For the past few weeks I have been working on a feature story about the top colleges for bass anglers. Through a survey, hours on the phone and quite a bit more research on top of that, I have developed a list of the top 25 colleges in the country where a bass angler will feel right at home.
For the results, you’ll have to wait until the January/February 2010 issue of FLW Outdoors Magazine comes out, and when it does I hope you’ll take the time to send us your thoughts on schools that should have made the list, those that shouldn’t have and any other comments you may want to share. After all, college rankings are as much about debate and bragging rights as anything.
Right now, I want to share a few things I have learned while putting all this together. First off, it is a great time to be a college angler. Most clubs fish anywhere from three to six club qualifiers each semester, as well as traveling to invitational events held by nearby schools and the major national events. From those I have talked to, there is so much interest that clubs that are only a year or two old have doubled, tripled or increased their membership even more in the last year to the point that there aren’t enough boaters to carry along co-anglers. I’ll get to that point in a second.
Much of the increase in interest is thanks to National Guard FLW College Fishing. No, I am not trying to toot the horn of FLW Outdoors. Rather, the format that FLW and the National Guard have put together is simply the best and most convenient for college anglers due to the two biggest hindrances club members face, as relayed to me in their interviews: lack of boats and lack of money. College anglers have neither. Sure, there are schools out there with a dozen anglers with boats, including some impressive rigs owned by anglers who also fish BFL and local team tournament series, but many are simple johnboats or older bass boast, which are perfect for fishing locally but not the best for national tournaments.
Thanks to National Guard FLW College Fishing, no one needs to own a boat. Anglers don’t even need a wad of cash. FLW provides a travel allowance and puts student competitors in Stren Series pros’ boats for tournaments. Many northern schools were especially thrilled with the system. There hadn’t been many opportunities to compete on the national collegiate level for them in the past because of the distance of travel and boat requirements. With divisions closer to home and boats provided, some of that pain has been alleviated.
Another thing I learned is that many of these college anglers are highly skilled, and all are highly motivated. As mentioned, some club anglers across the country are both collegiate competitors and BFL competitors. Most who fit that mold grew up around tournament fishing, and they have fished events with their parents in the past. For those who grew up simply loving the outdoors and fishing, that’s where the motivation comes in. They raise money, volunteer for charities and beat the banks of any water near campus, just happy to be wetting a line.
For those of us in the fishing industry, especially those of us closely linked to bass tournaments, their enthusiasm is reassuring. Enthusiasm is contagious, and college fishing is growing, which means in the next 10 years there will be a wave of recent college graduates hooked on fishing who now have time and money to put back into fishing.
So, if for some reasonthe economy and current state of bass fishing has you down, go visit a college campus, talk to college anglers or take in a National Guard FLW College Fishing weigh-in, because the future is looking good.