Back Story: In the heart of the Rockies, tournament dreams persist

University of Wyoming student Tyler Stingley is the founder of the Cowboy bass club.

If you stepped outside Tyler Stingley's house and looked around, this is what you'd see: Toward the west, the Absaroka Range of the Rocky Mountains hang like smoke on the far side of a rippling ocean of hills; to the east loom the snowcapped Bighorn Mountains with their green skirt of lodgepole pines; north and south, a vast plain checkerboarded by verdant farmlands and barren badlands stretches beyond sight in either direction. What you wouldn't see is a bass lake or anything that comes close to satisfying that description, because the nearest, Montana's Bighorn Lake, is 37 miles from Stingley's hometown of Powell, Wyoming. Not that Stingley could fish it, but the stock pond that produced the state-record largemouth of 7 pounds, 14 ounces in 1992 is 120 miles away on the far side of the Bighorns. Flaming Gorge Reservoir, where the Wyoming record smallmouth of 5-15 was caught in 2003, is a six-hour drive to the southwest for him. Such as these qualify as bass lakes in Wyoming, where just about everybody would rather fish for trout or walleyes. Stingley is one of the few exceptions. A senior at the University of Wyoming in Laramie and founder of the school's bass club, Stingley is determined to fish bass tournaments and the inconvenience of not having bass close by to practice on won't stop him. University of Wyoming student Taylor Armstrong holds up three largemouth bass. His fellow club members are of like mind, which is why three of them will soon join Stingley in a 22-hour drive to the California Delta to fish a one-day FLW College Fishing Tournament. It's their last shot at qualifying for the Western Conference Invitational, where the top 15 Western clubs will fish for the chance to be one of the five teams that will advance to next year's FLW National College Fishing Championship. The odds don't favor the Cowboys. For a variety of reasons, including winter weather, the 11-member University of Wyoming Bass Club couldn't send a team to compete in the first tournament of the year at Lake Oroville in California. Then, at Lake Roosevelt, Taylor Armstrong and Michael Barbero finished 22nd. They might have finished higher, recalls Armstrong, except he lost a big smallmouth at the boat. An Army brat, Armstrong comes closer to being a veteran bass fisherman than anyone else on the team. He never lived anywhere for long, but three years of his life were spent in Alabama, where people know something about bass, and where people also know there are worse things for a youngster to do than fish. "My mom worked with a retired policeman named Bobby Cantrell and he started me out fishing for bass at Lake Guntersville. He would take me fishing just about every weekend beginning when I was 13," says Armstrong. "That's where I got started. I loved it, and when we moved again, to New Jersey, an active-duty Army guy named Vinson Morris would take me fishing. In fact, we fished some tournaments." Eventually, Armstrong's family wound up in Ft. Collins, Colo., on the Front Range of the Rockies between Denver and Cheyenne. When it came time to pick a college, he took a pass on Colorado State, which his parents attended, and instead chose the University of Wyoming. While exploring on the internet one day, Armstrong came across details about the school's bass club and followed the leads to Stingley. University of Wyoming student Tyler Stingley holds up a nice smallmouth.Like most of the other members of the club, Tyler Stingley's upbringing was more traditional than Armstrong's. He grew up in Powell, as did his high school buddy and fellow club member Tyler Webber. "Everything about Powell is agriculture," notes Stingley. "But the farm I worked on as a kid is probably the only farm in Wyoming that raised cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli instead of corn and soybeans. We cut it by hand with machetes and shipped it all over the country." When they weren't farming, Tyler and his father, Kent, spent summer days bass fishing, albeit at a distant lake such as Bighorn or Tongue River Reservoir, about 125 miles away. It was on such waters that Tyler developed a skill for catching smallmouth bass, and gradually he and his father started fishing tournaments. "Dad was the only person I knew who was interested in bass fishing, and I became interested in bass fishing," notes Tyler. "It went further with me, though. By the time I got into high school, I was reading every magazine about bass fishing and tournaments I could find, and watching all the bass fishing TV shows. I thought, wow, this is about as cool as it gets." FLW started its college fishing program in 2009, when Stingley was a high school senior, but by the time he entered his freshman year at the University of Wyoming he was laying plans for a competitive bass club. "When I was trying to figure out where I was going to college, people told me to go to a school where I could get involved in something beyond classes," says Stingley. "I wasn't interested in joining an agricultural club, even though I'm basically a farm boy. I wanted to be a part of something that I could help start and grow. "That's kind of how the bass club came to be. It took some arm-twisting to get members at first. It took a couple of years, but we were registered with the FLW as of April 2012," adds Stingley. "We couldn't get everything together in time to send anybody to a tournament last year, but this year we flew the two guys down to Roosevelt and they made a good showing. We've got two challenges that are always there - lack of fishing opportunity, and funding. There are a few good lakes down around Ft. Collins, but it's not the same as having fishing close and not having to burn a lot of gas." Phil Weber, a math professor at the university, is the Cowboys' advisor. Otherwise, the Cowboys are pretty much on their own as far as covering expenses and competing in tournaments. To raise funds, the club sells team t-shirts through its Facebook page (www.facebook.com/WyomingBassFishing Team). The shirts show the outline of a cowboy with a lasso on the back of a bucking bass. According to Stingley, the club also has received "substantial donations" from its principal sponsor, Harvest Meats of Denver. In fits and starts, then, the University of Wyoming Bass Club began and is now making progress. This spring, the club's greatest ambition is to reach the Western Conference Invitational at Clear Lake in California, much less actually place high enough in it to win a berth in the national championship. There's something to be said for people who strive for goals that are usually beyond their grasp. Come to think of it, though, that fits the description of any tournament angler. And members of the University of Wyoming Bass Club are typical in that regard, no matter how unsupportive their locale is, no matter how far they have to travel to find bass.

