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 

/news/2015-03-23-what-went-down-at-kentucky-lake

What Went Down at Kentucky Lake

Save for the contrarian crankbaits used by the eventual winning team from the University of Arkansas-Fayettville, it seemed that the vast majority of teams in the FLW College Fishing Open on Kentucky Lake relied on umbrella rigs. Here’s a rundown on what the top 10 used to catch most of their bass. Each of these teams is now pre-qualified for the 2016 FLW College Fishing National Championship. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-22-arkansas-anglers-win-college-open

Arkansas Anglers Win College Open

Consistency was the key for the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville here in the FLW College Fishing Kentucky Lake Open as Zachary Pickle and Drew Porto won the event with a two-day total of 43 pounds, 12 ounces. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-21-top-patterns-from-kentucky-lake-

Top Patterns from Kentucky Lake

Thanks to nearly identical bags from days one and two, the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville netted the title in the FLW College Fishing Open held on Kentucky Lake. While the top prize of a Ranger Z117 with a 90-horsepower Evinrude or Mercury outboard was at stake, teams were also battling to make the top 10 in order to punch their ticket for the 2016 FLW College Fishing National Championship. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-03-21-college-open-day-2-midday-update

College Open Day 2 Midday Update

The sun is shining, the weather is warmer and the bass aren’t biting, at least not for most of the first-round leaders here in the FLW College Fishing Kentucky Lake Open. As the second and final day of competition unfolds, the leaders are struggling to maintain their positions. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-20-missouri-anglers-lead-college-open

Missouri Anglers Lead College Open

Andrew Nordbye and Adam Almohtadi of Northwest Missouri State University of Maryville, Mo., took the lead in the opening round of the FLW College Fishing Open on Kentucky Lake with 25 pounds, 2 ounces. Heading into Saturday’s second and final round, the University of Kentucky’s Ryan Collins and Hunter Fulcher sit in second place with 22-14, while Ethan Flack and Konnor Kennedy of the University of Alabama are currently third with 22-9. Details to follow. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-20-day-1-patterns-from-the-college-open

Day 1 Patterns from the College Open

The Northwest Missouri State University team of Andrew Nordbye and Adam Almontadi took the day-one lead in the FLW College Fishing Open on Kentucky Lake. While their pattern seems to be effectively refined – they were using only one lure and had no others out on the deck – Nordbye and Almontadi don’t have this one sewed up yet. The rest of the top five is just a few pounds behind the leaders. Here’s how they made it into contention going into the final day. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-20-college-open-day-1-midday-update

College Open Day 1 Midday Update

“You should have been here yesterday” might have been the motto for the first day of fishing in the FLW College Fishing Open on Kentucky Lake. Though many of the 194 teams entered in the two-day event out of Moor’s Resort & Marina reported good to excellent practices, many of the same anglers were complaining about a lack of fish on opening morning of the competition. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-20-record-catch-for-record-college-field-

Record Catch for Record College Field?

GILBERTSVILLE, Ky. – Panama City, beach parties, Florida sunshine, bikini weather – big deal. Who needs Spring Break when you’ve got Kentucky Lake in March? OK, maybe that’s a stretch, but how else to explain why a record-setting number of teams showed up for the FLW College Fishing Open tournament here? The official tally of bass fishing teams is 201, according to College Fishing Tournament Director Kevin Hunt, making this the largest collegiate fishing event ever. Teams from every corner of the country are represented here, with squads from as far away as Eastern Washington University competing the next two days. A flotilla left Moor’s Resort & Marina this morning, with individual boats scattering in all directions. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-18-college-open-will-be-a-record-setter

College Open will be a Record-Setter

When the first FLW College Fishing Open tournament gets underway out of Moor’s Resort on Kentucky Lake Friday morning, it will make history as the largest college event ever staged. Typically, college tournaments are staged as divisional events where only teams from a particular geographical region can participate, but the Open marks the first time any eligible college team can compete. The response to the new format has been overwhelming. According to FLW College Fishing Tournament Director Kevin Hunt, 184 teams representing colleges and universities from coast to coast are entered (as of this morning), and more might be en route. Teams have until Thursday evening at 6 to register at the rules meeting. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-03-18-expect-change-and-adapt-to-it

Expect Change and Adapt to It

Ish Monroe explains how to adapt to changing conditions and recommends to always fish your strengths in this weeks blog. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-03-17-so-you-want-to-be-a-co-angler-

So You Want to be a Co-Angler?

