FLW College Series Background
On Saturday January 17, 2009 down in Texas, Tarleton State’s John Anderson and Tanner Morgan weighed in a 6 bass limit for 29lbs, 13oz to claim the victory in the very first FLW College event. Since then, the FLW college series has grown and prospered into a massive resource for collegiate anglers around the country. Now, it is known as the Yeti FLW College Fishing Series.
Over the years, FLW has made many changes to the college series like no longer limiting the field size, changes in payouts, and the bag limits moving from six bass to five. For the 2019 season, just like FLW has done before, they applied changes to the college series. Some changes were praised, while other changes were met with push-back from the college anglers and the fishing community.
Praised Changes for 2019
The changes this year have some great additions like sending both anglers who win the National Championship to the Forrest Wood Cup where they will have a shot at winning $300,000. Sending multiple teams that come just short of winning the championship to the BFL All-American as Boaters and Co-Anglers where they will be provided Ranger Boats and have a shot at winning $100,000. They will also be implementing a new School of the Year Race which is a popular aspect of other college fishing circuits.
Controversial Changes for 2019
While there were some great additions to the rules, there were also some controversial changes that were met with push-back from some of the college anglers.
These changes were a new $75 per tournament entry fee… this is the first tournament series to implement a tournament entry fee for college events.
Even with these entry fees, the FLW will not be raising the payouts at the regional events. They have also decided to move the FLW High School series events to the day after the college events.
The final change that has received the most push back is that the tournaments were moved from Saturdays to weekday events.
Responses to These Controversial Changes
After the release of the information, many college anglers were confused by the changes FLW had made. A number of anglers from across the country contacted FLW High School and College tournament director, Kevin Hunt, to discuss their feelings about the shift to weekday events.
Fostering Growth and Camaraderie Between College and High School Anglers
One of those student-anglers, Ben Wiley, from The Ohio State University was told by Kevin Hunt, “The main reason for the changes in tournament dates from weekends to weekdays was to foster growth and camaraderie between college anglers and anglers at the High School level.”
“Our objective is to allow the high school anglers to be around our college anglers to see what kind of opportunities they have, ensuring the fact that they stay with fishing and attend college. They know if they go to a college they meet at one of these events, they’ll be able to grasp the true camaraderie surrounding the anglers in these events.” – FLW Senior Director of Tournament Operations, Bill Taylor
Wiley feels that it’s great to try to foster growth between College and High School anglers, and even suggested a Saturday/Sunday College then High School format. Wiley also stated that he believed the biggest issue was the added need to miss classes for college student-anglers.
What About Having to Miss Class?
Upon asking the director of the FLW College Fishing Program about this, Kevin mentioned that they always try to take their event dates into consideration with the schools schedules. He used the Northern Division schedule as an example stating,
“If you’re in the Northern Division, you only have to miss one day in the spring, zero in the summer, unless you’re in summer school, and one day in the fall.”
Most college fishing teams, like the one at Ohio State, are simply clubs at their universities. These clubs do not get excused absences for tournaments. With the growth of college expenses, and the fact that most universities have attendance requirements and policies that can directly affect student-angler’s grades when they miss class for an event, it’s putting the anglers in a tough spot.
On a phone call with Kevin Hunt and FLW Senior Director of Tournament Operations Bill Taylor discussing the changes, Bill stated, “We take all concerns and ideas to the heart. Meaning that we listen to everybody. We look at what’s best for the sport, what’s best for our sponsors, and what is best for the college anglers.”
Around this time, ANGLR Expert Cameron Wilt, who is a member of the Bowling Green State University Fishing Team, created a petition to FLW to voice the opinions of collegiate student-anglers. The petition aimed at getting the college events returned to the weekends to minimize the burden of missing their classes and to allow teams that would normally be able to participate in the great opportunity of college fishing to continue participating.
If you agree with Cameron, sign the petition here!
Both Sides Are Focused on Growing the Sport
When Cameron released the petition, it quickly gained a lot of support and was signed by college anglers, their friends, families, members of the fishing community, and members of the general public. Cameron believes that FLW had it right before they changed things and that the Saturday events were closer, shorter, had a lower financial burden on the anglers, and required minimal missed classes to attend.
“The goal of the petition was not to attack the FLW about having weekday events but instead aimed at informing them that we, the student-anglers, believed the FLW had things right before and we wanted to give the FLW the opportunity to do right by the student-anglers and put the angler’s education before the tournaments. I mean, I believe I can speak for all of the college anglers when I say we stand behind High School fishing and want to see it grow and prosper because many of us fished when we were in High School. It’s a great opportunity to grow as an angler, but many of us won’t be able to recruit if we can’t miss class to attend the events.”
While it seems as though FLW is set in their ways on this topic, Kevin Hunt says there are good reason for these changes.
“We took this program 10 years ago and created it as the best college program out there. Now that we’ve had to make a few changes, we’ve also tried to make it even better. We’ve added spots to the Forrest Wood Cup for the two National Champions. Along with that, the second, third, forth, and fifth place teams from the National Championship go to the BFL All-American. This is how we can make sure that we have a great program and back it up with some substance.”
These changes are massive when compared to previous years. In the past, the winning team at the National Championship would fish against each other the next day to see who would claim the spot to fish in the Forrest Wood Cup. Now, the top five teams will have the opportunity to fish in tournaments that could change their lives! While these changes are great for the sport, taking into account the feelings of some anglers who may not be able to pursue the opportunity is a tough pill to swallow.
Hunt displayed empathy for those teams and anglers.
“We know and we understand that it might cause some heart aches, and it might cause some problems, and it might even cause some situations where students say, ‘No, I’m not coming on Friday and no, I’m not paying entry fees.’ And, I hate that, that’s not what we want. But, at this point in time, it’s the best thing for our company and for our program and that’s why we’ve had to make these decisions. We might look at this in a year or two years and say, ‘you know what, we may have made a bad choice.’ As of right now, we feel that it is the best choice under the circumstances.”
While this topic may remain controversial as the 2019 season approaches, there are plenty of anglers and fans looking forward to this “new and improved” feel to the college series. Many college anglers are chomping at the bit to get their shot at the National Championship to further their opportunity to fish at the next level. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns regarding this topic, be sure to leave us a comment in the section below!