USC Union Bantam fishing team.

Let’s talk about college sports! 

Will Georgia win it all? Will Clemson return to the top in 2022? Can ‘Bama make the final four after this season?

Shoot, if I knew I wouldn’t be working for a living anymore I’d be retired on my gambling winnings. 

Did you know that college sports now include bass fishing? Yep. This is one of the fastest-growing sports on campus right now. Every college I can find around Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, and North Carolina has a bass fishing team. That may shock some of you, and to some, this is old news. To me, I got to admit I was a little shocked. Not as shocked as when I discovered E-Sports was a thing but I digress… 

I recently had a chance to sit down with Cameron Coone the coach of the USC-Union Bantam fishing team. Cameron and I met up like most meetings between fishermen who can’t go fishing right then … At a Krispy Kreme. Yep. The Krispy Kreme in Spartanburg, SC. I was up there with my day job and Union, S.C. where USC-Union is located is not far away. 

Here’s some key points from our discussion that all of you who are parents or grandparents of kids who like to fish need to know and understand:

NCAA. There’s no limit as of right now for scholarships or endorsements. So, boat companies can sponsor individual anglers and teams. The teams can be as large as the school wants. Tournament winnings can go to the students or the school. Depends on their agreements.

Recruiting. Hey, your kids Insta or Tik-Tok account can get them to college if they have fish pictures and some tournament experience shown (really! I’m serious!!!). One of the two members of the Bantam team has a 50,000 following on Tik-Tok. I’m not even sure exactly what Tik-Tok is… Or if I spelled it right. 

High school bass fishing tournaments are growing as fast as college or even faster. There’s been several high school tournaments of more than 300 boats. 300! That’s 600 kids and 300 adults. In the high school world, every boat must be run by an adult, and they bear responsibility for the safety of the kids. In college, the anglers run their boats and make their own decisions.

South Carolina had a high school combine for the fishing teams. Yep, just like the NFL. They had over 100 kids and representatives from 20 schools. 

Your high school bass fisherman doesn’t have to have a boat just yet. Through the GHSA (Georgia High School Sports Association) we now have HS bass fishing tournaments and teams at a lot of public schools, this does give some structure and security to the athletes. It also provides opportunities for kids without boat access and access to tons of gear. This helps to get scholarships and opportunities for less fortunate kids.

Yes, I said athletes. Fishermen are now considered athletes and at the highest levels they work out practice and train for these events. They must understand the impact that professional fishing has on their bodies and condition themselves for it from an early time. Their back, hips, and knees will thank them for it later. 

Now, here’s some info for those of us older anglers.

Younger anglers follow trends. Yes, this means that they are far more likely to drop shot or damiki rig than to jig a spoon. Frog fishing is more popular than a zara spook. Chatterbaits are used but spinnerbaits are unheard of to them. It’s up to us older anglers to show them the proven and the classics because they might never hit YouTube.

Social media is a BIG deal for these universities and fishermen. USC-Union has almost doubled its student size and probably will have saved a school by adding non-traditional athletics. Bass fishing, E-Sports, also golf and tennis. Whenever a school adds a scholarship athlete, they usually add 2 non-scholarship students that come with those kids. So you do the math… Non-traditional athletics and social media go hand in hand. It’s driving them and driving the success of schools. 

Every school you know of is doing this. GA College and GMC both have teams. UGA, Auburn, Alabama, Clemson, USC, Georgia Southern they are all involved. They might have two anglers like USC-Union or they may have 16 or more but they do have teams. So yes you can support the Dawgs, the Tide, Gamecocks, or Clemson and they need it to. These guys and gals fish hard and compete at a high level. 

Now. I bet you didn’t think I would advise about how to get your kids to college but there you are. If this had been a thing 30 years ago when I was in school I’d have a double Ph.D. by now!

—James Pressley can be reached at pressleyoutdoors@gmail.com.