A fish tale
Chico State’s little-known Bass Fishing Club hooks cash
Chico State student Marshal Smith has been fishing since he was 7 years old. A few semesters ago, when he saw two students standing by a boat and casting a lure across a campus sidewalk in front of him, it got his attention. One of the men, Parker Moran, introduced Smith to the Chico State Bass Fishing Club.
Now, Smith and Moran are a successful team that placed second in a recent competition, netting thousands of dollars and a spot to compete in a national, televised bass-fishing tournament next year. But, in spite of their success, their club remains relatively unknown to the campus and community.
For instance, Smith, who is currently employed at a tackle shop, had to prove to a professor that he really was in a bass-fishing tournament in order to make up work he’d missed during a competition. The professor didn’t believe there was a bass club at the school, but that’s not so surprising.
“Probably many people wouldn’t think we would have a competitive team that does bass fishing, or that it is a big deal and they compete against other schools for big prizes,” said Joe Wills, Chico State’s director of Public Affairs.
Still, what the teams have accomplished is impressive.
In the past two years, the club, which has about a dozen members, has amassed more than $60,000 in winnings at college fishing competitions, said Moran, Smith’s partner and the club’s former president. Members compete in teams of two students, and in order to make it to the regional competition, each team had to pre-qualify at division tournaments last spring. Chico State was the only college with three qualifying teams at the regional level.
“We had a good presence at that tournament,” said Smith, a senior majoring in organizational communication.
Most recently, two of Chico State’s teams placed in the top three spots, placing second and third, at the National Guard’s FLW College Fishing Western Regional Championship Oct. 7-9 at Folsom Lake State Park Recreation Area in Granite Bay. The club beat out university teams from Oregon, Arizona, Idaho, Nevada and California, such as Cal Poly and the University of Oregon. It will split the winnings—a total of $36,000—with the university. The teams are now guaranteed spots in the national competition to be held this April in Kentucky.
Smith said he’s disappointed that there has been little recognition around Chico.
“There are universities back East that give scholarships to bass clubs, but we get nothing,” he said.
Moreover, half of the prize money goes directly to Chico State, but members of the club say they have no input as to how the money is spent.
Bryce Hayes, the bass club’s current president and a senior majoring in construction management, wants the money to be put to good use. “It’s a pretty substantial amount of money,” he said. “I’d like us to have a say in where it goes.”
According to Rick Rees, director of Student Activities at Chico State, the winnings are handled by the university’s advancement office. While the check has not yet arrived for the most recent competition, he said previous Bass Club winnings have gone to support the Big Chico Creek Preserve and to help the club with expenses.
If there’s one member who has received some recognition, she is recent Chico State graduate Allison Shaw, the only woman out of three from the Western Region to place at the national level. She was on the third-place Chico State team. Because Shaw qualified at the division tournament as a student last spring, she is allowed to continue with her team.
Shaw currently is working as an executive assistant in Los Angeles, but she still hopes to make a career out of fishing. Her success and presence at the regional competition got her the attention of corporate sponsors, some of whom will be supplying her with poles and other equipment at the national competition.
“As a joke, I tied an Al-e-baby triple trout to a pink Barbie pole, which got the attention of Alan Fong, the lure’s designer, and he signed me up as a field tester,” Shaw explained, “so I will be able to get some of those to work with as well.”
The upcoming national competition will include 25 top teams, consisting of five from each regional championship, in a three-day, televised event. The top prize will be $25,000 for the winning team, a $25,000 Ranger 177TR bass boat for the club, and $50,000 for the university.
Thomas White, a senior majoring in sociology and Shaw’s teammate, is in his third semester with the club. White’s first competition was at Lake Mead in Nevada.
“Doing these competitions makes me wonder how far I can take it,” White said.
Members of the Bass Club meet sporadically at area lakes to fish and socialize. “We all enjoy it,” Hayes said. “At least once a week, I’m out on the water fishing.”