Thursday, May 19, 2016
Virginia Commonwealth University’s Bass Fishing Team scoured the James River early this week, gearing up to host the Bassmaster College Series Eastern Conference Regional.
If you didn’t know VCU has a bass fishing team, you’re not alone.
“When we walk around on campus, or we’re doing volunteer work, everybody is like, ‘Bass team?’ They don’t know what a bass team is,” said John Teare, club president and a senior environmental studies major in VCU Life Sciences. Their colorful jerseys routinely attract attention.
The bass team’s anglers compete in multiday intercollegiate fishing tournaments up and down the East Coast, in two different circuits: Fishing League Worldwide and Bassmaster.
We’re excited for the public and VCU to see what VCU bass does.
“We’re excited for the public and VCU to see what VCU bass does, tournament wise,” said Dylan Jackson, a junior marketing major in the School of Business. “We can tell them we’re going to a tournament in North Carolina or New York, but now they can actually see what a tournament looks like and all that goes into it.”
As many as 85 to 90 boats — teams can field multiple sleek, fast bass boats — are expected to converge on Osborne Park and Boat Landing in eastern Henrico County for the tournament, which begins Thursday.
“It’s very nice to be here already and have experience on a place you fish every day,” Teare said. “There’s definitely a confidence level that we don’t have when we go anywhere else.”
Tournaments begin early in the morning with a rules meeting, safety inspections and teams waiting to be called to head out for top fishing spots.
“You catch the five biggest fish,” explained Jackson. “If you catch five fish that are over 14 inches and you catch a bigger one, you can take your smallest one out and put the bigger one in.”
The Virginia Commonwealth University Bass Fishing Team is ready to host a regional collegiate bass fishing tournament this week. The event culminates with a weigh-in on the Monroe Park Campus.
VCU’s team expects the James to have surprises in store for fellow collegiate anglers, who typically compete and practice on lakes.
“It’s a little more to the river than it is to a lake. We’re usually on lakes, where there is no tide, there are no crazy sand bars in the middle of nowhere, there’s no barges,” Jackson said. “This spot might be good at high tide, but you go back there and it’s low tide and there’s no water.”
“Some spots you may go in at high tide, and not come out at low tide,” adds Darrell Pease, a junior mechanical engineering major in the School of Engineering.
Pease is among the many new members of the team, which has grown from a handful to about 20 members since becoming an official student organization.
“I had heard through the grapevine that there was a fishing team. I’m back from Gloucester County, and we do a whole lot of fishing there, so it’s naturally something I’m interested in,” Pease said. Team members credit faculty sponsor Jeffrey Lodge, director of information systems at VCU’s School of Allied Health Professions, for offering a well of support.
“He provides pretty much everything we need. He takes care of us, and we try to do our best,” Pease said. The team makes use of two of Lodge’s low-slung Bass Cat boats, while Teare’s boat brings the competition fleet to three.
The tournament begins at 6:30 a.m. on Thursday. On Saturday afternoon, the action will move to the Monroe Park Campus when the top teams will have their final weigh-in near the James Branch Cabell Library.
“That’s not a typical thing for a fishing tournament. You never see a fishing team weigh-in in the heart of a city, so that will be an interesting sight,” Teare said. The weigh-in begins at 3:30 p.m. at Park Plaza.
The competitors shouldn’t expect too many local tips from VCU’s anglers, who are competitive even with one another.
“We tell our competitors we catch [the fish] in the water. If any of the other teams ask you, you want to run all the way up to the city,” said Teare.
“For a small team like us, it’s a chance to make a big name,” Pease said.
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