The Rise of College Bass Fishing
Collegiate Bass fishing is on the up and up. Many new universities are starting teams and some of the more establish programs even go as far as to support with coaches, boats, and covered travel to and from tournaments. At some universities, you can actually apply for fishing scholarships! Sounds like a dream, right? Fish for your school and pay reduced tuition? This dream is in fact reality and I would advise young anglers to at least take a look into the college programs of schools that they are interested in attending.
There are two main tournament lines at the college fishing level, BASS and FLW. Here at Ohio State we fish the FLW series mainly, so the rest of this article will be based solely on my experiences with that tournament series. One of the key things about this series is that FLW makes it very simple to fish a tournament. There is a one time a year fee to sign up which is very affordable and then beyond that, the tournaments are free to enter and without fees.
The format of the average tournament is a one-day event with a payout going to the top five teams in the form of money to be put towards your bass club or tuition. The top 10 finishers of each regional tournament also qualify for the National Championship. Each of the five FLW regions have three tournaments where you have the chance to place top 10 and fish the championship with some of the best in the country. Once the three regional championship tournaments are completed, the top finishers from each tournament in each part of the country meet on one body of water for a three-day national championship where the highest prize is a boat, and entry into the FLW Forrest Wood Cup.
FLW College Fishing is About More Than Fishing
Beyond the payout, the best part of collegiate angling is the people participating. You get to go to a beautiful body of water, take your mind off classes, and pursue your passion with some of your best buddies. Through fishing college tournaments, I have made many new friends and connections that I have continued to stay in contact with. It’s about more than just fishing, your fishing team becomes an extended family. Although bass fishing is a competitive sport, the level that collegiate anglers are at is more relaxed and people enjoy themselves while also taking their fishing seriously.
It’s about more than just fishing, your fishing team becomes an extended family
You don’t have to be an expert to join a club either. Most teams have a club portion and a team portion so that people of any skill level can join the club have the chance to prove themselves to earn a spot on a boat. I wasn’t the most advanced bass fisherman when I tried out for the team, but I knew enough to catch a decent bag the day we went out and earned a spot on a boat my Freshman year. Over four years, I learned a great deal about the sport it all came together on Lake Erie where my partner and I placed 9th and punched our ticket to the National Championship.
Taking FLW College Fishing and Making the Most of It
Obviously, the dream of any college angler is to make a National Championship, and FLW does a great job organizing and creating a hype around it. There are banquets, meals, discounts, professionals, and a dedicated group of workers creating the best experience for college anglers as possible.
Qualifiers of the 2018 National Championship on the Red River gather for a pre-tournament meeting. Photo courtesy of FLW
It is because of the Ohio State Bass Fishing Team that I was able to get a foot in the door of the fishing industry. But though all of it, I got much more than a foot in the door. I met new friends, experienced new places, and increased my fishing intelligence more than I could imagine. Fishing on the college level was absolutely one of my favorite parts of college and I will be forever grateful for everything it taught me.
For anyone younger who is considering doing the same, I say go give it a shot and I can almost guarantee you won’t be disappointed. If you are currently enrolled somewhere without a team, make one! I am sure that you could find a group of friends who share your passion and building your own club would be quite the resume builder. For anyone who has any questions about my experience as a collegiate angler, you can always find me on multiple social platforms and I’m always happy to talk.