Jack Harpole is a young Mike Trout with a fishing pole in his hands.
He admittedly doesn’t resemble Major League Baseball’s most complete player — the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim megastar with an apt last name — with a baseball bat.
As much as the Regis Jesuit senior struggles to hit a fastball, his defensive prowess earned him a chance to play in college and a spot on a loaded Raiders’ roster. He’s a home run hitter when it comes to fishing, however.
Harpole recently won his second High School All-American Award from Bassmaster and he’s built a future in a sport that lured him in from a young age.
“Every kid that plays baseball dreams about being in MLB, but when I started fishing, I think that faded into the background,” Harpole said. “I just wanted to play for as long as possible, but I don’t think MLB was ever a real goal. …There’s definitely a future in fishing.”
The Benedictine College signee’s introduction to the sport came from his dad, John, a fly fisherman who got his son hooked at the age of 7.
A large pond on the property of a neighbor in Littleton — which the Harpoles agreed to stock with large mouth bass — has provided the setting for a decade’s worth of crucial trial-and-error training.
To this day, whenever John doesn’t find his son in the house, he pretty much knows where he’s gone.
“He’s spent just about every waking moment down at the pond in the last 10 years,” he said.
Jack earned money mowing lawns and spent it not on normal kid things, but on fishing gear. He watched Youtube videos and soaked up the knowledge of the professionals, while he experimented daily at the pond.
“My dad got me into it at first, but I’m pretty much self-taught after that,” Harpole said. “I started going down to the pond and learning the tools of the trade.”
Indeed, John admits he doesn’t often have an answer to his son’s questions, but has been impressed with his ability to come up with his own solutions.
“At one point, he came to me and said ‘Dad, there’s a lot of moss down there, what line should I use?,” John said. “I’m a fly fisherman so I said ‘You’re just going to have to figure it out,” and he did. …He just has a feel for it.
“Talking to guys who have been fishing 30, 40 years, they say he has a gift.”
At the ripe age of 16 years and five days, Harpole was allowed to enter his first adult tournament and has been proving himself against more veteran fisherman ever since. He’s won the Colorado high school state championship plus a variety of other tournaments.
Harpole has traveled to tournaments — which fluctuate between one and three days — around Colorado and in surrounding states, including a trip to Idaho last fall that produced his most memorable accomplishment.
Winning a tournament there earned him an all expenses paid trip to fish in the Amazon, which he and his family quickly booked for January, which was fortuitous given the events of the following months.
It was on a portion of the Rio Negro in Brazil where Harpole encountered the prettiest, feistiest fish he’d ever tried to catch, the Amazon Peacock Bass, which he called a “bottle rocket; they freak out when you catch them.”
“The first time I heard about the coronavirus, I was sitting on top of the boat in the Amazon on a satellite phone talking to my mom,” Harpole recalled. “She said something about what was happening in China. It’s insane the series of events that has happened since then.”
Though fishing can happen during the coronavirus pandemic as the perfect sport for social distancing, it has put a halt to competitions — including a national championship event Harpole qualified for in Wisconsin — and it also robbed him of his final high school baseball season.
Harpole wasn’t part of the Regis Jesuit varsity roster that won last season’s Class 5A state championship, but he was one of 14 players on this year’s squad that had signed to play in college.
The Raiders were loaded to take a shot at becoming one of Colorado’s rare repeat champs, but never got the chance.
“We’d been working really hard and the seniors were all really close already since we’d been friends since freshman year,” Harpole said. “The chemistry was great. It was a perfect mix of guys as well as the perfect mix of talent.”
Regis Jesuit baseball coach Matt Darr often saw Harpole (a third baseman who primarily would have played in defensive situations) take off after practice to go fishing for a weekend, especially in the summer, and understands why.
“Jack would have been a role guy for us; he’s a great kid who has been in the program for four years,” Darr said. “He missed some stuff this summer for fishing, but apparently he’s really good at it.”
Harpole’s time in baseball — which he’s played since 5 — will likely end when he’s done at Benedictine College, but fishing should be with him for a lifetime.
Before he leaves for college, he’ll get in as many weekend road trips with his dad to go fishing as he safely can.
“It’s a great feeling knowing I can do this for a long time and continue growing in knowledge,” Harpole said. “It’s allowed me spend a lot of time with my dad, which has been amazing. I couldn’t do this without my parents.”
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports