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IU Bass Fishing is a little club in a big pond


The IU Bass Fishing Club poses with the Purdue club during a tournament. The club was founded in 1987. Courtesy Photo

Almost everyone who steps foot in Bloomington knows basketball is an important part of IU’s legacy. 

But the University also has a rich history in an unlikely sport: competitive bass fishing.

The IU Bass Fishing Club was founded in 1987, making it the oldest college fishing team in the country, according to the group’s website. For 31 years, club members have competed around the country against other collegiate teams for championship titles and cash prizes.

“We do things of all different levels, whether it just be going out and going to a pond after classes one day or, you know, we do club tournaments, which is more just a fun event,” club president Joe Long said. “It doesn’t really matter your skill level.”     

Long, a senior, said he has fished with his father and grandfather from a young age. He contacted the IU Bass Fishing Club as a freshman after seeing a video of club members fishing.

“I actually had never been in a competitive bass fishing tournament before, and I really didn’t even know it existed,” Long said. 

Bass fisherman — or anglers, as they are also called, because they use an angled fish hook — need to know where the most fish will be located based on the season and the layout of each lake, Long said.

During competitions, teams use these skills to catch their five biggest fish and place them in livewell, a tank with water continuously pumped into it so that the fish can be released after weighing.

He said healthy fisheries mean more bass for anglers to catch later. 

“We’re all about fish care and making sure the fish are healthy,” Long said. 

Long said after seven or eight hours of fishing, the teams present their final five catches for judging. The team with the heaviest overall weight wins.

Two IU club members, Chris Walter and Jacob Gress, qualified for the 2018 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship where they came in 69th place, according to the competition’s website. 

Sophomore Zach McMillan said he never fished competitively until he joined the club freshman year. His first competition was a club tournament last year against other IU members. 

“I didn’t do very well on the first one, but it was a lot of fun nonetheless,” McMillan said.

McMillan said his fishing has gotten better through the tournaments. This summer he renovated his grandfather’s old 16-and-a-half-foot boat, which he said is short for a bass fishing boat. He is storing the boat at a friend’s place during the school year so he can easily go fish on Lake Monroe.

“Hopefully I’ll be able to bring the boat to some of the bigger college tournaments,” McMillan said. “We’ll just have to see.”

McMillan is beginning to become more involved in running the club. Elected treasurer this year, McMillan said he wanted to help the club grow. 

“It’s a lot of fun for me,” McMillan said. “I like being around like-minded fishermen who enjoy the outdoors and enjoy fishing. It’s just good to have a nice group of people to go to.”  

Being in the club has allowed Long to travel around the country and fish in some of the lakes he saw growing up when he would watch professional fishing, he said. His favorite place he has visited is Kentucky Lake.

Long said he plans to compete in local tournaments after he graduates, but he doesn’t plan to compete at a national level. He said entry fees for national tournaments can be several thousand dollars. The IU team has sponsors who pay the fees so students can go for free. 

“I’m trying to take advantage of being able to go to all of these awesome lakes and compete against other colleges while I still can,” Long said. “I’ll definitely miss it.” 

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