After years of pining away for an earlier start to the wild turkey season, some Upstate turkey hunters are now wishing things could go back to normal. The 2016 Eastern Wild Turkey Season opened uniformly across South Carolina this year on March 20 and ended Thursday on May 6. The extended season was a result of recent legislation aimed at reducing the bag limit for wild turkey while creating a uniform season across the state.
Prior to the current year, turkey season opened on private lands in Game Zones 3 – 6 on March 5 and ran through May 1 while the Upstate, Game Zones 1 & 2 didn't open until April 1 and also closed on May 1. During the past legislative session, state lawmakers sought to close what many hunters deemed as an unfair advantage for low state hunters who paid the same license fees to hunt as Upstate hunters but were allowed not only an earlier start, but an additional two weeks in the season.
Mike Johnson, manager of The Clinton House in Laurens County said he anticipated what a lot of Upstate hunters came to discover by getting into the woods 10 days earlier than normal.
"Our breeding season is different up here than it is in the lower part of the state, our hens were not ready when the season opened but that didn't stop hunters from hitting the woods clucking like hens ready to mate," said Johnson. "It didn't take long for an old gobbler to figure that out."
Union County hunter Mike Gault said he enjoyed the early season which resulted in both he and his son getting shots at turkey in the first week of the new season.
"We did real good, the males were still grouped together and with no hens to compete with, a lot of birds responded to calls really well during the extended time," said Gault.
Most hunters agree that by the beginning of April, gobblers that normally would be gobbling frequently throughout the day to gather hens once they became ready to breed went uncharacteristically silent.
Part of the blame may lie with the weather patterns experiences during late March and April. The daily temperatures during the last 10 days of March were much warmer than normal. By the first of April, a cold snap came through and shut the typical mating activity down.
Jerry McKinley of Pelzer was able to use one of his three tags during the second week of April, but said he did it by putting away his turkey call and using some old woodsman tricks.
"The way they gobbled during March and then to just shut up like that during April, I figured the old birds had already been called to by one too many hunters," said McKinley. "I started just slinking through the woods, looking for sign, and listening. When I thought I was in an area where there might be turkey, I just sat down and started scratching the leaves with my hand."
McKinly said on his third hunt in April, that scratching brought him a gobbler in full strut coming over the rise, the last rise that bird would ever cross.
According to Bart Littlejohn of Carolina Farm and Wildlife Supply in Pauline, the end of the season was the worst he's seen in recent memory.
"I haven't heard of anyone killing a bird in the last 10 days," said Littlejohn. "It might be the lack of gobbling and activity has taken it's toll on hunters. Personally, I hunted hard for four weeks and was just tired of it by the time May arrived."
Littlejohn said he also disagrees with the assessment by SCDNR of the decline of the turkey population in recent years.
"I have no faith in the statistical models and summer surveys they use to determine the overall population," said Littlejohn. "I've seen a large number of both hens and jakes this year and we were forecasted to have less turkeys around now than ever before."
Phillip Gentry is the host of "Upstate Outdoors," broadcast from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on 106.3 WORD FM. This week's guest will Chris Wells from Wellspoken Ministries. Contact Gentry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many Upstate hunters found the new extended 2016 turkey to be more than they bargained for. Photo by Phillip Gentry.
“Bream” is the colloquial name given to a gregarious set of panfish species in the South. Typically, a bream is a bluegill, but can also include redear sunfish, also known as shellcrackers, redbreasts, and an assortment of other sunfish.
Most fishermen can probably trace their first fishing roots back to this more than willing fish. This time of year the most numerous of bream species, shellcrackers and bluegills, move into shallow waters to nest and lay eggs. The males prepare the nests and guard the nest from predators once the females have deposited eggs. This guardianship is what makes the fishing for big bull ‘gills so exciting. Males, decked out in almost solid black spawning colors, will strike at anything that comes near the nest with a vengeance.
