Esko student spreads passion for fishing through club, classes
Senior Noah Wells will host fishing classes in Barnum next month for adults and kids, in addition to competing for the Esko Fishing Club this summer.
ESKO — Senior Noah Wells admits he had his doubts about how quickly his newly-formed Esko Fishing Club would take off in its first year back in 2021.
After having his former team at Duluth Marshall disband after his freshman season, Wells was hopeful that the competitive bass fishing craze would catch on with his classmates at Esko the following year.
“I thought hey, maybe we’re going to have four or five kids. Well, we had eight our first year,” Wells said. “Of those eight, six returned for the following year and then that year, we had 10. And this year is our third year at the school, and we’re pushing 15.”
The sharp increase in new anglers in such a short span was no accident, according to Noah’s dad and head coach of the team, Bill Wells.
“He really started going and finding those kids that were as passionate about fishing as he is, and really exposing them to that competitive fishing world (and) he was bringing them on as part of the team,” Bill Wells said.
As a non-varsity sport, the Esko Fishing Club competes in the Minnesota Junior B.A.S.S. Nation organization’s Greater North Conference against teams from Floodwood, Grand Rapids, Wrenshall, Northwestern (WI), Eveleth-Gilbert, Duluth and North Woods.
The competitive fishing season typically begins in June and runs through September, with practices taking place every other week. During practice sessions, Bill Wells often brings in professionals and guides to demonstrate the latest tips and techniques.
After the tutorials, the young anglers will often put what they’ve learned to the test on local bodies of water in anticipation for the season’s three qualifying events.
“We’ll go to let’s say Chub Lake, and we’ll meet there at 5 p.m. and before we launch we’re going to talk about the lake — which ways the wind is coming off, where do you expect to see the bait fish or the water temperature or the air temperature. And then let’s go out and let’s fish those areas that we talked about,” Bill Wells explained.
With a wide-range of experience levels among members of the team, the transition to competitive bass fishing can provide a steep learning curve for some whose experience in fishing extended mainly to walleye and northern pike, which demands an entirely different set of skills and approach in deeper waters.
“The kids that have grown up going after the pike or going after the walleye have really had to change and go into that bass fishing. It’s a different mindset that they go into,” Bill Wells explained. “Coming from Missour,i (Noah and I) grew up with the bass as the predator species, and that’s all we know how to fish. And so (experience levels run) the whole gambit of that.”
As their knowledge and expertise in competitive bass fishing has grown, so too has the team’s success at the state level.
After jokingly comparing their first-year team to the fictional Bad News Bears in their original trip to state, Bill Wells said Esko has firmly established itself as a contender in the area.
“We came out of nowhere. So I mean this is a success story … We really just started making a name for Esko for bass fishing amongst the teams that have done this for years, like Grand Rapids or some of your (metro) teams,” Bill Wells said. ”At first it just was one or two boats that qualified for state. Last year, everybody qualified for state.”
Noah Wells has been at the center of the team’s success, earning numerous accolades along the way, including a selection to the B.A.S.S. High School All-State Fishing Team along with three other anglers in the state. Noah Wells will continue his bass fishing career in Springfield, Missouri next year after earning a scholarship to compete for Drury University.
Reflecting on his three-year journey with the Esko Fishing Club, Noah Wells said seeing his teammates succeed and bring in fish stand out the most.
“It’s super cool to see a picture from them and (they) go, hey, look at this three or four-pounder I caught on that technique that you said you should throw. I find that super enjoyable,” he said. “It’s almost like watching their eyes just light up or you can just see them think about it, execute it and then it just worked to the best of their abilities.”
Noah Wells is taking that passion for teaching beyond the Esko Fishing Club. Beginning Thursday, May 4, he will lead a series of fishing classes for youth and adults through Barnum Community Education. Each class will focus on one specific area of training, including basic gear, tying and casting, along with tips for shore fishing.
“There were some other teams in this area that were like hey, we want to start clubs, too. Will you come help us mentor? And Barnum happened to be one of those schools,” he explained.
Bill Wells said he’s excited for those who have signed up knowing how much they will learn from Noah in a short amount of time.
“This is an opportunity for him to just continue to keep doing that piece that he loves, which is showing people how to fish, and hopefully infecting them with the same passion that he has about fishing,” Bill Wells said. “I’m excited for this, and I’m excited for those that are signed up to be part of this class, because they’re going to get so much information from him.”