March Madness may mean basketball to most college students, but for some spring means hitting the lakes to represent their schools in competitive bass fishing.
The University of Oregon’s team just won the FLW College Fishing Western Conference event on Clear Lake, California, with five bass weighing 28 pounds, 8 ounces. That total was the highest ever for college bass competitors in the Western United States. It was the second highest ever anywhere – the heaviest being a 29.5 pound total owned by the University of Louisiana-Monroe.
The victory earned the U of O club $2,000 and advanced the team to the 2017 FLW College Fishing National Championship.
There are an estimated 610 college bass fishing teams in the United States. Team members can win money for their clubs, but as amateurs not for themselves. But competing can give them a leg up on joining the pros after graduation.
The Oregon team was made up for Ryan Habenicht of Creswell, Oregon and Dan Marshall of Eugene, Oregon.
“To be honest, I didn’t know we had the win until our weight was called,” says Marshall, a senior majoring in business. “To win this event makes a statement about the University of Oregon bass fishing team. It feels absolutely awesome.”
This FLW College Fishing Western Conference event on Clear Lake was the second regular-season qualifying tournament in the Western conference. The next event for Western Conference anglers is scheduled for May 21 on the California Delta in Bethel Island, California.
FLW College Fishing teams compete in regular-season qualifying tournaments in one of five conferences – Central, Northern, Southern, Southeastern and Western. The top ten teams from each division’s three regular-season tournaments and the top 15 teams from the annual FLW College Fishing Open will advance to the 2017 FLW College Fishing National Championship.
The NCAA is not involved in college bass fishing, allowing teams to use sponsorships to their advantage and keep their winnings. College bass fishing consists of mostly club teams, but there are a select few varsity bass fishing programs.
College Fishing is free to enter. All participants must be registered, full-time students at a college, university or community college and members of a college fishing club.