UPCOMING EVENT: T-H Marine BFL - 2019 - Lake Norman

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Playing hooky

Tournament leaders Jake Gipson and Matthew Wercinski have won about $180,000 for the University of Florida by "playing hooky."

SANFORD, Fla. - Of all the examples which prove tournament bass fishing has moved from the main lake to the mainstream, the fact that colleges now recognize competitive fishing as a collegiate sport has to be one of the most prudent.

Back in the day when certain outdoor writers were going to college, skipping class to go fishing was something you didn't publicize. It's not that there was anything wrong with fishing; it's just that it was considered a "leisure activity," as in something relegated to the weekends only. So weekday fishing required slipping off campus before the sun came up so as to not be seen by any classmates - namely classmates who were in your "marketing group" and would blab the reason for your absence to everyone else: well, it must be nice to go fishing while the rest of us slave over this project. Enough said.

Anyway, back in those days we called skipping school to go fishing "playing hooky," and while nothing compares to battling a 5-pounder in the heat of a tournament, battling a 5-pounder while knowing you're missing out on a discussion in "Retail Design, Management, Coordination, Consultation and Facilitation" comes pretty close.

And now to the point: it does this outdoor writer's heart good to attend the National Guard College Fishing Southeast Championship on a weekday and find college students competing in bass tournaments that are recognized and encourage by their schools.

When asked about the conflict of interest between academics and "cast-ademics," all College Fishing competitors have said that there has been no problem at all.

"Once your school recognizes your fishing club as a legitimate collegiate organization that participates in sanctioned tournaments, it's no different than other club-level sports at a university," said Shaye Baker, a Spanish International Trade major at Auburn University. "In fact our fishing club is the highest grossing sports club at Auburn - last year we were able to donate about $45,000 to the University thanks to FLW Outdoors and the National Guard Fishing program."

As for getting out of class to go fishing, Baker contends it has never been a problem. Once a club is recognized by a university, a liaison is appointed to handle the arrangements of missed classes for the club just like other university sports.

"It's really nice to be recognized - not just by the fishing industry - but also by Auburn as a legitimate sport and have their support," Baker added. "And it's just like anything else, you can't abuse the privilege. It's not like you can lay out of class for two weeks and then come back and say you were fishing - it doesn't work that way."Day two of the National Guard College Fishing Southeast Championship begins.

Current tournament leaders, Jake Gipson and Matthew Wercinski, have had a similar experience at the University of Florida with their very successful fishing club.

Gipson and Wercinski won the Southeast Championship last year, then went on to win the College Fishing National event in Tennessee and as a result both competed in the Forrest Wood Cup in Atlanta this past summer.

The team's success has been a financial windfall for the fishing club at the University of Florida.

"When you win about $180,000 for your school, it does not take the school long to realize how legitimate this sport is," Gipson noted. "Missing a couple of days of class to go fishing does not seem like such a bad idea after that."

Weigh-in times and locations

Day two weigh-in of the National Guard College Fishing Southeast Championship will begin at 4 p.m. at UCF's Bright House Networks Stadium. Before the weigh-in begins, there will be a College Fishing Festival from 2-4 p.m.

Tags: rob-newell  morning-story  2010-10-21-southeast-regional-lake-monroe 

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