Spinner baits, Texas rigs, buzz baits, and jigs. These are only a few of the terms that make up the foreign language of bass fishing. Far from the days of putting a worm on a hook and watching the classic red and white bobber dip below the surface, bass fishing has evolved into a multimillion dollar sport.
Just like any other athletic competition, tournament bass fishing requires skill, knowledge, timing, technique, endurance, and finesse. Bass fishing is very similar in many aspects to more common sports.
There are professionals that get paid millions of dollars and amateurs that are competing to be invited to the professional circuit. Also there are colleges battling for prize money and scholarships, and even high schools competing state wide.
Started in fall 2010, Mississippi College’s Bass Fishing Club is in its fourth year on campus. Started by Randall Miller and Grant Phillips, the club and team have grown to 40 and 10 members, respectively. The club’s sponsor is Bryan Hayes, a professor in MC’s School of Business.
The MC Bass Fishing Club is the most popular and laid back option; at $30 per semester, it is extremely affordable for college students. The benefits of the club far out weigh the dues.
“The [Bass] club is an opportunity for someone to take their skills to the next level, even if they have never fished before,” said Will Hedgepeth, bass fishing club and team president.
This year, each club member receives a club t-shirt and a club visor. On top of that, members enjoy free baits from Mississippi College’s multiple sponsors and have the opportunity to participate in club fishing days.
These fishing days take place at local ponds and give students an opportunity to experiment with different lures, build friendships with other team members, and learn from the more experienced fishermen.
If you are a more serious fisherman, the Mississippi College Bass Fishing Team is a better choice for you. At $250 per semester, it is much more expensive, but easily worth it.
In addition to all the previously stated benefits, the team members have multiple opportunities to practice at Mississippi College’s top tier training facility, Providence Hill Farms.
Each guided day of fishing on these premier facilities for an outsider is valued at $500. The team has approximately four practices out at Providence which immediately compensates for the cost of the dues.
Jim Turcotte, vice president for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, has been an instrumental part contributing the facilities’ world class status. Providence Hill offers F1 series bass that have been known to grow up to 12 lbs. When asked what makes Providence Hill special, Will Hedgepeth cracked a wide grin.
“On any given day, in any conditions, you can go out there and have the best fishing day of your life, no matter who you are. They take care of the fish out there better than I have ever seen anywhere else,” Hedgepeth explained, “It is a magical place to fish.”
Furthermore, team members fish in the FLW College series. “The FLW is the Southeastern Conference for collegiate fishing, we fish against any Division I school in the SEC, and smaller schools in the southeast,” said Hedgepeth.
Last year, teams that competed in the Southeastern tournaments included the University of Alabama, Auburn University, Mississippi State University, University of Tennessee, and Florida State University, just to name a few.
There is no Division III for bass fishing; small and large schools alike all compete against each other for cash prizes of up to $25,000 and even a boat.
An immeasurable resource that both the club and team have access to is Webb Collums. “Coach Webb,” as he is commonly referred to, is a 1995 graduate of Mississippi College, bass fishing coach, and professional bass fisherman.
Collums has competed in the EverStart Series, a professional bass fishing series associated with the FLW. He has won several tournaments over the years, and enjoys teaching both MC’s fishing club and team.
A constant pool of knowledge and expertise to students, Webb helps all members of both the club and the team understand and experience the true sport of bass fishing.
Every year, there is some new bait, technique, or rig that is guaranteed to catch the biggest bass you have ever seen; however, as a fisherman it is your job to sort through all this and find out what actually catches fish. It is a constant cycle of trial and error, education, and experience.
A common question asked of bass fishing is, “Isn’t fishing just luck?” Joe Bucher, a professional fisherman who made a healthy living off catching record breaking fish, once said, “The more you know, the luckier you get.”
– Andrew Smedley, Contributing Writer