Bass LeMaster: Russell senior signs with KCU

Apr. 23—RUSSELL — A rod in his hands, and a Rod in his heart.

Inspired by his late father, Xander LeMaster is seeing a dream come true. The Russell senior signed a letter of intent to Kentucky Christian University on Friday in the high school library. He will be on KCU's bass fishing team.

"My dream's always been to fish in college because my dad was a big fisherman," LeMaster said.

Rodney "Little Rod" LeMaster died at age 33 in 2009 after a battle with brain cancer. Xander was 3.

"I was 2 or 3 years old when my dad taught me how to fish, and my papaw (Rod Sr.)," LeMaster said.

LeMaster was the catalyst behind the formation of Russell's bass fishing team. He said he persistently approached Joe Bryan, the former athletic director, and then current AD TJ Maynard.

"I bugged (Maynard) enough to get our bass fishing club started, which you had to have a teacher's sponsor for," LeMaster said. "I started that club because I knew that was a starting point to the team."

Sure enough, the club's inception had the ripple effect LeMaster had envisioned — paving the path to the KHSAA-sanctioned team, coached by Tyler Parsley. LeMaster was a junior then.

"I kept pushing, and finally went to the Board of Education and presented our team," LeMaster said. "It took a couple weeks to get back, but once we got that approved, we had a team within weeks."

All told, a dozen Red Devils comprise the bass fishing roster (middle and high school). When the program first launched, LeMaster said he had a few interested friends but also recruited the hallways hard.

LeMaster is also a successful track and cross country athlete, but track coach Chris Holbrook spoke more about the senior's character.

"Xander's character is one that every program needs," Holbrook said during a signing ceremony that drew a large crowd.

"A couple months ago, I asked you to go away from doing an event in track to doing something you've never really done — hurdles," Holbrook said, speaking directly to LeMaster and then turning back to the crowd. "He didn't argue about it, didn't complain, and now he's our No. 1 hurdler. Now, when I ask him to come back to distance (running), he never says no. He's never told me no when we needed him. His character is unbelievable. He will do anything to try to help you out."

Brad Profitt, who has helped lead Tri-State Youth — a Christ-following group in which LeMaster has played an instrumental role — said he's thankful for LeMaster and "his heart for the Lord Jesus Christ."

"What he's done for the Tri-State Youth program, what he's put into that is very commendable," Profitt added, before quoting Matthew 4:19, which pertains to "fishers of men."

"Not only does this young man bait a hook to catch fish, but he's also spiritually baiting a hook to catch men," Profitt said.

KCU fishing coach Gene Nordhold said LeMaster "representing Christ" is his main quality, but he's pretty good at bringing in the bass, too.

"We went fishing together (in October 2023), and he brought it; he beat me to death," Nordhold said with a laugh. "I thought, I'm going to sign him. He's the quality of kid who will take us to the next level where we want to be."

LeMaster, who also recently started a lawn care business, is eager to board the boats for KCU.

"I'm pretty excited because they get out of Kentucky and go all over the place," said LeMaster, who's enjoyed fishing trips with his grandfather, Rod Sr. On one of those adventures, LeMaster reeled in a 6-pound, 3-ounce smallmouth bass from Lake Erie in Dunkirk, New York.

"I really just enjoy whoever's hanging out on the boat with me," he added. "It's not just about catching fish, but just about having fun."

He's looking forward to carrying on his dad's memory.

"It's pretty important to me because I know that's what he would want me to do," LeMaster said. "He'd be proud of me if he saw me here right now."

Joining alongside LeMaster as he inked the letter were Nordhold, Rod LeMaster Sr., Dawn LeMaster (Xander's mother), Jade LeMaster (sister), Chris Whitt (brother), Kevin Peterman (Dawn's fiancé) and Diana Spencer (Xander's grandmother).

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