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Whitwell High School fishing coach reels in award-winning team

The Whitwell High School Fishing Team will compete at Nationals in August at Paris Landing State Park in Tennessee. (Image: WTVC)

The Whitwell High School Fishing Team has made quite a name for themselves.

They've made it to Nationals three times since the program started five years ago!

In this week's Pay it Forward, Jessica Harthorn surprises the coach who encourages his anglers to practice sportsmanship and community volunteering.

Mikey Powell says it all began with his love of fishing and his son who wanted to compete at a higher level.

So Mikey reeled in some interested anglers to start a fishing team at Whitwell High School.

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The program is run solely on fundraisers, but its certainly making a splash at the national level.

It was a hot and humid day and kids from across the region were lining up to receive their big prizes.

Kayaks and bikes were awarded to the littlest of anglers who reeled in a big one at the 7th Annual Kids Bass Tournament at Marion County Park.

But its one of the men volunteering behind the scenes, who will soon catch the grand prize.

Tammy Minter's son Spencer is an angler on Mikey Powell's fishing team at Whitwell High School, and says the experience has kept Spencer above water.

"It has built his confidence in fishing and within the community. They do a lot of community work and it gives him something to look forward too," said Tammy.

The team was volunteering at the Kids Bass Tournament and selling food to raise money for tournament entry fees.

Right now, the Whitwell High School Fishing Team ranks in the top 10 percent in the nationand has taken home dozens of awards.

But Spencer says Captain Mikey Powell has taught him life skills on the water too.

"Sportsmanship, how to deal with different people and what to do in certain situations," said Spencer.

But Mikey was not prepared for what was about to happen next.

"Can we get Mikey Powell to come up here for a second?" asked the tournament announcer as he handed the microphone to Tammy.

"Mikey, we want to thank you for everything that you do for our boys, and dedicate your time and Juanita's time, and today on behalf of Newschannel 9 and the McMahan Law Firm, we want to Pay It Forward to you $500. So let me count it out. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. We love you so much!" surprised Tammy.

Moments later, Mikey's team surrounded him for a group picture.

We asked him how it feels to start a program from scratch, and end up with an award winning team of kids.

"Oh God, you can't describe it. They really worked hard for it, so they deserve it," said Mikey.

And, It just so happens Mikey's son Dalton was the boat captain for 6-year-old Addison Layne who took home the bass tournaments's first prize.

The Whitwell High School Fishing Team will compete at Nationals in August at Paris Landing State Park in Tennessee.

Do you know someone who deserves $500 cash for mentoring kids? Nominate them here.

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