To Austin Levering and Rob Conley, students at The University of Akron, becoming a bass fishing championship team is about reeling in more than just fish. It’s about determination, skill and desire.
Teams are on the water early for each day of the tournament at Philpott Lake in Martinsville, Va. — Photo by Gary Mortenson.
"What I think it takes to be a bass fishing champion is patience, determination, lots of skill and knowledge, and the desire to out-fish all the anglers on the lake," said Levering. "We have that desire. And we never thought it would be a reality for us to put The University of Akron's logo on a jersey and go competitively fish and represent our school by doing something we both love to do."
Based on their outstanding performance in a recent tournament, Conley, of North Canton, and Levering, of Caledonia, are entered in the National Guard FLW College Fishing Northern Conference Championship Sept. 13-15 on Philpott Lake in Martinsville, Va. The event will be televised nationwide on the NBC Sports Network, and should they win, the newly created UA Bass Fishing Club will receive a new Ranger 177TR bass boat valued at $25,000. The top five teams in the conference championship will also advance to the 2013 national championship.
The two biology majors, like the other anglers, are trying to catch the five biggest fish that will weigh the most throughout the tournament. The fish must also be 12" in length in order to be kept. All fish are kept in a livewell, which is an oxygenated water tank to keep them alive throughout the tournament. All fish are then placed back into the water after they are weighed. The team with the heaviest bag places first and so on.
Considering UA's campus is located in a metropolitan area, one may wonder where the anglers of the Bass Fishing Club practice. Both Wingfoot Lake and Portage Lakes, are popular destinations. Tournaments for the student organization take place in the fall and spring, plus some optional ones in the summer. The students said that they actually started bass fishing from scratch and gradually developed their skills over time with lots of practice.
Didn’t know UA had a Bass Fishing Club? While it may be a new organization on campus, it is already making quite a name for itself. Earlier this year, UA's Bass Fishing Club received a donation of $1,000 on behalf of Conley and Levering, who finished third in the National Guard FLW College Fishing bass tournament at Thousand Islands. Placing third in that tournament qualified them to compete for the national title.
On a national level, bass fishing tournaments have been getting more attention in the media due to big payoffs and corporate sponsors. This has led to a heightened curiosity of the public on how a tournament is run and judged.
"The tournament begins at a set time, such as 7 a.m.," explains Levering."This is when all the boaters in the water scurry to where they think will be the best place to begin the morning catching fish. The local tournaments typically last for eight hours."
Levering says that when the eight hours are over, the boat must be back at the boat launch or they will be penalized by having weight shaved off of their final bag weight of fish per minute that they are late. There are various other rules and a point system that scores the final bag weight of each team at the end of the tournament.
Conley and Levering have always talked about starting a bass fishing club at UA, and in spring 2012, it finally came together. Before the Bass Fishing Club was created, the two students would fine-tune their bass fishing skills by keeping up to date with the latest professional bass fishermen, trying out new fishing techniques and just fishing every opportunity they could.
Conley and Levering will also be receiving custom jerseys, provided at no cost, and designed by the National Guard FLW College Fishing — a nationwide competitive bass-fishing program open to all full-time students at four-year colleges and universities. It consists of 20 qualifying events, five conference championships and the national championship.
Good luck to both students as they compete this upcoming weekend!
Story by Katey Kimpel
Media contact: Laura Massie, 330-972-6476 or firstname.lastname@example.org.