Bream spawn around the full moon with shellcrackers usually taking the first ful moon in April and bluegills coming around the full moon in May. This year, with the early spring and the late full moon in April, it looks to be a bream free-for-all.
It’s also for this reason that fly rods and popping bugs make a great bedding bream arsenal. With the growing popularity of fly fishing over the years, tackle manufacturers began putting less expensive and more user friendly fly rods and combos on the market. A good quality fly rod combo can be had for about the same price as any baitcast or spinning outfit. Like spinning and baitcasting, it takes a bit of practice to learn to effectively handle a fly rod.
As for lures, match the size of the bait to the size of the fish. Bream have small mouths and bugs and flies with smaller hooks in the size 10 range will hook more fish. Larger baits with larger hooks are acceptable for the biggest bream and the not-so-occasional largemouth bass that shows up.
Locating a bream bed is more than half the battle. Bream prefer to bed in shallow water surrounded by plenty of structure. Typical bedding habitat will be muddy or sandy bottoms in shallow water around structure such as docks, brush or rocks.
Locating bream beds requires the use of at least four of the five senses. Look for visual signs of bedding such as saucer-like depressions in the bottom in clear water or tell-tale wakes of bream swimming in shallow water. Foamy, bubbles may also be present in backwater eddies from bream fanning as well as stirred up, muddy water. Look for beds to be located in the shallow flat areas in the upper reaches of most lakes.
If an area contains a large bream bed close to shore or if fishing without a boat, a good idea is to walk the bank or wade in the area and cast to the fish. Care should be exercised not to let your shadow cross the bed to keep from spooking fish.
Georgetown Hosting The Second Stop On The Bassmaster Elite Tour April 7 - 10
The Bassmaster Elites tour will make it’s second stop of the season in South Carolina this week-end. The Elites last visited the Palmetto state during the 2015 championship Bassmaster Classic which was fished on Lake Hartwell.
This time, the 110 professional bass anglers will be duking it out on unfamiliar territory as they fish a conglomeration of coastal rivers that flow into Winyah Bay and Charleston Harbor. The primary rivers include the Pee Dee, Waccamaw, Santee, Cooper and Black, among other smaller tributaries in the region.
Several of the professional anglers visited the area prior to the waters becoming off-limits over the winter, but few came away with any kind of conclusion.
The Cooper River, which flows out of Lake Moultrie and makes it’s way to Charleston Harbor is the most reliable bass fishery of the coastal rivers that are fair game for the tournament, but with the requirement to launch from the Carroll Campbell Marine Complex at Winyah Bay in Georgetown, anglers opting to fish the Cooper will sacrifice nearly half of each day’s fishing just to get to the Cooper.
“You can bet that there will be a number of anglers who choose to make the long-distance run to the Cooper River,” said the 1999 Bassmaster Classic champion Davy Hite of Ninety Six, S.C. “That’s the risky part of this game. By choosing to make a long run, an angler is sacrificing large amounts of fishing time, gambling mechanical failure, empty gas tanks or a myriad of other potential obstacles.”
Practice opened this week which gave the anglers their first look at the conditions they will be facing this week-end. Unlike inland lakes and reservoirs where wind and rainfall typically dictate water conditions, tidal influxes from the Atlantic Ocean will be a big factor in what kind of water the anglers will face.
“It’s gonna be tough,” said 2015 Bassmaster Classic Champion Casey Ashley from Donalds, SC. “We’re going to have high water and off tides during our fishing hours. Add in that it’s going to require some long rides to get to fishable waters and I believe it’s going to be interesting.”
The Winyah Bay delta is not typically known for producing large numbers of big largemouth bass, although it frequently produces big bass with little rhyme or reason. Professional anglers typically fare better finding a consistent pattern they can rely on to produce better than average daily limits across four days of competition.
Anderson Will Represent College Series in 2016 Forrest Wood Cup
The University of South Carolina may need to rethink it’s sports marketing strategy. While it’s highly supported Division 1 football program has proven to be a poor return on investment of late, one of it’s club sport affiliates, the Anglers@USC bass fishing club team, has been kicking butt and making names.
Locally outshining the hoopla of Florida pro John Cox, who earned a check for $100,000 by winning the FLW’s Lake Hartwell Tour Event, the FLW Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship was won by Chris Blanchette and Hampton Anderson of the University of South Carolina. The USC anglers fished a three- day event, emerging on top of 53 college teams on Lake Keowee.
The USC anglers posted a tournament best three day, 15 fish limit weighing 38 pounds, 15 ounces, finishing 14 ounces ahead of second place team Kennedy Kinkade and Josh Worth from Colorado Mesa Univesity. The win netted Blanchette and Anderson $29,000 in cash and a brand new Ranger Z175 bass boat and 90 HP Mercury Outboard motor.
“We’re both conservative fishermen,” Blanchette says. “We just want to go out and catch a solid limit. But we knew this is it – this is the National Championship. We came here to win, not take second or third.”
The victory posted back-to-back wins for the Gamecocks in FLW Collegiate championships following last year’s win on Lake Murray by USC anglers Patrick Walters and Gettys Brannon.
For college club teams, bass fishing on a national circuit is both a blessing and a curse. The students rarely get the rescheduling consideration common with other college athletes and the anglers have to pay for their own tackle, gear and traveling expenses. On the other hand, winning a big sum of money, unheard of in other sanctioned college athletics, goes straight into the pockets of the anglers.
With regard to the FLW Collegiate National Championship, winning the event comes with another blessing and curse. The winning team gets a free berth to compete against the professional bass anglers in this year’s coveted Forrest Wood Cup, which will be held on August 4 - 7 on Lake Wheeler, AL. The curse is that only one angler can go to the Cup and the way that spot is decided is by blind fish-off the following day on an as yet undisclosed lake.
Following the awards ceremony, Blanchette and Anderson were informed by FLW officials that they would be competing against each other in separate boats on Lake Russell.
‘We both knew this was what would happen if we won, it’s just business,” said Hampton Anderson, a TL Hanna High School graduate from Anderson.
While the pros decided their fate on Sunday, the USC anglers staged their own private head-to-head competition on Lake Russell, launching from Sanders Ferry ramp on the Savannah River side of the lake.
“I haven’t fished Russell since I was a kid with my Dad,” said Anderson. “I just went out there and started beating the banks.”
At the end of the day, Anderson emerged victorious with a five-bass limit of 10 pounds, 1 ounce, while Blanchette caught four keepers for 6-6. Anderson said he simply fished around the boat ramp but figured out a pattern to catch largemouth bass, which were holding at the ends of tree blow-downs rather than concentrating on the smaller spotted bass which were everywhere else.
Anderson said he’s looking forward to competing against the pros on Lake Wheeler. A senior finance major, he said his strength as a bass fisherman is fishing slow and deep, both desired combinations for fishing Wheeler in the dead of summer.
“I’ll probably drag a jig around on the bottom and see what happens,” he said.
Phillip Gentry is the host of “Upstate Outdoors,” broadcast from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on 106.3 WORD FM. This week, Upstate Outdoors will have Edwin Evers, winner of the 2016 Bassmaster Classic, appearing on the show. Contact Gentry at email@example.com.
Last Sunday, Chris Blanchette and Hampton Anderson of the University of South Carolina won the FLW Bass Fishing College National Championship ahead of 53 other college teams on Lake Keowee.The win represents back-to-back FLW National Championships for the bass fishing Gamecocks. Photo courtesy FLW.
The warm weather that has spread across the Upstate in what was promised a few weeks ago by the Ground Hog has a lot of outdoorsman grinning ear-to-ear. Reports of fish invading the shallows and turkeys gobbling in the bright morning sunshine are reasons to smile.
When it comes to the latter, biologists with the SCDNR have a little cause for concern. Last year the State Legislature passed laws that would standardize turkey season on private lands across the state. For the first time, this season Upstate turkey hunters will take to the woods on March 20 whereas in years past, the opening date for turkey season was not until April 1.
SCDNR Turkey Project coordinator Charles Ruth is happy that a compromise could be reached standardizing season dates, but has concerned that an earlier hunting season may interrupt breeding for a species that has shown a drastic decline in numbers across the state in recent years. Historically, Low Country hunters were allowed to begin hunting on March 15, but will hold off 5 days and start with the rest of the state.
“We’ll see what happens,” said Ruth. “Personally, I think it’s a bit early. The birds are still flocked up right now and even though it’s common to hear gobblers gobbling in March, the hens will not start laying until the first week or so into April.”
Ruth’s concern is that by hunters harvesting male turkey too early in the season, breeding success may be reduced. Based on historical data, gobbler practice a lot of styling and profiling for hens before they get down to the business of reproduction. This posturing is sometimes good for hunters because birds tend to make a lot of racket, cluing the hunter in to their location on the hunting grounds.
“It’s a balance of insuring reproduction of the species while allowing hunters the opportunity to hunt during times of frequent gobbling,” said Ruth.
In addition to the new season start date, the spring turkey season also extends into May with a closure slated for May 6. Ruth said a lot of hunters concentrate on killing turkeys the first week of the season but could also have success by hunting gobblers later in the season after hens have left the flock and are incubating the nest.
“Hens lay a clutch of up to 15 eggs, but they may only lay one a day so there’s some time involved there,” said Ruth. “But once she has committed to incubation, sitting on the nest, she does leave that area and that’s when hunters speak of gobblers getting lonely and will range farther to find the last available hens.”
Of note to hunters in preparation for the beginning of the season is that the bag limit on gobblers has been reduced to three per season, down from 5 per season in prior years. In order to legally hunt turkeys, all hunters, including hunters under the age of 16, must possess a set of turkey tags. Hunters 16 and older must also possess a hunting license and big game permit. Hunters may not possess more than one set of turkey tags, and all harvested birds must be tagged prior to being moved from the point of kill.
As was the case last year, handwritten wild turkey tags are no longer available over the counter at local vendors. Turkey tags are available over the counter at S.C. Department of Natural Resources offices located in Clemson, Charleston, Columbia, Florence and York.
Hunters need to also bear in mind that the revised season dates only apply to privately owned, leased or permissive use lands. Hunting on public lands and WMAs will adhere to the traditional season opening date of April 1.
Phillip Gentry is the host of “Upstate Outdoors,” broadcast from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on 106.3 WORD FM. Podcasts of the show can be found at www.1063word.com Contact Gentry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While turkey hunters eagerly await the earlier opening day of turkey season, biologists are concerned that hunting my interrupt the breeding cycle. Photo by Phillip Gentry.
Long awaited and much anticipated legislature aimed at curtailing the decline of South Carolina’s whitetail deer herd made progress over the past week as the House of Representatives took control of S454, a Senate bill that was approved last March. The House withheld voting on the bill last session until the SCDNR held an additional round of public consensus meetings to discuss the proposal of limiting the harvest of antlered deer and establishing a tag system to regulate the harvest of both bucks and does.
Last week, a House sub-committee approved legislation by making changes to a companion bill, H4943. The changes centered around removing the proposed $15 tag fee and allowing all in-state deer hunters who purchased the already required Big Game Permit to receive 3 buck tags and 8 date-specific doe tags. The date specific doe tags would supplant the existing doe day system where hunters are allowed to harvest antlerless deer and put in place tags that could only be used on specific dates.
Additional buck tags would be available for purchase but would carry an antler restriction, where only bucks with at least 4 points on one side and a 12 inch inside spread were legal for harvest.
