NC State has a fishing team. Actually, a huge and increasing number of schools do, but few have been as successful as the NC State Basspack. Now most Wolfpack fans are at least aware of the success of the bass fishing team, so here we’re going to take a deeper look at what the Basspack does and the rapidly growing sport of college fishing.
So what is a fishing tournament? How do these things actually work? The tournament is won by the guy who catches the largest collective weight of up to five bass. Once you catch your limit of five, you can begin throwing back the smallest ones and replacing them with bigger ones. At the end of the day the fish are brought back to the boat ramp, weighed, and then released. Every major tournament is going to be in this typical format.
The amount of schools that have college fishing teams is bigger than many might suspect. Florida State, Louisville, Virginia Tech, ECU, UNC-Greensboro, UNC-Charlotte, Appalachian State, Western Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi State, Auburn, Alabama, Oklahoma State, and Texas A&M are just a small handful of the major universities that compete on a national level. There’s also plenty of smaller schools that have competitive teams, with names like Ramapo College, Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Campbellsville University, and Christopher Newport being a few that come to mind. BassRankings.com, a website that uses some funky math number algorithm thing to rank fishing teams, has had schools like Ramapo and Young Harris College as the top team in the nation. A lot of familiar faces to college sports fans are at the top of college fishing, but plenty of tiny colleges are just as competitive.
There isn’t one governing body for college fishing. It’s a club sport, so it isn’t part of the NCAA, which is a really really good thing. Teams gain a lot from interacting with and collecting sponsors, and the NCAA probably isn’t having any of that. So there isn’t an NCAA-like overlord, but there are three organizations that put on national events. B.A.S.S., which stands for the Bass Angler Sportsman Society (they really wanted their initials to spell bass), is the most well-known and arguably the most prestigious. FLW and Boat U.S. also host a national championship event of their own. NC State has three of these national championships in 2006, 2009, and 2012.
The reason B.A.S.S. is the most prestigious is because of the Bassmaster Classic. You know all the professional fishing dudes you see on TV from time to time? This is their biggest event. It’s the Super Bowl of bass fishing and every year one college kid qualifies for it. It’s a rather new feature, and that one kid has yet to come from NC State. Stephen F. Austin, Auburn twice (they were brothers), and most recently Minnesota have sent an angler to the Classic.
It’s a long trail to get there and it starts with one of several regional tournaments that anybody is eligible to attend. State is in the Eastern region and their regional was on the James River in Virginia this year. The Pack sent five teams (two people fishing together on one boat) to the James and one finished high enough to qualify for the national championship on Green River Lake, Kentucky. After a national champion is crowned, the top four teams are divided into eight individuals and they fish in an elite eight style bracket to determine who gets to the Classic. It is, at least in my opinion, the coolest thing about college fishing that a random kid who may not even have a boat can fish his way to the sport’s biggest event.
Each university’s club can operate differently, but the Basspack’s club tournament season consists of six tournaments, with the first three in the spring semester and the last three in the fall semester. The top six in points qualify for a different national championship, which is the Boat U.S. one. This year’s was on Pickwick Lake, Alabama and was won by Auburn. The intra-club tournaments take place at the local lakes such as Falls, Shearon Harris (no, there are not nuclear fish in Shearon Harris) and Jordan Lake, which according to most people is a total dump, and by most people I mean me. Other North Carolina lakes like Hyco, Kerr, Gaston, and Norman fill out the rest of the schedule.
The Basspack doesn’t have tryouts or anything like that. Anybody who wants to be on the team can be and you can get out of college fishing whenever you want to. If you want to chase a career in professional fishing, college fishing is a great launchpad for that. If you’re just looking to fish a little, be part of an organization, and possibly hold a leadership position, then it’s a great place to do that as well.
The Basspack’s club tournament season is halfway over and will resume for the final three tournaments in September. You can follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Also check us on our official website Basspack.org
The B.A.S.S. College National Championship is just over the horizon on July 28-30 and you can follow the Pack’s chase for another title at Bassmaster.com
Here are some other college fishing links: