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College Fishing Tips

Big Bite Baits has a long history of supporting and working with high school and college anglers.  Several of our employees have kids that have competed in high school events and have gone on to compete at the collegiate level, with some even receiving scholarships for their angling skills. Our employees have also served as coaches for several different teams, and are extremely supportive of both high school and college fishing.  With all of this in mind, we have compiled some information for high school and college anglers to help make them more successful in their pursuits.

Fishing is a rewarding,  yet challenging sport for most collegiate anglers. It is a balancing act of school and travel for tournaments.   Students deal with absences for practice and tournaments, often times traveling  long distances for events.  Most anglers try to schedule their classes based on the tournament schedule, in order to avoid missing classes and on campus activities.  Often anglers will try to take a lighter schedule or online classes in the spring to help facilitate their tournament travel schedule.  Anglers also try to limit the days of week they are in class to maximize their availability for practice.  Travel, boat,  and tackle expenses can also be challenging on a college budget requiring part time and summer jobs. When looking at joining a college fishing team, anglers and their parents should consider the information they will need and questions they should ask before choosing the university they attend.  Some kids struggle in the transition from high school to college as they are moving from having a boat captain to handling tournaments on their own with a partner.  We highly recommend they start competing in adult trails on their own in local tournaments when possible as high school seniors to assist in this transition.

What do collegiate anglers need?

  • Knowledge
    • Fishing Skills – All anglers should have role models/mentors they can turn to in order to gain fishing skills. Many organizations offer camps and schools.  There are so many online resources available now to gain knowledge.  Anglers should try to fish with a variety of other anglers.
    • Fish Care Skills
      • How to remove hooks properly
      • How to keep their live wells clean
      • How to fizz a deep fish
    • Boat Skills
      • Boater safety training
      • Boater maintenance training (recommend spending time working with a marina or skilled individual so they know how to change engine oil, install accessories, and handle simple maintenance issues while on the water and traveling.)
      • Boat trailering skills (even non boaters need these skills so they can assist their boaters at tournaments)
      • Trolling motor skills
    • Travel Skills
      • Know how to properly pull a trailer long distance (Proper trailer settings, tire pressure, engine tilt and how wide to swing)
      • Know how to change a tire on both vehicle and boat trailer.
      • Map skills
      • Know how to book hotel rooms
      • Know how to read lake maps and have maps for all lakes in case electronics fail.
    • Electronic Skills – know the proper settings and mapping skills for your units.
    • Tournament Rules – Read all tournament rules as different trails and lakes will have different:
      • Off limit zones and days/times
      • Information sharing rules
      • Minimum length per species
      • Dead fish penalties
      • Life jacket requirements
      • Culling rules
      • Bait/hook limitations
  • Equipment
    • Rods and Reels – recommend a minimum of six in order to cover these techniques
      • Topwater
      • Flipping / punching
      • Dropshot / finesse – spinning combo
      • Jerkbait/mid depth crank
      • Deep Crank/swimbait
      • Deep jig/worm
    • Baits – recommend keeping at minimum a one week supply of favorite baits in multiply colors to cover water clarity and limit 4-6 boxes in the boat at one time.
    • Fishing line – keep extra for respooling before and during tournaments
      • Fluorocarbon – 8lb, 12lb, 16lb & 20lb
      • Nylon –  12lb, 16lb
      • Braid -12lb, 16lb, 30lb, 50lb, 60lb
    • Electronics – depthfinders/fishfinders
    • Proper clothing and Outerwear
      • Rain suits for the inclement weather
      • Cold weather gear
      • Hats and Buffs
      • Gloves
    • Fishing licenses and/or boating licenses for all states they will fish.
    • Life jackets (some tournament require specific jackets so have all types required)
    • Sunscreen
    • Weigh bag
    • Nets
    • Non puncturing cull tags
    • Scales and/or cull beam
    • Pliers
    • Scissors/line cutters
    • First Aid kit
    • Laptop for working on assignments while traveling and research
    • Hauling vehicle in good working condition with storage capacity for equipment.
    • Spare boat parts: prop, trolling motor prop, battery, fuses, extra oil, boat light
    • Spare tires and equipment such as Wench, tire wrench, fix a flat or air compresors, ball bearing grease
    • Tools for on the water and at the hotel repair
      • Wrenches
      • Variety of screwdrivers
      • Funnel
      • Extension cords with splitters (waterproof)
      • Battery charger
      • Jumper cables
      • Small plastic line for breaking up clogs

Students moving on to college look at a number of considerations when choosing the right school for their situation. They look at the what the school offers for their area of study and future profession as well as athletics, lifestyle, living conditions or other.  What a college offers to anglers is now a consideration for students looking to choose a college.  Here is a list of things to consider when looking at college fishing teams:

