Football, basketball, baseball, soccer and even lacrosse are some sports that some to mind when you think of college athletics. But just because a sport isn’t regulated by the NCAA, doesn’t mean that its competitive edge is any less relevant. As a matter of fact, the fastest growing collegiate sport has nothing to do with the NCAA, and it’s participants are quite content with that.
Believe it or not, the sport is angling, or in layman’s terms, bass fishing. The world of collegiate angling has exploded around the country, with hundreds of colleges and universities of all sizes competing on the same level.
Schools as big as Indiana and Arkansas down to schools you may have never heard of, like Fairmont State and Hardin-Simmons, compete year-round in lakes across the nation for cash prizes that can reach as high as $5000.
Don’t think the University of South Carolina is missing out on the angling craze. The Gamecocks have had a bass fishing club since 2009, but it is just now picking up speed with an influx of new members from last year, all of them freshman.
Sophomore business major Hampton Anderson won the first two high school bass fishing championships in the history of South Carolina (2011, 2012) while attending T.L. Hanna High School in Anderson. Anglers @ USC was only the perfect place to be for am avid angler like Anderson.
“I knew about college angling from my days angling in high school,” Anderson said. “But when I came here me and a bunch of other guys basically took the program over. It’s taken a complete 180 since.”
Anderson has helped “Anglers @ USC” become the organization it is today. His fishing partner, sophomore Josh Rennebaum, said that he was a part of the team before he even enrolled in the University.
“I had contacted the team before I even started attending here,” Rennebaum said. “I had contacted the president and told him that I wanted to be a part of this team. It’s a great opportunity for someone whose been bass fishing their whole life.”
But according to the pair, you don’t have to be an advanced angler to be a part of the organization. Anyone is welcome to join the team, even if you don’t have a boat, rod or reel. Not all of the members of the team are on a competitive basis; a majority of them are casual anglers who just enjoy fishing.
But to the competitive members, this is no casual activity. Sure, some folks can say that calling fishing a “sport” is a bit of a stretch, but according to Rennebaum, it’s all about the work you put into angling that makes it one.
“You have got to put your time on the water if you’re going to be successful,” Rennebaum said. “Lord knows you spend a lot of money too. But you have to know the seasonal feeding patterns, where fish like to gather on the lake, what kind of bait they’re biting and how they want it presented.”
FLW Outdoors is more noted for putting on high stakes professional tournaments that dole out six-figure prizes, stands as one of the governing bodies of collegiate angling. FLW’s college circuit is the biggest in the country, covering 13 states in a span of seven months, and it’s only getting bigger.
But FLW isn’t the only group that will put on tournaments. Other major angling organizations like Bassmaster and Boat U.S. have their own colligate circuits. Even universities will host their own tournaments, like Georgia Southern’s Collegiate Series that runs from February to May and is hosted at five different lakes in three different states.
As big and popular as the sport has become, the University of South Carolina has not taken notice. Anderson says Anglers @ USC has struggled to get any financial support from the school. All they have been able to get is the permission to use the school’s logo on their apparel.
“In a weekend I’ll spend $300 for entry fees and $200 gassing up the boat, and that doesn’t account for the gas I put in my truck to travel,” Anderson said. “Clemson gave their bass fishers a $20,000 grant. We’re the ones on NBC Sports Network and ESPNU representing USC with their logo, but we still don’t get anything.” USC's student Senate requires an organization to be "beneficial" to the student body as a whole. The office of student organizations says that once an organization has met the Senate requirements of being "beneficial" to the student body, then they can start to recieve funding.
The group has been forced to look for sponsors and luckily they have a plethora of fishing companies waiting right here in Columbia. Lew's has been a staple in the fishing business for more than 30 years, and has been one of the biggest supporters of anglers @ USC. The company president Gary Remensnyder says he couldn't be more excited to watch the club grow under his support.
"These boys have got some real up and coming potential," Remensnyder said. "We've always been an advocate of colligiate anlging at Lew's, and the fact that this team is right in our backyard made the relationship fit like a glove."
With continued support and growth, the future for the anglers @ USC is looking bright. With time, maybe they could walk home with a $5,000 prize one day down the road.