Friendship on the line

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Michael Duarte loves to lift weights and plays varsity baseball as a sophomore at Sparrows Point. Richie Martin is a self-proclaimed hamburger junkie who would rather hunt on Maryland's Eastern Shore than play sports for the Pointers.

Despite their differences, the two teenagers set out together May 4 for a day on Dundee Creek in Gunpowder Falls State Park, sliding their white, 17-foot Ranger boat between two piers and into the murky brown water. Their chemistry was evident as soon as the boat hit the water.


"What you get [yesterday], two?" Martin asked Duarte as he cast his first line.

"I had one on and then it broke my line, and then I had another that got off," Duarte said.


"Right up by the boathouse?" Martin said.


Duarte, 16, and Martin, 17, have found common ground through fishing, making these conversations normal discourse. The two Sparrows Point fishermen make up the Baltimore region's only Bass Anglers Sportsman Society-sanctioned high school fishing team, which competed in the first high school state championship last fall.

Sparrows Point was one of two schools to participate in the Maryland B.A.S.S. high school championship. Duarte and Martin competed against several teams from La Plata and finished third, one spot shy of qualifying for the B.A.S.S. high school world championship.

Maryland B.A.S.S. youth director Jim Kline, who ran the state tournament, said he'd love to get more schools involved in the high school program, but the process begins at the youth level.

"The goal is to get as many high schools involved as possible," Kline said. "Our goal is to have clubs form to represent their high school and walk up that ladder and maybe have a chance to win a high school world championship. But we're trying to get kids involved. You have to crawl before you can walk."

Duarte and Martin went through the ranks in the B.A.S.S. youth program, which features anglers from 5 to 14 years old.

At 5 years old, Duarte began fishing for white perch, a species common to the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed, while his older brother, John, caught bass. John Duarte was a successful angler at an early age, becoming the first B.A.S.S. world junior champion from Maryland in 2009 at 14 years old.


John Duarte became so successful in the Maryland junior and senior programs that he got the chance to attend Coastal Carolina for fishing. Michael Duarte said his brother and only sibling has been a role model and because of that, he hopes to fish in college, as well.

"I just want to follow in my brother's footsteps," Michael Duarte said. "He's my brother and he's done so good, so I want to be like him."

It wasn't long before Michael Duarte was ready to make the jump from white perch to bass.

"Once I got him hooked on fishing for white perch, it went from there," Duarte's father, John Duarte, said. "He started catching a few bass here and there and saw his brother's success and it kind of made him want to do that same thing. … I would give his brother the credit of getting him into bass fishing and the whole tournament thing."

As Michael Duarte grew into his new role as a bass angler, he started to succeed in the same way as his brother. He made a state junior team in 2012 and competed in tournaments around the state until he turned 14 years old.

At that time, he entered Sparrows Point and met Martin, whose father, Richard Martin Jr., had competed against Michael Duarte's brother in adult competition.


"They have the same interests: just go out, fish and have fun," Duarte's father said. "Both of my kids would try to hide that they were into fishing because they didn't think that they would be accepted, but it's nice when you see someone you know who has the same passion."

Martin, who is an only child, drew his inspiration from his grandfather, who had been a successful angler. His grandfather was one of B.A.S.S.' original members in 1972 and won several regional tournaments.

When Martin was as young as 2 years old, his grandfather, Dick Martin, was taking him out to fish, and he actually caught a few. It's a family tradition that his father is proud of.

"They had a very close relationship," Richard Martin Jr. said of his son and father. "They fished together a lot and it means a lot to Richie to be able to do the same things that his grandfather had done."

Richie grew up with a fishing rod in his hand and began the youth tournaments when he turned 11. Recently, he began competing in adult B.A.S.S. tournaments, and he's already beating his elders.

"I actually beat my dad this past tournament," Martin said. "I beat the Duarte family for once  and my dad for once. Lucky day."


Martin and Duarte bonded from the start and formed the first club fishing team in the region last year, after submitting registration forms provided by the Maryland B.A.S.S. Federation to Sparrows Point. From there, the team prepared for last October's state championship, where Duarte and Martin each caught one fish.

Despite the loss, Duarte and Martin are keeping their sights on October's state championship, where they could compete against more schools. Even if they don't win, both say they'll keep fishing.

"One thing you need for bass fishing is patience," Duarte said. "You can never give up."

Kline said this year's tournament will be "top-notch" compared with last year's, including visits from pros and many fully rigged boats. As for Duarte's and Martin's chances, Kline said it's just a matter of time.

"They are the type that I guarantee you that they will be fishing wherever they can," Kline said. "I'm about 99 percent sure they'll be going [to the world championships]."