By Matthew Sigur | LSU Student
Louisiana State University hasn't had a stellar spring semester so far. Budget cuts continue between celebrations for the school's 150th anniversary. The men's basketball team has failed to compete after last year's run. Even the women's basketball team, a usual suspect in the NCAA tournament, currently is out of the Top 25.
Yet, there is one future bright spot on campus: the fishing club.
Without university funding, a group of 16 students have performed well in various tournaments over a two-year period in a fast-growing college sport.
This January, 20-year-old wildlife ecology major Logan Mount and 22-year-old animal science major Blake Carrier won $5,000 for placing second at the Falcon Lake tournament in Zapata, Texas. Last year, the team won $6,000. Half of that money goes back to the university, said club president and Donaldsonville, La., native Tim Morris.
"It would please me to see the university sponsor us," said Morris, 21. "So far, they haven't done much of anything. Other universities back their teams."
To become an official team, Morris said, the club would only need some loose change. "We're talking about just enough to cover our travel expenses and hotel rooms. We have sponsors for our gear."
Those sponsors include Tacklewarehouse.com, Louisiana Sportsman and Hags Tornado.
When requesting University backing, "the University told us they couldn't sponsor us because of budget cuts," Morris said.
Though LSU's administration has declined financial help to the fishing club, Morris acknowledges the team is young and college fishing competition is less than 10 years old.
Carrier, who grew up in Oberlin, La., catching catfish with his grandfather, said the experience has been surreal. Like Morris, Carrier thinks that with time, the club will get the attention it deserves.
"We don't have the long résumé that other schools have," Carrier said. "We've got a little bit of a hill to climb. The potential is there. Bass fishing is growing, especially in the college ranks."
Mount, from Leesville, La., founded the club with Carrier's help. Mount said he knows what the club is winning is small, but it's a way to give back.
"I know LSU football brings in a lot of money, but we're bringing in $2,500 (from our last win)," Mount said. "If we win a regional tournament, we'll be giving $25,000 back to the university."
To place at the competition, the college anglers take the five or six best fish they catch on the line. The fish are then weighed. The team with highest weight total wins the prize.
"You have to judge which fish is better than the other," Mount said. "Sometimes, it comes down to ounces."
Carrier and Mount are the brightest spots on the team, Morris said. Now, the team is doing all the prep-work. In April, the team will have another chance to win some money at the Lake Tyler competition at Tyler, Texas.
"You have to do your homework," Carrier said, citing the team's use of topographical maps. "We have to find places you think bass might be. A lot of it is a mental game. We do a lot preparation beforehand, then you execute."
College fishing requires a two-man team. Mount and Carrier are LSU's top anglers. To catch the biggest bass, they have to feel out the waters. They need chemistry on the waters.
"We're not terribly different, style-wise," Carrier said. "Logan (Mount) is quicker to change tactics. I'm more hardheaded.
"Guys can't catch fish because they have different styles of fishing," Mount said. "We think alike. We power fish. We want reaction strikes; that's our specialty. On tournament day, you only have so much time…so, the more time you're fishing, the more chance you have to win."
Carrier, Mount and Morris know the obstacles in front of them, but they would like to return to campus to see a successful fishing program backed by the university.
"Hopefully, in the next 10 years, if it keeps growing like it's growing now…it should be recognized. There should be scholarships awarded," Mount said.
This type of recognition would be the ultimate validation to Carrier. "It would make me feel like I was on top of the world."