  • What type of University support does the team have?  Most college teams fall into 3 types:
    • Varsity team: 
      • Headed by faculty coach
      • Treated as varsity sport with absences allowed for competition
      • Financial support from university which may include boats or boat storage facilities.
      • Scholarships
    • University Club:
      • Headed by student with oversight by Faculty Advisor.
      • Treated as club on campus and may have absences for competition granted through faculty advisor.
      • Minimal financial support by university with other funding coming from sponsors and fundraisers.
      • Possible partial scholarships
    • Student Ran Club:
      • Headed by students elected by club.
      • No special consideration for absences for competition.
      • All financial support generated by students through sponsorships and fundraisers.
      • Only academic scholarships.
  • What tournament trails does the team fish and how are the anglers selected for each event? 
    • With national options from BASS, FLW, and Collegiate Bass along with numerous other regional and state options, it is important to know where the team might travel and how many events they will be expected to fish during the school year.
    • Most anglers love to compete often, but some can’t handle missing too many classes needed for both practice and competition without their grades being impacted. 
    • School absences become even more challenging with long distance tournaments.
    • Will the team be limited to only a few tournaments a year with only a select few competing or will the whole team be able to participate?
  • How are partners chosen at the school? 
    • Anglers choose their own partners
    • Partners selected by coach
    • Partners selected by a points system or performance in qualifiers
    • Partners selected by boat/non boater need.
  • Is there safe and insured boat storage available and if not how expensive is this in the area?
    • Student boats come in a wide range of models and values, but most now contain expensive equipment and tackle that the anglers have pieced together over time.  While some universities provide storage for student anglers its important to make sure these facilities are in a safe area with adequate security and insurance to deter theft. 
    • You can’t park a boat at a dorm, so a majority of anglers at universities that don’t provide storage are left to rent storage units or rent houses off campus with garage storage.  Often this adds to college expenses.
  • What is the team’s policy on travel and boat expenses?  Are expenses covered for both tournament and practice or only tournament days?
    • Full expense – Some schools pay hotel, meals, gas and oil expense.
    • Partial expense – Other schools only offer a specific amount for gas and oil expense per tournament or day
    • Club support – Most clubs which do a good job with their fundraisers will allot funds to help with travel expense.
    • Split expense – For schools that do not provide expense support some do require non boaters to pitch in for gas, oil and other general maintenance
    • Boaters expense – Unfortunately, some clubs do not have expense rules in which case all the gas and other related expenses fall to the boater.

Preston Kendrick, a senior at Bryan College, is a successful student angler planning to graduate with a degree in business marketing.  He provides his perspective on his college experience. “When making my college decision as a high school student, I based my decision off of what college would fit me best and give me the best opportunity for a future in bass fishing while gaining knowledge in business marketing, which is a good degree to have in the fishing industry”, said Kendrick. 

“There is not a doubt in my mind that college fishing has caused me to be a better angler, and there are many factors that have contributed to this. One of the best opportunities I have at Bryan College is being within walking distance of Lake Chickamauga. Anyone that knows anything about bass fishing is aware that Lake Chickamauga is capable of producing giant bass. My teammates and I often go fishing after class, and I have learned a lot just by fishing with different people on my team. Anytime a professional fisherman is asked what advice they would give high school and college kids that want to get better at fishing, I always hear the same answer: Spend as much time as you can on the water and fish with as many different people as you can. I have learned that doing these two things will improve someone as a fisherman more than anything.

Another thing that has caused me to be a better angler in college is the competition itself. When you are fishing against some of the best young adult fishermen in the world, you know you have to catch them to compete. I learned pretty early in my college fishing career that these guys don’t mess around. Every college fisherman has the same dream to become a professional fisherman as everyone else does; it is just about who wants it more. Bass fishing is a sport that you can easily get discouraged, and many people let that cause them to lose sight of their dream. I have learned that having a good attitude is the most important thing in not just bass fishing, but life in general. A negative attitude can weigh you down in life, and will cause you to lose every time. However, I am not saying that it is good to be satisfied with your performance every time because I am never satisfied until I win, just as every competitor should feel.

God has truly blessed me in my college fishing career and many opportunities have been opening up for me lately that I am truly thankful for. My partner, Bailey Fain, and I won the 2020 Boat U.S. Collegiate Bass Fishing National Championship on Pickwick Lake. This was only our fourth tournament that we have fished together, and God has truly blessed us this year as we also had a 7th place finish at the Bassmaster College Series on Smith Lake in February which qualified us for the Bassmaster College National Championship scheduled for October 29-31. Bailey and I also had the honor to weigh in on the biggest stage in bass fishing for the Bassmaster College Classic in Birmingham back in March.

Preston Kendrick and Bailey Fain, Collegiate Bass Fishing National Champions

Our team as a whole has had a lot of success over the years, but this past year has been special. This year alone, our team has had a top 10 finish in every tournament we have competed in. The support that our team gives each other for every tournament really shows the brotherhood that we are part of, and I am thankful for it. We really push each other to be better anglers, as teammates should do. While I am grateful for the success that God has blessed me with, I still have a lot to learn. For my last year of college fishing, my goal is to learn as much as I can from my teammates and competitors, build as many relationships as I can with other anglers and people in the fishing industry, and soak up every moment in the opportunities that I am given.” concluded Kendrick.

Big Bite has special purchase programs available for college students. Visit us at bigbitebaits.com/sponsorship for more details on our student angler programs.

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