In the public consensus meetings, many hunters expressed interest in establishing some “trophy management” criteria in the state similar to legislation already in existence in other states.
The doe tag program whereby hunters could purchase up to 4 antlerless doe tags for $5 each would remain in place. The intent of the original doe tag system was to allow antlerless deer harvest on days other than designated doe days and was amended prior to last season to include any doe harvested during any season regardless of weapon.
The Deer Quota Program, used in place of individual doe tags by owners and managers of large tracts of private land with an overabundance of deer, would be amended to include both bucks and does and set harvest allowances outside of the newly proposed tag system.
Finally, non-resident deer hunters would see a significant increase in the cost to hunt in South Carolina while allowing the purchase of up to four buck tags, two of which must include antler restriction. The cost would be $50 for the first tag and $20 for each additional tag.
“This revised proposal represents what we consider to be a middle ground between the original Senate bill and the results of our public meetings,” said Charles Ruth, Deer Coordinator for South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. “This proposal doesn’t essentially reduce any of our deer regulations that have been in place for some time. It does put a limit on bucks in the lower state areas and it provides a tagging system so we can accurately keep track of the deer that are harvested.”
Currently South Carolina is the only state in the country where there is no limit on the number of bucks that can be killed. The Upstate areas of Game Zones 1 and 2 have an honor system limit which is essentially unenforceable for prosecuting wildlife cases and Zones 3 – 6 have no limit.
“(If passed), this would protect a lot of the year and a half old bucks and help them reach maturity,” said Ruth. “In addition, the tag system will allow some flexibility in the future for limiting or expanding doe harvest based on the trending population.”
If the House proposal is passed, it would have to go back to the Senate for approval before being sent to the Governor’s office to be signed into law.
Phillip Gentry is the host of “Upstate Outdoors,” broadcast from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on 106.3 WORD FM. This week’s guest on the show will be Charles Ruth, Deer and Turkey Coordinator for South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. Contact Gentry at email@example.com.
A House Sub-committee has approved a bill that would finally establish antlered deer harvest limits in South Carolina and institute a tagging program for all deer. Photo by Phillip Gentry.
Devildog Anglers Clark and Smith Post 26 pound Bag including Two 10+ Pound Bass
During an otherwise dismal week-end of bass fishing to start the TBF/FLW High School bass fishing season, Travelers Rest High School bass fishing team members Daniel Clark and Jacob Smith scored an impressive win on Florida’s Lake Okeechobee held January 17 during the 2016 TBF/FLW High School Fishing Florida Open.
The duo weighed an impressive 5 bass limit weighing 26 pounds, 8 ounces which included a 12 pound -1 ounce largemouth that claimed the tournaments big fish award and another bass over 10 pounds.
Florida’s Lake Okeechobee is renowned for it’s impressive fish populations and sizes but also for subjectivity to adverse weather which was the case during the tournament. Heavy winds and rain prior to and during the event prompted tournament officials to delay the start of the high school tournament for an hour as well as restrict high school anglers, who must fish with a designated boat captain over the age of 21 in the boat at all times, to fish only the Kissimmee River portion of the area.
“When we found out about the restriction, we got on our phones and checking our mapping apps for a good place to fish the river since nobody had really pre-fished there,” said Jacob Smith, a junior at Travelers Rest. “We saw this drainage ditch up the river that was about a 15 minute run and figured with rain and current coming in, that might be a good place to start.”
The drainage ditch the pair arrived at before any of the other competitors was both a good place to start and finish. On his third cast with a Livingston Crankbait in Guntersville Craw color up near the rocky area where the water was coming in, Daniel Clark hooked into the 12 pound bass that would have won the tournament for the team by herself.
“We both started casting toward this one rock that sort of marked the edge of a ditch with weed mats on either side,” said Clark, also a junior at TR. “We caught another 2 – 3 pound fish and then a few casts later we hooked a 10 pounder. It was unreal, we were both having trouble just trying to get those fish in the boat while other teams around us were watching.”
