April 17, 2013 by Gary Mortenson
(Editor's note: Leading up to the 2013 FLW College Fishing National Championship - slated for April 19-21 on Beaver Lake in Rodgers, Ark. - CollegeFishing.com will publish weekly, in-depth features stories of each of the 25 national championship team qualifiers. At stake in the tournament is a first-place prize package that includes $30,000 in cash, a brand new, Ranger Z-117 bass boat and an automatic berth in the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup.)Club Web site: UCSC Recreational Fishing Club on Facebook Q&A CollegeFishing.com: How were you introduced to fishing? Sam Sayad: My father introduced me to fishing at a young age, but my infatuation with bass fishing began in high school. After entering my first tournament on the California Delta my senior year in high school, I knew I had found my passion. Chris Rhoden: My father got me started when I was young, maybe 4 years old. We used to fish for trout in a stream near my house, and I was hooked from day one. We also went to the Eastern Sierras at least twice each summer, and I could never get enough fishing in. When I was about 7, I got my first copy of Bassmaster magazine and really got into the idea of it all. My friend Mike is a tournament fisherman out of central California, and he's also my father's business partner. Mike took me out on his boat one morning in Castaic, and that was it. I've been splitting my addiction between bass fishing and fly fishing for trout ever since. CollegeFishing.com: What style/method of fishing are you most comfortable with? Sam Sayad: Because I spend most of my time on the Cal Delta, the method I am most comfortable with is power fishing, primarily topwater, flipping and any sort of reaction baits (crankbaits, ChatterBaits, etc). Although, I have realized through the years that it is essential to be versatile to ensure success on various bodies of water. Chris Rhoden: Everyone equates California with big swimbaits, but I never could afford to get into that. I was lucky enough to have grown up on a nearby lake that allowed me to gain a lot of experience flipping and throwing topwater baits. But out of necessity, I had to be decent at finesse fishing when I fished elsewhere. We made our mark at Utah by flipping jigs, and, in general, I'm pretty comfortable with a jig in my hands. I can also fish finesse style if that is what is needed to get a bite. But power fishing is a strength both Sam and I can rely on. CollegeFishing.com: What did it feel like to qualify for the 2013 FLW College Fishing National Championship? How do you plan to prepare for the big event? Sam Sayad: Ecstatic would be the best word to describe my feeling as we qualified for the 2013 FLW College Fishing National Championship. Going into the Regional Qualifier at Utah Lake, I felt as if anything short of qualifying for the National Championship would be a disappointment. Aside from doing homework on the lake, my partner Chris Rhoden and I plan on practicing prior to the tournament. Chris Rhoden: It felt great to qualify, and nerve wracking all at once. We made that final cut by ounces, and when it happened it was just awesome to be in that moment. I think qualifying was made all the better by the fact that Sam and I created the club from the grassroots up. UC Santa Cruz doesn't even have a football team, or much else. Sam, our friend Yoshi, and I basically created the fishing team at UCSC from scratch; and now it's a landmark club boasting a couple dozen members that caters to every type of fishing imaginable. Preparing for nationals will be tough, mostly because of the distance. But we have our ways, and there's plenty of intelligence on Beaver to be found. Getting out there will be the tough part, but I like the odds. I spent part of my college fishing career with a bass club that fished just about every major northern California lake, including some of the best spotted bass water in the states. Sam is a river fisherman of Delta training, and if the bite can be had upriver, I feel pretty confident with him in the boat. Only time and experience will tell, but I think Beaver has a lot potential for us. CollegeFishing.com: Tell us something interesting about yourself that most people wouldn't know. Sam Sayad: I am a Dodgers fan living in Giants country. Chris Rhoden: I'm a member of the USA Fencing Association, and used to fence in competitions during high school.