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College Anglers talk College Bass Fishing

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College bass fishing is hotter than a firecracker. High School fishing  has started too and could be another huge shot in the arm  on the horizon and the future of our sport is hanging in the balance. Getting youth involved in fishing is everyones job and the groundswell associated with both could pay significant dividends to the fishing industry.
Wired2Fish reader Brian Carroll had the opportunity to sit down with Brad Rutherford and Clint McNeil of Young Harris College and get their thoughts on National Guard FLW College Fishing.
Below is that Q&A.

        Q.   Brad, when did you first start bass fishing?

  1. When I was 3 years old.  

Q. I have seen a photo of you when you were very young.   You were fishing off the bow of your father’s bass boat and operating the foot controlled trolling motor.   Do you remember doing that?   And how old were you at that time?

A. No I don’t remember that.   But I think I was about 4 or 5 years old in that photo.

Q.   You are a freshman at YHC?

A.   Yes

Q.   What about you Clint?   How long have you been bass fishing?

A.   I was probably about 10 or 11 when I started.

Q.   You are a freshman also Clint?

A.   No sir I am a sophomore.

Q. To Clint: Who got you started bass fishing?

A. My dad.    

Q. So your dad is a bass fisherman also?

A. Clint: No sir.   Not by any means, he is just the one that took me fishing when I was young.  

Q.   Where do you live Clint and what do you consider your home water?  

A.   Canton Ga.   Allatoona and Lanier is where I fish.

Q.   How did Young Harris College get started in college bass fishing?

A.   Clint: I heard about FLW college bass fishing last year from different sources and thought I would like to try and start something at my school YHC.   I started out trying to start a bass club my freshman year by the one guy I could get to fish bailed out on me.     Then when Brad showed up this year we began in earnest to start fishing together and began to talk about build a college fishing team.  

Q.   To Clint:   Had you ever tournament bass fished before you came to YHC?

A.   No sir, I fished my first two tournaments this spring on Allatoona.

Q.   Really?   Were those club tournaments?

A.   One was put on by Jasper Marine and the other was the Good Friday tournament.

Q.   To Clint:   Had Young Harris participated in the college fishing before now or tomorrow?

N.   No this is our first event as a school.

  1. How big of a school is YHC?
  2. Brad: 800 or 900 students.

Q. A Christian school?

              A. Brad:   It’s a United Methodist institution and accredited to award associate and baccalaureate degrees.

Q. You guys like it at YHC?

A.   Both:   Yes!

  1. How many people are on the YHC fishing team?
  1.  Clint:   I would say six.
  1. How does that work?   You have six people on the fishing team, how many of those six will fish tomorrow for the school?  
  1. Clint:   Two, just me and Brad for tomorrow.
  1. Ok, did you guys qualify somehow to able to represent YHC tomorrow?
  1. Clint: No we are not to that point yet.     As the team grows will we have qualifying tournament within our school’s club to determine which members will fish the FLW events?    
  1.  How many teams will be competing tomorrow?    
  1.  Clint:   It depends.     There is a 40 team cut-off I think.   I am not sure how many teams are registered for tomorrow’s tournament.
  1. Some schools could have more than one team fishing tomorrow?
  1. Clint:   Yes, I know that University of Georgia has two teams fishing tomorrow.   Also Auburn and I think Georgia Southern and a few of the other bigger schools with more developed programs have had more that one team fish the FLW quailing tournaments.
  1. I thought I heard Stren TD Ron say this morning that he had 58 boats for the college team tournament tomorrow.   Does that sound right?
  1. Clint:   Could be.   I not sure.     I thought I read on the FLW web site where the field was limited to 40 teams but I have read some confusing things on the web site.
  1. This is the first year FLW has handled the college fishing events correct?
  1. Clint:   I think so.
  1.  What has FLW done for the YHC fishing team?

A.           Clint:   They provide a driver and boat so you don’t have to worry with that.   Brad:   Allowance too.   Clint:   Yes depending on how far you had to travel FLW will give you a check at weigh in for expense reimbursement.

  1. Speaking of weigh-in how will that work?   How many fish can you weigh-in?
  1. We’re not sure on that yet.   It seems that each person on the team can catch a five bass limit but they can only weigh three each.   So it’s six total.   I think the reason it is three fish each it to make sure each guy participates.  

Q.   I see, to make it a true team sport then?

A.   Clint:   Yes, if one guy doesn’t catch any keepers then three fish would be the most the team could weigh.   Brad:   I think you can weigh in 5 bass each but only three each count as the team total.  

Q.   Do you know who your boater will be yet?

A.   Clint:   No sir, they pair us with a boater at check-in.

Q. Ok, you guys will be taking off from Guntersville State Park and be going out behind the Stren top ten correct?

A.   Brad:   Yes the last day of the Stren.

Q.   So they provide you with a boat, a driver and expenses.   Is there a cash payout or are you fishing for points only?    

