Posted on March 18, 2010 at 12:07 AM
In an area where fishing is a way of life for many, wouldn't it be unbelievable to be able pay your way through college on a bass fishing scholarship?
And no, this is not some sort of a joke.
With some help from the Association of College Anglers, youngsters who have been bitten by the bass fishing bug may get the opportunity to fund their college tuition by bass fishing.
"We have scholarships for wins, and major fishing companies also offer scholarships based on wins and even essays written by anglers," said Wade Middleton, tournament director for the ACA.
And just how did all this come about?
"Five years ago, we got in contact with about 40 schools that had loosely defined fishing clubs," Middleton said. "We now have 200 teams. It has grown like wildfire. Students see our events on television and then e-mail us wanting to know how to get a club started at their school."
The wildfire has certainly caught on here in the Sportsman's Paradise. Thus far LSU, Northwestern State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana Tech and LSU-Shreveport have bass teams.
"We've got a strong following in the mid-South area," Middleton said. "It's a hotbed for the majority of teams."
Blake Carrier of Oberlin, and Logan Mount of Leesville, who are both students at LSU and members of the school's bass team, recently celebrated their second-place finish at the ACA event at the National Guard FLW stop at Falcon Lake in Texas. They caught their six-fish, 28.13-pound stringer on crankbaits.
"This the second year of the bass club at LSU," Carrier said. "We had a group of students with common interest in fishing, and one of us found out about the ACA on the Internet. Then we got in touch with LSU and ACA to see what we had to do to get the club started."
And it grew from there.
"It was easy to get the club going. We had 12 members the first year, and now we have 18 members with more people interested in joining next year," Carrier said. "We've gotten e-mails and Facebook comments on the club. People want to know more about getting clubs started at their schools."
In addition to getting to do something that he's done since he was old enough to hold a pole, Carrier and other club members get to learn about fishing in other parts of the country.
"We get to meet lots of students from many other states," Carrier said. "We met some students from Wisconsin, and they told us about fishing techniques we had never even heard of."
Half of he club's winnings go back to fund the club and the rest goes to LSU for a student aid fund for scholarships.
"LSU is happy with our efforts and getting money to the school," Carrier said. "They always tell us thanks for that."
Middleton predicts good things for the association's future.
"Ten years from now, I think this will be huge," Middleton said. "It's a sport you can participate in despite what kind of physical shape you're in, and that gives it a large appeal. We have five nationally televised events for this year."
And Louisiana may soon find itself in the collegiate bass fishing spotlight as well.
"The Red River is also being eyed as a possible spot for a future ACA event in Louisiana," Middleton said.
More on ACA: http://www.collegiatebasschampionship.com
AP Louisiana Outdoor Writers Exchange