Bass Assassin signs scholarship

Thompson High School senior Tanner Ellis (Center) recently signed a collegiate bass-fishing scholarship with Bethel University in McKenzie, Tenn. (Contributed)

By WESLEY HALLMAN / Sports Editor

Thompson High School graduate Tanner Ellis spent a majority of his time at a local fishing hole during his childhood.

Ellis never imagined his outdoor activities would provide scholarship money toward his college education one day.

However, that day came recently when Ellis signed a partial athletic scholarship with Bethel University in McKenzie, Tenn., to join the Wildcats’ bass-fishing team.

“I don’t see how it could get any better,” said Ellis, Thompson’s first ever bass-fishing signee. “It’s all a huge blessing.”

Ellis gained attention from potential college suitors by participating in the Alabama Student Angler Bass FIshing Association tour, a club sport, for Thompson’s Warrior Bass Assassins team. Ellis, who finished the 2011 spring bass-fishing season ranked as the third runner-up in the Alabama Angler of the Year competition.

Ellis said he’s glad to see the tour, which increased from 20 teams during the 2010 season to more than 80 this spring, getting more notoriety.

“The sport has grown so much,” Ellis said. “More people are paying attention and getting on board.”

Ellis will participate in the High School Fishing World Finals for the second consecutive year next month. Ellis and his co-angler Austin Herring, earned a spot following their success this spring in state tournaments.

“It’s a lot more fun,” Ellis said. “You’re fishing with people from all across the United States.”

Ellis, who plans to major in business, is the son of John and Jerri Gray of Alabaster.

Bethel bass-fishing coach Garry Mason was excited about signing Ellis.

“Tanner is a fine young man and a great angler,” Mason said. “His ability to fish Southern lakes in the (United States) we compete in will add a huge addition to our program. We are excited he is going to be a member of our Bethel family.”