A.   Clint: The top five of each tournament will receive payout and the payout grows as you move from qualifying to regional to the national championship levels.     How it works is in a qualifying tournament first place is $10,000.    Five will go to the school’s fishing club and five will go to the school it’s self.   That provides the school with some incentive to help keep and grow a college bass fishing team.

Q.   Where are we in the season this weekend?

A. Clint:   This is the last qualifying tournament of four.   This division started I think in February at Lake Okeechobee.   If you make the top five in any of the four qualifying tournaments you qualify for the regional which will be in Florida at Lake Monroe.     Then if you make the top five at the regional you will go to the nationals which are where? Brad:   Fort Loudoun Lake  in Knoxville.

Q.   So you guys could fish for the college national championship?   More players would help though right?

A.   Clint:   I think the tournament could be bigger.   Maybe the problem would be getting enough boats and drivers but I think the field could be as big as the Stren or FLW tour.   Clint again:   Oh yeah,   the National Champs get to fish in the FLW Cup too.  

Q.   Wow!   I guess what I meant by more players was really more team mates.   In other words if YHC had two or three teams fishing tomorrow the schools chance of qualifying would increase significantly right?

A. Clint:   Yes but just because one team qualifies does not mean all the school’s teams do.    

Q.   I gotcha.     The points are not combined between the different teams from the same school?

A.   Right.

Q.   Are you guys excited?

A.   Both:   Oh yeah.

Q.   Will this be something you guys continue next season and try to grow the team.  

A.   Clint:   Actually I am transferring to UGA next year so Brad will be carrying the torch for the YHC fishing team.     I’m hoping to make the Bulldog fishing team.

Q.   So Brad, what are your plans for the YHC fishing team?     Are the other four or five guys fishing now?   What is their experience level?

A.   I will continue to look for people at school who might be interested in bass fishing.     I will be looking at it as a chance to help teach guys and girls to fish.     I fish a lot and have a lot of experience so if I can pass that on to my team mates then that is what I would like to do.    

Q.   Where would you guys go fishing as a team to practice our have inter squad tournaments?

A.   Clint:     Young Harris is in a great location for a fishing team.   There are two lakes within 9 miles of campus.     There is one road that goes though Young Harris the town.   Nine miles one way will take you to Lake Chatuge and the other way is Lake Nottely.   Brad in the background:   Lanier and Hartwell are not too far either.

Q. So this is the last qualifier for you guys this year and yet tomorrow will be the first team fishing tournament for YHC.  

A. Both:   That’s right.

Q.   Have you seen next year’s schedule for the southeast division?  

A. Brad:   No, but they will be right behind or with the Southeast Stren guys.

Q.   How is this fishing going to affect your classroom schedule?

A.   Brad:   Well we don’t have to be at the location until Saturday morning.     Registering and paring takes place then so we can leave school on Friday after classes and drive overnight to most of the events.  

Q.   I guess all the boats and drivers for the college tournament will be mostly Stren guys.   Do you guys know if they are reimbursed or what?

A.   Brad:   I have no idea.   Clint:   I planned on tipping our driver a little something. Both:   Laughing (Note:   The boaters are paid $200 for their efforts with the college teams.)

Q.   So you guys are motivated and sounds like you have a good plan.   What has the school done to help you?

A.   Brad:   The golf coach contacted me when he heard I was looking to find some fishing friends at school.     This was before I had even met Clint.     The coach was really hard core about it and he help me contact more students about a fishing club.     We have to have an advisor at YHC to have a club and the golf coach really stepped up and helped us with that.   I met Clint though the golf coach.   I was not even supposed to fish this event but another guy backed out so I came in his place.

Q.   So the golf coach was instrumental in the YHC fishing team?

A.   Clint:   Yes he is an avid fisherman and he had wanted to do something with the students along that line but was not sure about the interest level.   Then Brad and I show up.   The coach put us in contact with the school president for approval.   The coach is also working on obtaining some sponsorship for our college fishing team.    

Q.   So from a financial standpoint the school has not done anything yet.     Sounds like the coach is working hard for you guys but could anyone step up to sponsor a college fishing team?   I mean are there any NCAA rules against such?

A.   Clint:   Nothing against that the way I understand it.   Brad:   Fishing is not a sanctioned NCAA sport.

Q.   Not yet right?

A.   Right.

Q. So FLW is doing this on their own really?     No NCAA or college funds involved correct?

A.   Both:   That’s right.   Clint:     If we can win some money we will open a checking account.

Q.   What about entry fees?

A.   There are none.

Q.   Wow.   No entry fees plus expense money.     I guess you guys are appreciative of the folks with National Guard and FLW Outdoors.  

A. Both:   We sure are.   This is great.

Q.   OK, good luck tomorrow.

A.   Both:   Thanks.

Note:   Brad and Clint, fishing for Young Harris College went on to win the next day with a total of 19-05.