First and foremost, I know I’m fishing the tournament as a co-angler and I make sure that I not only stay out of my pro’s way, but I do what I can to assist him throughout the day. This starts at the ramp with assisting him with the launch where possible. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-03-16-tour-newcomers-andrew-young

Tour Newcomers: Andrew Young

If you look at Young’s track record in the Angler Profiles of FLWFishing.com, there’s not much there. The only FLW tournament he’s fished is the Tour opener on Lake Toho, where he finished 102nd. Prior to that, Young hadn’t fished so much as a Walmart Bass Fishing League event, but that doesn’t mean he lacks talent or savvy. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-03-16-a-30-piece-puzzle-with-four-pieces-missing

A 30-Piece Puzzle with Four Pieces Missing

The whole time I was down in Florida during the FLW Tour opener on Lake Toho I felt like I was trying to put together a 30-piece puzzle with four pieces missing. The weather was right, the water temperature was right, the thousands of acres of vegetation looked right, but one thing was wrong: the fish! READ MORE »

/tips/2015-03-12-a-clean-slate

A Clean Slate

The 2015 season opener of the Walmart FLW Tour wasn’t at Okeechobee, as in recent years, but at Lake Toho in central Florida. I was excited about the change, and even more pumped to start a fresh new season after blowing my motor on day one of the first event last year. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-11-lake-toho-storylines

Lake Toho Storylines

The Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Mercury on Lake Toho provided the 20th-anniversary season a proper sendoff. It was emblematic of the seasons that came before and had all of the hallmarks that FLW fishing fans have come to expect. A couple of strong 11th-hour charges for the title, environmental challenges in the form of dramatic weather and water changes, and a nail-biting finish were befitting of two decades of the Tour. We wanted to break down a few of the more subtle storylines as well, in order to put this season’s opener into perspective. Here goes. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-07-a-morning-with-the-leader

A Morning with the Leader

Sullen gray skies and a gusting northeast wind contrast with the weather on opening day of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Mercury here on Lake Toho. JT Kenney jumped out to the lead with a solid stringer of almost 30 pounds on Thursday, but Saturday is altogether different, and expectations match the weather. No pattern is weatherproof, including Kenney’s, but at least he knows that neither is anyone else’s. The brisk northeast wind is scooting his boat along at a fairly fast clip, and he’s fishing a spinnerbait that helicopters with every cast. To this point, the spinnerbait hasn’t attracted more than a small pickerel and two small bass in the first hour of the semi-final round. Still, the veteran pro has been here before, and knows what a change of weather will do to Florida bass. Gradually, the wind will lay and the day will grow warmer. Kenney is saving his better spots for then. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-06-randles-takes-co-angler-crown

Randles Takes Co-angler Crown

The whole premise behind being a successful co-angler is to fish the spots that the guy in the front of the boat hasn’t already hit. Here on Lake Toho and connected lakes – with their miles of lily pad fields and vast mats of various types of aquatic vegetation – finding such targets of opportunity is never a problem, though some co-anglers are better than others at mining the ones that actually have bass in them. Chad Randles of Elkhorn, Neb., proved he had what it takes to pry bass out of their Toho cubby holes as he won the co-angler title here in the Walmart FLW Tour season-opener presented by Mercury. Randles weighed in a pair of limits over two days that totaled 29 pounds, 15 ounces. Mark Holman of Cornelius, N.C., was second with 27-11, while John Hunter of Shelbyville, Ky., placed third with 27-7. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-05-boom-or-bust-at-toho

Boom or Bust at Toho

To varying degrees of success, tournament anglers are used to figuring out lakes that seemingly are a bundle of contradictions. Be that as it may, Lake Toho threatens to boggle their collective minds as the 2015 Walmart FLW Tour kickoff event presented by Mercury gets underway this morning. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-02-27-toho-bound

Toho Bound

You have to understand that having home field advantage in fishing is the absolute worst. There are so many demons; you have too much information, you start fishing the lake’s history – it goes on and on and it’s very hard for a professional angler to mentally break that barrier. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-02-25-tour-newcomers-capt-blake-smith

Tour Newcomers: Capt. Blake Smith

Capt. Blake Smith, who’s signed on to fish the Walmart FLW Tour this year, will tell you that he’s a “true rookie” when it comes to big-time bass tournaments, which is true. However, he’s no newcomer to competitive fishing. READ MORE »