The pair finished out a 5 fish limit, only catching 7 fish from the honey hole, but the combined weight was enough to place them an even 16 pounds over the second place finisher.
During the three day week-end, FLW professional anglers through it’s affiliate programs with the Costa Del Mar Series, couldn’t touch the success brought to the scales by these two high schools anglers on a one day basis.
“It was great to see a High School club from South Carolina come down to Florida and catch two monster largemouth and win the tournament,” said FLW spokesperson Joseph Opager. “Their 26-pound, 8-ounce five-bass limit was larger than any limit weighed in from the 250-boat Costa FLW Series tournament held that same weekend, and that was a three-day event. We’re looking forward to the FLW/TBF High School Fishing Carolina Open next month in South Carolina.”
Back at home after the event, both Clark and Smith indicated they were excited about the great start to their high school bass fishing season. The win at Okeechobee provides the two teenagers a berth to compete in the High School Fishing Southeastern Conference championship on Lake Cumberland in Somerset, Kentucky on September 16-17. In the meantime, there are high school club events as well as local high school tournaments the pair are planning to compete in. In Other News
The 46th Annual Upstate SC Boat Show will be held at the TD Convention Center on January 28-31, 2016. Show hours are Thursday & Friday: 12pm – 9pm, Saturday: 10am – 9pm, and
Sunday: 12pm – 6pm. Admission and parking is Adults $7, Seniors (65+) $6, Students (6-18) $6, Children Under 6 FREE, Parking $5. For more information, call 864-233-2562
Phillip Gentry is the host of “Upstate Outdoors,” broadcast from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on 106.3 WORD FM. This week, Upstate Outdoors will be broadcasting live from the SC Boat Show at the TD Convention Center. Contact Gentry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Travelers Rest High School bass fishing team of Jacob Smith and Daniel Clark, brought a five-bass limit to the scale on January 17, weighing 26 pounds, 8 ounces, to win the 2016 TBF/FLW High School Fishing Florida Open on Lake Okeechobee. Photo courtesy FLW.
Unless they spent time in the low country, most old time anglers don’t remember catching white perch in the Upstate. Old timers wax poetic about white bass fishing on Lakes Greenwood and Hartwell but a white bass and a white perch is not the same thing.
If you ever fished out west, a white perch was actually a white crappie and out there it’s mispronounced as “crah-pee” rather than the correct pronunciation crappy, which is synonymous for the weather we’re having.
A white perch is actually a member of the true bass family. It’s related to white bass, striped bass, and step-cousin to the hybrid bass. Like striped bass, white perch are anadromous, meaning they can live in both fresh and salt water. That factoid might explain why there are white perch in the Santee-Cooper Lakes, which has a direct connection to the ocean via the Santee River and a frequently opening fish lift at the St. Stevens dam.
But why are there white perch in Lake Greenwood? Why are they in even smaller lakes like Lake Robinson, Cunningham, Bowen and Blalock?
The answer there lies in the anglers who like to catch them. Fisheries managers state that white perch are migratory in nature but not to the extent they have infiltrated much of the southeast. The only answer is that they were moved from areas like Santee-Cooper inland either as bait for other species like stripers and catfish and then released or were intentionally released to establish populations.
“White perch are not native to our inland lakes,” said SCDNR Fisheries biologist Dan Rankin. “In fact, they are classified as an invasive species and several years ago were de-categorized from the gamefish list, so in effect, there are no size or creel limits on them at all.”
The upside of white perch is that the aggressive fish school in large numbers and readily bite most anything. The fish also tolerate cold well so when other species are shivering on the bottom and uninterested in feeding, white perch are raring to go. This, plus the fact that many anglers relish the taste of white perch as table fare, has made the species a fan favorite, particularly when other species are not as active.
