The Life of a Collegiate Angler

Many people see college anglers pull up to a tournament site, in our crisp, clean, extravagant looking jerseys with our tackle bags and our rods, and don’t completely understand what goes into our sport. There are many things that collegiate anglers deal with that are different from the “normal” tournament angler…

Many people see college anglers pull up to a tournament site, in our crisp, clean, extravagant looking jerseys with our tackle bags and our rods, and don’t completely understand what goes into our sport. There are many things that collegiate anglers deal with that are different from the “normal” tournament angler, however many things we deal with are also very similar. There are 3 major areas that a college angler has to deal with; one, school, two, Fishing, and three, “other Stuff”. The goal of this paper is to give the everyday person a little insight into the life of a collegiate angler and what it takes to be successful.

1: School

Before you can fish competitively, your grades must be in order. All of the major collegiate series have minimum GPA and course hour requirements that must be met to allow you to compete. For most of the series, you must have a minimum 2.0 GPA and maintain 12 credit hours per semester to be allowed to compete; although some schools have higher standards that the students must uphold. Many collegiate anglers, including me, take more than 12 hours. That doesn’t seem like much, but take into account that for each credit hour, most colleges advise that you typically need to study for around 3 to 9 additional hours a week. This level of academic concentration takes a lot out of a student and this must be done before they’re even allowed to pick up a rod and reel.

2: Fishing

There are currently 3 major collegiate series: Boat US Collegiate Championship Fishing; Under Armor Collegiate Bass Fishing; and FLW Collegiate Fishing. Each fishing series has their similarities with each of the others, but each also has its differences from the others. In addition, several schools offer their own open tournament series. The best known is probably the Series that Auburn runs called the “Southern Collegiate Bass Fishing Series”. Another new one beginning in 2010 is the “Georgia Southern Collegiate Bass Fishing Tournaments”. Through fishing these series, collegiate anglers are fortunate enough to experience some of the best fisheries in the country; including lakes at Okeechobee, Guntersville, California Delta, and Lake Champlain.

“Fishing” includes practice during the week at school and travel to and from tournaments, usually on the weekends. This takes time, not only for practice and actual fishing, but for many other things too. Fishermen must research the areas they fish; prepare rods, reels, bait, lines and other fishing equipment; make travel arrangements; research of tournament rules and other preparation and research.

In the Boat US Collegiate Championship Fishing, there is a five tournament series; three qualifying tournaments, the Collegiate Championship on Lake Lewisville, Texas, and the team championship at Kentucky Lake, in Parris, Tennessee. This is one of the largest series having over 140 registered boats this year for the 2009 Collegiate Championship on Lake Lewisville. These Boat U.S. tournaments normally last one or two days and are usually held in Alabama or Texas.

Armor Collegiate Bass Fishing, is overseen by the B.A.S.S., and is one of the larger and most prestigious tournaments. In 2009 for the first time it went from a single national championship to a three tournament schedule with East and West tournaments on Clarks Hill Lake and Palestine Lake respectively. In 2009 the national championship was located on the Arkansas River, out of Little Rock Arkansas. There were about 60 teams which competed in the tournament with N.C. State winning the Championship.

FLW Collegiate fishing began in 2009. This tournament series opened a door for many anglers, since it is the only series where you are not required to bring your own boat. You and your partner are paired with a Stren series pro, which did not make the top 10 cut during the tournament and who volunteers his time to drive the collegiate anglers around in his or her boat during the final day of the tournament. The collegiate part of the tournament takes place on the final day of each of the Stren series tournament, when only the top ten professional anglers fish. The collegiate competitors fish a one day tournament and the top 5 move on to a regional championship. There are 4 qualifying tournaments in each of 5 regions. The top five in each regional championship then qualify as one of the top 25 teams to fish in the national championship. The Qualifiers are all one day tournaments, the Regional and National championships are three day tournaments.

To compete in the tournaments, clubs must hold qualifiers to find out who the best anglers in there club are. Most clubs hold several school tournaments throughout the year, working on a point system. Normally clubs hold the qualifiers as individuals, although there are some clubs who pick teams early in the year and allow them to qualify as a team. The club then decides what members will compete and represent their school based on the final standings.

3: The “Other” Stuff

Collegiate angling is one of the newest and best ways to get your foot in the door for professional fishing. It is also a great way to develop fishing skills, friends and a number of important business skills. Through fishing in college, you can gain experience working with sponsors, travel skills, organizational skills, and time management skills. You will also develop leadership skills in managing the school’s club and teams. All of this added knowledge will help any individual who is thinking about a possible career in professional angling.

Finding and working with sponsors is a very important part of collegiate fishing. It is something club leaders have to learn how to do. With collegiate fishing, you get help with this because many sponsors come to you. However, you also have to go out and seek many others. Unfortunately you have to be prepared to hear “No” more than “Yes”. Sometimes it is not all bad though, it teaches you to never take no for an answer! You also learn early what sponsors expect from anglers as far as promotions are concerned. Many require appearances at outdoor shows or boat shows. This is made easier with the colligate club simply because there are more people to make appearances.

Travelling to tournaments is something that sounds simple but is not. If you have never towed a boat across the country, it is something that is a very interesting experience. You have to deal with countless hours on the road, the possibility of break downs, and repairs that have to be made on the fly. We experienced some challenges over the summer of 2009 when we traveled from Florida to Texas and Arkansas to fish the national tournaments. You never know what shape the roads will be in, so simple things like checking tire pressure is extremely important, something the everyday angler does consider often. Even when you travel safely and arrive at a hotel, there are still other concerns. First you have to learn to live out of a hotel room for extended period of time, get permission to park your boat at the hotel (not all allow it), find places to charge your boat’s batteries, keep your gear safe and secure from theft (possibly though the use of a lock-r-bar or a similar product)

As you travel for your school bass club you must always be aware you are a representative of your school and behave accordingly. The tournaments have standards of conduct and good sportsmanship. Likewise most schools have similar requirements.

As a collegiate angler, you always have to be aware of time. You must save time for school work, class, pre-fishing and preparation, fishing club meetings, travel and tournaments. You always have to make sure your work is done with school to keep your grades up and be able to fish.

Collegiate angling is nice, because not only does it get your name out with sponsors but also with other anglers. The relationships you developed and the experience you gain may open the door to bigger and better things in the future. Many collegiate anglers have gone on to fish in the professional series like the Stren Series and The Bassmaster Opens. But even those who have no interest in turning pro gain a lifelong hobby and can fish local tournament series for the rest of their life.

These are 3 major areas that a college angler has to deal with, school, Fishing, and the “other Stuff”. I hope this paper gives you some insight on how collegiate fishing works and how it can helps it anglers achieve future success.

Thomas Edwards,
FGCU Fishing Club President
Florida Gulf Coast University

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