captained the boat the first day and showed them the territory and best places to fish. When the team finished in the top third (92nd) of approximately 330 teams after the first day, Ramsey asked for a ride home and told them to keep his truck, boat and trailer for Day 2.
Deer Valley wound up finishing in the top half of the final standings. Scudero recalls it being somewhere in between 140-150.
“It was a dream come true for the boys” Scudero said. “I didn’t even dream that we would come that far. Our third tournament was the nationals. In Alabama. Wow.”