Anglers targeting panfish with artificial baits will have more success enticing a reaction bite from these fish which, though highly dormant, will strike out at baits as they die and spin off of the school or flutter to the bottom. Jigging spoons, down-sized Alabama rigs, and drop-shot rigs with small plastics are best bets.
Anglers preferring to use live baits should equip themselves with small and medium minnows, roughly equating the same size threadfin shad the fish are eating. Fish these baits vertically on one or two hook rigs. A Kentucky rig, with up to a 1 ounce bait on the bottom and two loops tied inline sporting #2 light wire hooks, is effective for making contact with the bottom, then reeling up to the desired level.
Drift or slow troll through schools of bait, paying particular attention to each end of the bait schools rather than the middle. The white perch bite will be more aggressive, even in cold water, than that of other species, such as crappie or largemouth bass which may frequent the same pattern. White perch will move off to one side while crappie will simply inhale the bait and likely spit it when resistance is detected.
Regardless of popular opinion, upscale line to 8 to 10 pound test. At depths of 30 – 40 feet, white perch are not particularly line shy and the higher tensile strength will up your chances of landing that big blue catfish, largemouth, or striped bass that inevitably didn’t get the memo that you were on a perch jerking trip.
Phillip Gentry is the host of “Upstate Outdoors,” broadcast from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on 106.3 WORD FM. This week’s guest on the show will be members of the Travelers Rest High School Bass Fishing Team. Contact Gentry at email@example.com.
Winter doldrums can be quickly relieved by the tug of a feisty white perch, which are known to bite throughout even the coldest of conditions. Photo by Phillip Gentry.
University Bass Fishing Clubs Represent Schools Well
While Clemson University and The University of Alabama are undeniably home to some great college football programs, it might come to a surprise to some that both universities also support two up and coming college bass fishing programs. These programs are not alone with the number of major universities sprouting fishing teams growing each year.
In the wide world of sports, professional bass fishing has become a major entity boasting in the millions of dollars in economic impact with tens of thousands of fans. In recent years, organized bass fishing teams on a collegiate level have also made a name for themselves due in large part to support from the professional ranks.
“We see college bass fishing as an up and coming franchise that has already begun to supply the professional ranks of bass fishing with the next generation of anglers,” said Joseph Opager, media manager for FLW Outdoors.
While the big name sports like football, basketball, and baseball are D-1 sporting programs at both Clemson and Alabama, the bass fishing teams are officially organized as clubs, led by student-athletes who represent their schools through a university advisor.
Because bass tournaments award valuable prizes such as boats and cash to tournament winners rather than just trophies, taking such a competition from a club level to an NCAA affiliated program would have it’s challenges.
“On one hand, we have to pay all of our own expenses for travel to the tournaments,” said Clemson University bass fishing team president Isaac Nesbitt. “But when one of our teams wins a check or prizes from a tournament, that stuff is ours to keep.”
College bass fishing teams have no shortage of competition to choose from. Both FLW and Bassmaster sponsor a collegiate level tournament trail that fish all over the country. College teams can register for as many or as few events as they can handle. Both offer no entry fees but require that all participants must be registered, full-time students at a college, university or community college and members of a college fishing club.
Unlike some major sports, the anglers get no allowance for tutoring while traveling to destinations to fish and most indicate it is at the discretion of the individual professors how much leeway the student-anglers get for time out of the classroom.
“It helps if you go to your professors early on and let them know you’re on the bass fishing team and representing the university,” said University of Alabama fishing club president John Bryant. “most of the time, they will let us turn stuff in early or work online so if we have a tournament somewhere, we can go a couple days early to pre-fish.”
Both technology and the team concept of college bass fishing facilitate student anglers getting to both attend the university they represent while pursuing the sport that requires every bit of the dedication asked of any other competitive college sport.
