More U.S. college campuses than ever before are establishing bass fishing clubs, attracting the attention of college-bound athletes.
There are now 610 bass fishing clubs at campuses across the country, according to FLW Outdoors, an organization that runs pro fishing tournaments and started a college division in 2009. Five years ago, there were only 90, according to Time magazine. But it is not necessarily their love of fishing that’s fueling the growth–it’s the possibility of winning lucrative cash prizes.
Whereas a football or basketball star may generate millions in revenue for his/her school and never see a dime, some collegiate anglers are reaping the monetary rewards. Bass fishing is considered a club sport and doesn’t fall under the NCAA’s regulations which state: “You are not eligible for participation in a sport if you have ever…taken pay, or the promise of pay, for competing in that sport.”
The team that won the FLW national championship in April–the University of Louisiana at Monroe–took home a $27,000 bass boat, $3,000 in cash, and a spot in the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup, Time magazine reports. The winner of that tournament will get $500,000.
Some anglers say they are glad the NCAA is not involved in collegiate fishing.
“We want the NCAA to stay out,” Joe Landry, who fishes for LSU-Shreveport, told Time magazine. “Most schools require that anglers plow earnings from college tournaments back into the club. But they can get individual sponsorships and win cash in non-collegiate tournaments while still fishing for their school.”
Collegiate fishing is becoming so mainstream that some colleges, such as Bethel University, are offering fishing scholarships, Time magazine reports. Some coaches have begun recruiting anglers.
“The students I recruit are coming here to fish,” Bethel University coach Garry Mason told Time magazine. “Just like kids go to Alabama to play football.”