-Rob Crochet, contributing writer
Devin Millis held his fishing rod firmly, upright in his boat, drifting slowly through the middle of a wide pond. His attention was only half-tuned to calm water, but with a sensitive touch born from years of practice, he felt a small, insistent tug on his line. Reflexively, he jerked the rod back and over his head; a few seconds later, Millis held a floundering bass in his free hand. “The method I use is called ‘finesse fishing,’” he said. “It’s slow and steady. Requires a sensitive touch.”
Millis, a Mississippi native from Mendenhall, came to Mississippi College to play basketball, but an injury forced him to retire. He was not content to do nothing, however, as a self-proclaimed “busybody.” His junior year he decided to join the bass fishing team, and today he competes in tournaments and is in charge of the MC bass fishing club.
“The club learns. It is not as expensive; it is $25, which is not expensive, because it is meant to be enjoyable. The team (costs) around $250, which is a little bit more, but it is worth it in the long run, because you get discounts on clothes and other supplies,” said Millis. “We have speakers who come in and bring stuff and give us little freebies.” He pointed to the lure on the end of his line and said, “In fact, the lures I’m using right now was a gift from Jeff Roberts, a professional bass fisherman.”
Millis will travel with the bass fishing team to Tennessee in May to compete in a College Fishing League Worldwide (FLW) tournament. He expects it to be a well-attended event. “The state record was just caught out of the lake we will fish on, so things are going to get a little crowded,” he said with a snicker. “There will be 200 college guys and about 200 semi-pro guys there.”
“At the Fishing League Worldwide (FLW) tournaments, there is the biggest five fish limit. Say I caught ten fish that weigh one pound. What if there is a two-pounder in there? The two-pounder is going to get weighed with the four biggest one-pounders I have. In this ACA tournament I’m going to, it is the biggest six fish, which can help you out a little bit,” he added.
Millis explained that anglers have different strategies in the tournaments. “Some anglers catch a lot of fish and weigh the biggest ones. Some only go for the big fish, which is typically what you see at these tournaments. Me, I fall into the former group,” he said. “I like to get numbers before size. That’s the most fun for me. After I catch my five or six, then I start looking for the big fish.”
It is a common policy in bass fishing to catch and release in order to preserve the fish population. The Mississippi College fishing team observes this diligently. Jim Turcotte, the vice president of enrollment and student affairs at MC, has served as the team’s advisor for six years and believes that the entire outdoor sports program at MC – including fishing, clay shooting, equestrian, and the new archery team – is committed to conservation. “We want to be able to enjoy the great outdoors with our children and grandchildren one day,” Turcotte said.
The bass fishing program will continue to attract new students to MC from around the Southeast, as it is one of few competitive teams. To Millis, however, the best thing about the team is the people. “I didn’t rush after I left the basketball team,” he said, “and so I was a bit of a loner for a while. Bass fishing gave me a group of people that I could be a part of. Yeah, there’s benefits to being a member; the tournaments, and you get discounts on clothes and fishing gear, but it’s really the people that makes it so good for me.”