“We take turns driving if we’re going on a long trip,” said Clemson’s Nesbitt. “One guy drives the truck with the boat in tow behind us while the other guy works on his laptop and turns in homework or maybe even takes a test online.”
With the start of the 2016 college bass tournament season already underway, Clemson bass anglers as well as other local colleges are looking forward to FLW holding it’s national championship this year on Lake Keowee.
The 2016 FLW College Fishing National Championship will be hosted by the Mountain Lakes Convention and Visitors Bureau on Lake Keowee in Seneca, S.C, March 17-19. Registration for the 2016 season opened on December 14, 2015, for teams from clubs represented in the 2015 FLW College Fishing National Championship. All other teams began registration beginning December 15, 2015. Anglers can register at FLWFishing.com.
Phillip Gentry is the host of “Upstate Outdoors,” broadcast from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on 106.3 WORD FM. This week’s guest on the show will be Randy Morrison, tournament director for SC Upstate Chapter of Fishers of Men Bass Tournament Trail. Contact Gentry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
College bass fishing may never gain the widespread appeal of college football, but today’s student/angler/athletes are no less dedicated to their sport.
Most outdoorsmen look at the beginning of January with disdain. The long 3 – 4 month deer season is over and most of the better fishing is still several weeks away. Suffice to say unless you are a die-hard duck hunter or still in the woods trying to rid your property of the wild pigs or coyotes that seem to get more and more plentiful each year, you probably have a little time on your hands.
January is a great time to head out to the garage or wherever you store and stage most of your hunting and fishing gear and do some cleaning and organizing. It’s a great time to clean all the guns up and store them for the season and start taking a critical eye toward any fishing gear that needs attention.
Today’s fishing rods and reels are so expensive, ignoring any problems early on can cost you in the long run. Try to take an inventory of which reel might have been giving you some problems and break that reel down and give it a really good cleaning. While you are at it, take this opportunity to check your rod guides for any nicks or abrasions that can cut or damage line when under pressure – like when you have that big pre-spawn bass or striper hooked up.
Cotton swabs or balls wiped on the guides will quickly show any picks you have in your guides so you can work on those. Since most manufacturers are not too fond or you opening the casings on the reel because of warranty violations, make sure you lubricate each reel and if anything needs work, now is a good time to box it up and ship it in for service.
Back in the old days, dad and grandpa had one giant tackle box with fold out trays that held all of the tackle they owned. Today’s anglers realized that it was much easier to stock specific use clear tackle trays and load them into a larger bag depending on the species and pattern you wanted to fish on a particular outing. Whether you have only a handful of these tackle boxes or half a garage full, now is a good time to open all of those boxes and re-sort lures, hooks, weights and terminal tackle back into the box they go in.
Reorganizing your tackle will also remind you of which staples of lures you’re getting low on and which ones you thought you’d use but are just taking up space. You can tell which ones produced best because the bodies will have love bites on them and the hooks will be dull and bent. Take the time to either re-hook those lures or file the points back to razor sharpness and give them a shot of WD40 to prevent rusting.
For those of you who don’t change fishing line very often, now is the time to get in there and strip off all the old line from your fishing reels and replace it with fresh line.
One last remark about organization and maintenance is don’t forget the big stuff, your 4 stroke outboard motor oil needs to be changed, the wheel bearings on your trailers, and you might as well include the utility trailer your wife is going to want you to haul mulch in, will all need attention. Hopefully that just means topping off the bearing hubs with some fresh grease and not having to get in there and re-pack the whole wheel bearing.
Kind of makes you yearn for those lazy fall afternoons when all you had to do was sit in a tree.
Phillip Gentry is the host of “Upstate Outdoors,” broadcast from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on 106.3 WORD FM. This week’s guests on the show will be members of the Clemson and University of Alabama bass fishing teams. Contact Gentry at email@example.com.
With a small gap between deer season and spring fishing, now is the time to maintain and organize your outdoor gear. Photo by Phillip Gentry.