Photo Courtesy of Tarleton Bass Club
Tarleton State University’s Bass Club went to Lake Dardanelle in Russellville Arkansas to fish the AFTCO Collegiate Bass Open. The open took place on Oct. 10 and 11. The teams spent Monday through Friday practicing, then the tournament took place Saturday and Sunday.
Prior to the tournament the Tarleton Bass Club was ranked sixth in the nation, on The Association of Collegiate Anglers, Bass Pro Shops School of the Year standings.
“Last year we finished 15th in the nation and first in Texas. This is a really big deal because by the end of the year there will be almost 300 schools competing. Right now, we are sixth out of around 150 schools and we are really proud of that,” Tarleton’s Bass Club President, Reagan Nelson said.
The School of the Year standings are based on points calculated from the three main college level tournament trails: FLW, Bassmaster and the Collegiate Bass series.
“Collegiate Bass keeps a school of the year ranking and it’s a really big deal. They take the points from all three tournament trails that we fish and combine them. The school with the most points combined wins school of the year,” Nelson said.
Tarleton’s Bass Club had a staggering number of anglers at AFTCO compared to other schools.
“There are 10, two-person teams and one person competing individually here at Lake Dardanelle,” Tarleton’s Bass Club Vice President and Treasurer, Collin Reyes said. The 21 anglers at Lake Dardanelle; only make up a portion of Tarleton’s total Bass Club members.
“We have 52 members currently. Having more lines in the water than most other schools gives us a lot better chance to move up in ranking. We usually accept applications at the beginning of the semester, but if someone wanted to join we would look at their resume,” Nelson said.
The points are calculated based off of the ACA points system. The points system is set up so that each tournament has a certain amount of points to award to the top places.
If a tournament awarded points to the top five places and Tarleton had five separate teams that placed in those positions, then Tarleton would be awarded all of the points for that tournament.
Tarleton’s large membership numbers not only give the club more man power, it also gives the club a wider variety of skills to use.
“We probably have one of the most versatile groups of anglers in schools in the state of Texas. I believe we have the most teams as well. I’d put them up against anybody in the country for being the most talented group of guys,” Nelson said.
The club accepts students from all classifications and going into a tournament of this size can be nerve wracking for some less experienced anglers, however, the club expressed confidence in all of the members.
“I know we have a lot of freshmen, and this is their first time seeing this lake. I think we have a little bit of momentum coming into this tournament because we’re sitting at sixth in the country right now and first in Texas,” Reyes said.
The cost of participating in these types of tournaments is expensive.
“This tournament doesn’t have an entry fee but gas, food and lodging are all out of pocket expenses,” Nelson said.
Not much information could be found about if Tarleton provides scholarships for the Bass Club members or is planning to in the future. However, the anglers compete in each tournament for more than just points.
“FLW and Bass Master give out checks, but the Collegiate tournaments have Bass Pro as a sponsor, they give out quite a few prizes and gift cards,” Nelson said.
The AFTCO tournament did not give out cash prizes, but instead gave out gift cards and supplies, such as new rods. “I know this tournament has like 20 thousand dollars in prizes,” Reyes said.
Due to COVID-19 the tournaments have also made changes in procedure to keep with the social distancing guidelines.
“The morning of the tournament we all wear our masks, at weigh-in we all wear our masks, they’re only allowing one angler up onto the stage at weigh-in and the weigh master wears his mask,” Nelson said.
A few of the tournaments were pushed back from the spring semester, meaning that the anglers are traveling and competing more this fall than ever before.
“The next tournament we fish will be an FLW southern conference tournament on Sam Rayburn in Jasper Texas on Nov. 13,” Nelson said.
Tarleton’s Bass Club has seen more success, this semester, in more than just School of the Year points, but also in the size of the bass caught.
“In a club tournament one of our guys caught an 8.5 pound fish. In one of our national tournaments the biggest fish this semester was one I caught at Kentucky Lake in the Bass Pro Shops BIG BASS BASH,” Nelson said.
Nelson and Reyes both began fishing at a young age and share a love for the sport.
“I like the unknowns of the day. You don’t know what’s going to happen. The anticipation is exciting to me. There are a lot more bad days than good in tournament fishing but I’ve placed in the top five places three times in college,” Nelson said.
The Tarleton Bass Club had one team place in the top 25 in the AFTCO Collegiate Bass Open on Oct. 10 and 11. That team was the team of Will Davis and Kyle Drews, their final combined weight was 15.90 pounds, landing them in 19th place overall. The first day the team weighed in 9.65 pounds and on Sunday the team weighed in 6.25 pounds.
The AFTCO Collegiate Bass Open was a double points tournament and with the lack of high placing teams Tarleton’s Bass Club could fall in the Bass Pro Shops School of the Year standings.
If they were to lose their sixth place title it will surely be a sour defeat, but with the tournament season long from over, the Tarleton Bass Club has many chances to gain points and claim the School of the Year title.