It’s 5:30 a.m., and the February air is chilly on the lake. He didn’t arrive in Arkansas until 2 a.m. last night, but that doesn’t faze junior Spencer Clark. He’s ready to fish. This is a typical Saturday for Clark. He is a member of the Truman State Fishing Club and spends the majority of his weekends at…
It’s 5:30 a.m., and the February air is chilly on the lake. He didn’t arrive in Arkansas until 2 a.m. last night, but that doesn’t faze junior Spencer Clark. He’s ready to fish.
This is a typical Saturday for Clark. He is a member of the Truman State Fishing Club and spends the majority of his weekends at fishing tournaments across the Midwest.
Clark and senior Mike McCarthy placed third in a Forrest L. Wood National Guard fishing tournament on Aug. 22 in Fort Madison, Iowa, winning $4,000 and qualifying for the FLW regional tournament later this fall.
Clark and McCarthy started the fishing club two years ago in an effort to promote the sport at Truman.
“We both have a passion for fishing, and we both love the fish tournaments,” Clark said. “So we thought we need to get in this college sport of fishing win some money, represent Truman, get our names out there.”
Clark said they go to fishing tournaments nearly every weekend, but the FLW tournaments qualify them for the national tournament. Because they placed third in the central division tournament in Fort Madison, they will compete for $50,000 in the FLW regional tournament in Kentucky, Oct. 31 to Nov. 2. If they place in the top five at that tournament, they’ll move on to the national championship and have a chance to win $100,000.
“That’s our ultimate goal, and we’re on our way to doing it,” Clark said. “There’s three steps to getting there, and we’ve got one of them down.”
Clark said that at a typical college fishing tournament, pairs of anglers take their boats out early in the morning and fish for eight hours. Then they weigh in their heaviest five fish, and the team with the most weight wins.
He said fishing, like any other sport, is time consuming and can be expensive.
“You don’t have any coaching,” Clark said. “It’s all on yourself to do good. Plus you’re funding it all, so if you’re not cashing checks [or] making money, you’re going to be losing a lot of money. So there’s also the financial strain in trying to do this.”
He said the club doesn’t currently receive any funding from the University, but hopes to receive some in the future. Clark has several sponsors who support him, such as Tru-Tungsten and Smack Tackle.
McCarthy said expenses include entrance fees to tournaments, transportation costs, fishing rods, reels and equipment. A good rod and reel can be expensive.
“You’re looking at $600,” McCarthy said. “It can be very costly.”
He said that contrary to many people’s opinion, fishing involves a considerable amount of skill and practice.
“People think it’s a lot of luck, and it’s not as much luck as you think,” McCarthy said. “[It’s] your skills. Your time on the water, it’s gonna pay off.”
McCarthy said he and Clark are going to Kentucky during midterm break to spend time on the lake where the regional tournament will be held.
Clark said spending time on the water helps anglers understand what fish do under certain conditions. He also said fishing requires mental strength.
“Most of fishing is mental,” he said. “Ninety-nine percent of tournament fishing is mental. Everybody can cast, everybody can throw a line.
“You only have eight hours in a day in order to catch five fish. Time management is critical but to really get good you have to spend a lot of time on the water, listen to other anglers who are successful, try to learn from them. And also, a lot of practice.”
Jon Gering, dean of the school of science and mathematics and adviser to the fishing club, said fishing can be a grueling sport.
“Fishing for eight hours a day is an exhausting thing to do,” Gering said. “When you cast, and you’re out exposed to the elements, and you’re thinking all the time about where the fish are, what lures to use, what rods and reels to use it’s very intellectually and physically demanding.”
Gering said the fishing club at Truman promotes sportsmanship and the outdoors. He said many colleges are as dedicated to fishing as they are to other sports.
“Schools are very serious about their fishing teams,” Gering said. “They have boats and jerseys with their school logos on them.”
He said the success Clark and McCarthy have achieved is noteworthy and should be recognized by others at the University.
“Anybody who has ever tried to catch fish understands that what they’ve done is remarkable,” Gering said. “To do this competitively takes a lot of will and a lot of dedication, and they’ve done that.”
Story by Dana Bruxvoort Truman State University Index