UPCOMING EVENT: Walmart Bass Fishing League - 2015 - Lake Sinclair

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 


Inaugural FLW Canada Tournament

It’s official: FLW Canada is the first organization to hold a tournament under the auspices of the new FLW international partnership. FLW Canada held its inaugural event, which also was its championship tournament, Sept. 18-20 on Big Rideau Lake near Smith Falls, Ontario. READ MORE »


McDonald Family Battles Breast Cancer

Candy and Billy, the Walmart FLW Tour pro, found out Candy had breast cancer in July, between the final Tour event on the Potomac and the day they left for the ICAST fishing tackle show in Orlando. READ MORE »


How to Catch Big Fall Smallmouths

What's the best time of year to catch lots of big smallmouth bass in the northern United States? Well, get ready, because it's going to happen in the next couple of weeks and continue until the lakes freeze solid. And the best part about it is that often times you will have entire lakes to yourself since most anglers switch gears and start their hunting seasons, leaving the lakes almost completely void of pressure. READ MORE »


First B.A.S.S. TD Passes

Tournament fishing pioneer Harold Sharp is dead at the age of 88. Sharp died peacefully Thursday morning, surrounded by his family at home in Hixson, Tenn., near Chattanooga. READ MORE »


Weekend Angler: Off the Water Practice

Of all the excuses I hear fisherman use when it comes to fishing tournaments, the one that intrigues me the most is, "I haven't been out that much, so I couldn't practice." There is no substitute for time on the water – that is not debatable – but there are things that can be done to assist you in your weekend efforts if you can’t spend every free moment on the water. Below you’ll find just a few tips to hopefully help you become a more efficient angler. READ MORE »


The Good Ol' Days

It’s hard to believe that the dog days of summer will soon be coming to an end, seen in the shortening of days and frigid mornings. For some, fall means hanging up the rods and picking up the bow or shotgun in preparation for the upcoming hunting seasons – for others, falling water temps signify hungry bass stocking up for the descending metabolism of winter. READ MORE »


Strader and Smith Win NoogaStrong

Even Lake Chickamauga seemed to be in a giving Saturday as it served up its late-summer best for anglers in the NoogaStrong Memorial Bass Tournament out of Dayton. Though fishing on the Tennessee River chain typically enters the doldrums in early September, the winning stringer of 21 pounds, 1 ounce brought in by Walmart FLW Tour pro Wesley Strader and his partner, Cary Smith, proved it’s not set in stone. READ MORE »


Knight Breaks Foot, But Plans To Fish

The Tennessee pro broke his right foot Thursday evening as he was preparing to fix a flat tire on his boat trailer in preparation for practicing on the lake Friday morning. The rear tire of the tandem rig was flat, and Knight was holding a chunk of wood in place ahead of the front tire when the accident happened. His wife Becky was driving his truck with trailer attached and Knight asked her to pull up so that the front tire would climb the chunk and the flat rear tied would be suspended. The front tire fell off the chunk, however, and onto Knight’s foot. READ MORE »


Frog fishing 101

People often ask me about what frog I use and when. It’s a good question, because there are many, many frogs available to anglers these days. The answer depends on the situation you expect to encounter. READ MORE »


A Fisherman or Fisher of Men?

It was a series of ups, downs and way downs, though I ended my season with a nice check at the Potomac River. I thought squaring off against a prehistoric reptile in its own backyard was tough, but I have to tell you that fishing against these FLW guys was tougher than dealing with alligators back home. READ MORE »


Rhinos, Bass and Great White Sharks

Tournament fishing in South Africa is pretty solid, with about 500 serious tournament anglers in the country. There are many more recreational anglers in the region too. READ MORE »


Getting Whipped by the Young Bucks

It really goes against all logic, but logic flew out the window again at the recent Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita. Take the example of Brandon Cobb and Dion Hibdon. Cobb, at the tender age of 25, not only qualified for the Cup (the most difficult championship in the world to qualify for, much less win), but he finished in the top five. READ MORE »


SOAR Derby a Success

Be it children or adults, we all want others to be able to experience the pure joy that we feel when hooked up and battling a fish that we have worked so hard for. READ MORE »


2015 Forrest Wood Cup Off and Running

If the fishing matches the weather on the opening day of the 2015 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita, there will be plenty of limit stringers brought to the scales in Hot Springs’ Bank of the Ozarks Arena when the weigh-in commences at 5 p.m. Up until a couple of weather forecasts ago, anglers were anticipating hot, miserable weather during all four days of this, the crowning event of the Walmart FLW Tour season, which is hosted by Visit Hot Springs and the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. Passing thunderstorms Tuesday afternoon brought a pleasant respite to the sultry heat, however, and now Cup contenders only have sulking bass to contend with as they vie for tournament fishing’s richest prize: a winner’s purse of $500,000. READ MORE »


Peter T is Back on Track

Quick, who was the first Walmart FLW Tour Angler of the Year? If you answered Peter Thliveros, give yourself a pat on the back. Peter T, as he’s more commonly known, led the pack in 1996, the year FLW burst onto the national bass tournament stage. Three years later, Thliveros had another stellar season and finished fourth in the annual standings. In fact, the Florida pro qualified for six consecutive Forrest Wood Cup championships between 1996 and 2001 (the year of 9/11, when there was no Cup) and was one of the Tour’s shining stars in its formative years. It seemed Thliveros could do no wrong when he set out on the tournament path, but then came a lot of ups and downs in what became a rocky road for him. He finished 117th, 135th and 146th in 2002, 2003 and 2005, respectively, and disappeared from the Tour scene between 2006 until his return in 2012. READ MORE »


Mr. Consistency

Winning is goal No. 1 for any tournament angler, but attaining consistency is probably a close second on his to-do list. Without consistency, it’s difficult for a fisherman to put himself into a position to win on a regular basis. He might come in first occasionally because all the stars align on a particular lake in a certain season when he’s in his groove, but he knows that, ultimately, consistency or lack of it is going to make or break his career. READ MORE »


Shifting Gears

I am stripping the big line off the Halos and re-spooling with 6- and 8-pound-test Berkley flouro, and reflecting on how much fun it was catching all those fish with all these relatively new baits, how hard some of the strikes were and how easy it was catching fish on baits that they haven't seen before. Well, that's all over now – back to smallmouth fishing. READ MORE »


Do You Really Need So Much Stuff?

Lures and clothes have a lot in common. Just like clothing evolves and new styles come out and old styles come back, so goes fishing lures. The difference between the two, however, is that you can outgrow your old jeans, but you can never get rid of your old baits. READ MORE »


Fishing the Cup for a Cure

n his first year fishing the Walmart FLW Tour, Jason Meninger placed 41st in the standings, earned more than $30,000 and qualified for the Forrest Wood Cup. Oh, yeah, he also found out he had cancer. READ MORE »


Shallow Does it for Scott Wiley

Wiley settled all doubt about that at the last Walmart FLW Tour event of the year on the Potomac River, where he finished 12th in the tournament and 27th in the yearly standings. It was his best finish in the three years he’s fished the Tour, and provided him his first shot at winning the Cup and its top prize of $500,000. The Potomac locked him in. Had it not been for muddy water sweeping through his area on day three, the Alabama pro might have made it into the championship round. READ MORE »