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By Jared Glover
For business management sophomore Ryan Collins, the club bass fishing team’s president, tournament weekend starts on Friday after class.
He spends Friday night at the bait shop buying bait and tackle, picking up his boat, and getting ready for the tournament.
Saturday mornings begin even earlier. While some students are returning to their dorms, Ryan is leaving for the lake, usually around 3:30 a.m.
After spending all day Saturday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Ryan goes to his hotel room confident he knows what the best setup for the tournament will be.
The tournaments last from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays with the participants being awarded points based on the total weight of their five largest fish.
The club bass fishing team has seen an explosion in interest in recent years, increasing from 18 members last year to 35 people interested this year. Collins attributes this increase to bass fishing being added as a varsity sport at UK, beginning in April. Kentucky is the second state to add bass fishing as a varsity sport in high school, following Illinois, which added it as a sport in 2008.
“A lot of people think we go out to a little pond with bobbers and night crawlers,” Collins said. “In reality, we’re traveling across the United States, competing against some of the nation’s top college anglers.”
The team plans to compete in five tournaments this season. It competes in the Forrest L. Wood series and the College BoatUS series. Last year it finished 11th out of 40 teams at a Forrest L. Wood series tournament at Lake Shelbyville in Illinois and also had two top-10 finishes at College BoatUS tournaments, including one at the Murray State Invitational against 70 other teams at Kentucky Lake in Marion, Ky.
The team’s goal is to qualify for the National Championships, which was held at Pickwick Lake in Sheffield, Ala., and over 200 teams competed.
Like other club sports, the bass fishing team does receive some funding from Student Government, but because of the large costs associated with the sport, most of its funds are raised through sponsorships, which get put on uniforms, and from T-shirt sales.
Despite the costs, the payoffs can be equally high.
First place at Forrest L. Wood tournaments pays $5,000, and the winner of the National Championship is awarded $20,000.
This can help pay for travel expenses, which accumulate with the increasing cost of gas and having to haul a boat to and from tournament locations, which have been as far away as Missouri.
In addition to increased interest, the team has found success on the water. Former club President Brandon Card was the first collegiate angler on the Bass Master Elite pro circuit, and he won the 2012 rookie of the year award, beating out 98 other rookies.
Twelve members of the team competed in a tournament Sept. 9 at Taylorsville Lake in Taylorsville, Ky.
Despite a subpar showing, team members are still enthusiastic about this year.
“It’s going to be a fun season. Hopefully we can get a couple of days when the bite really turns on,” civil engineering sophomore Kris Steele said.
Anyone interested in more information can contact President Ryan Collins at Ryan_Collins51@yahoo.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000282293897, on Twitter @UKBassTeam, or its website, ukbassteam.webs.com.