Tags: blog  colin-moore 

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Blog: I’m Hooked

When I was 10 years old I could only dream about being a professional fisherman. I would spend all my time outdoors playing sports, hunting and fishing. Then, in high school, I competed in my first bass tournament and I was hooked. From that moment, my goal was to become a professional angler some day. Now, almost three decades later, after much hard work and dedication I’m competing in the 2015 Walmart FLW Tour. And I’m more excited than ever. READ MORE »

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Blog: The First Time

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Blog: What Might Have Been at Eufaula

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Shallow, Deep and in Between at Eufaula

A couple of weeks ago Eufaula was high and off-color, and the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Quaker State that begins this morning was shaping up to be a shallow-water showdown. The lake has fallen by a couple of inches since then, however, and now the odds are even that both inshore and offshore patterns will be in play. In fact, one Eufaula expert who isn’t fishing the tournament expects it will take a mixture of patterns to make it to Sunday’s championship round and claim the $100,000 that goes to the winner. READ MORE »

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Blog: Frogging of a Different Kind

As a bass fisherman, I have a special feeling for that time of year when I can start fishing a frog again. I’m not sure if the rush of adrenaline I feel is from that first explosion when a bass crashes the frog, or the anticipation of it. Whatever it is, I love it! READ MORE »

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Strader Maintains Lead At Halfway Mark

Midway through the 2015 Walmart FLW Tour, Tennessee pro Wes Strader is in first place in the Angler of the Year race, and his prospects for winning it are as good as anyone’s. Two upcoming events, at lakes Eufaula and Chickamauga, “fish” in a way that suits his style, and he has a good track record on the Potomac River, the last Tour stop of 2015. A good finishing kick could earn the veteran his first AOY title. READ MORE »

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Top 10 Patterns From Kentucky Lake

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Redington Rallies at Kentucky Lake

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Readhimer Goes One for One at Kentucky Lake

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Kentucky Lake Rayovac Day Three Midday Report

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Top 5 Patterns From Day 2 at Kentucky Lake

Randy Haynes hasn’t won yet, but his leapfrogging from fifth to first on day two of the Rayovac FLW Series Central Division event presented by Evinrude on Kentucky Lake was more than a little reminiscent of his victory in 2014. In that tournament, which took place in late May, Haynes was third after the second round behind Jason Lambert and Brandon Hunter, respectively. READ MORE »

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Haynes Leads on Kentucky

This time last year, Randy Haynes was poised to win the Rayovac FLW Series tournament on Kentucky Lake, which took place out of Kenlake State Park. This year, the event is headquartered at Moors Resort & Marina farther up the lake, but otherwise everything else is pretty much the same. READ MORE »

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Kentucky Lake Rayovac Midday Report: Day Two

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Redington Leads On Kentucky Lake

Tom Redington of Royse City, Texas grabbed the day-one lead in the Rayovac FLW Series Central Division event presented by Evinrude on Kentucky Lake with a five-fish limit that totaled 24 pounds, 13 ounces. Redington has a 1-ounce lead over Chris Blackwell of Clarksville, Tenn., while Brandon Hunter of Benton, Ky., is third with 22-10. READ MORE »

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Kentucky Lake Top 5 Patterns

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Kentucky Lake Rayovac Midday Report: Day One

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In or Out on Kentucky Lake

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Tornadoes Sweep Across Oklahoma

2014 Rayovac FLW Series Champion Zack Birge, whose appears in the Central Division Tournament on Kentucky Lake was cut short by tornados at his home town in Oklahoma, characterized the damage to his house as “a near miss.” READ MORE »

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Blog: Make a Plan and Work the Plan

I’m not going to sugarcoat it: I’m bombarded with an array of emotions and a new to-do list every day. I’m not good enough. I don’t have the money. Make a Facebook post. Call mom. I don’t have enough time. I’m too tired. I’ll be treated poorly. Rig rods. Do sponsor work. People won’t like me. My son will miss me. I’ll miss my family. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-05-kentucky-lake-could-be-tough

Kentucky Lake Could be Tough

Bass at the center of everyone’s attention in the Rayovac FLW Series event on Kentucky Lake next weekend might not know whether they’re coming or going when the tournament kicks off. READ MORE »