Published Wednesday Aug 8, 2018
Lakes, rivers and creeks surround Tennessee Tech University’s home in the Upper Cumberland and the fishing in those waters is good. It’s a draw that Josh Bean, president of the Tennessee Tech Bass Fishing Team, sees bring students not only to the university but also to the student organization.
“Fishing is a part of who we are, so of course we are always looking for somebody to go fishing with,” Bean said. “The team is always a great place to start. It’s more than just fishing. It is a hobby that we all love. It’s a good way to build friendships.”
The fishing is fun, but it is also competitive. Recently, Bean, a senior wildlife and fisheries major, and his fishing partner and fellow Tech student Caden Watson, a senior mechanical engineering major, were among more than 130 pairs of college anglers to compete in the Bassmaster College Series National Championship on Lake Tenkiller in Tahlequah, Okalahoma. Along with them team members Travis Howard and Sam Carris also qualified and competed in the national championship tournament.
“Even though our fishing team has been ranked in the top 20 for years, usually in the top 10 in the nation, many people on campus don’t even know we are here,” Watson said.
To fish in the national championship, teams had to perform well in previous qualifying tournaments, bringing them up against teams from the east to west coast and everywhere between.
“College fishing is all about having a partner, teams of two per boat,” Bean said. “Technically we are a team together, and we want to see our team do well, but we are still competing against each other.”
On Lake Tenkiller, the fishing was tough, but Howard and Carris came out among the top 70 teams in the competition, with Watson and Bean just missing a spot among the top 100.
“The fishing was off a little for us,” Watson said. “It took us a long time to figure (the fish) out and even then, we were competing with several other teams in that one area, which limited us on what we could do. You just had to get lucky and be in the right spot at the same time.”
But Watson and Bean agree that there is more to competing in tournaments than just the fishing.
“You meet a lot of people and make new friends,” Bean said. “With an event like this you meet a lot of professional anglers and get advice from them. They take their time and take time out of their day just to come talk to us.”
Balancing tournament and regular fishing trips to keep them in practice, the student anglers also have to be sure to keep up their academic work.
“You have to invest your time wisely,” Watson said. “We have to plan ahead and work extra hard to get everything ready and verify with professors. We have to choose where and when we want to go.”
Through that balancing act, Watson says the team is a source of support as well, a place to turn for support and friendship.
Mark Rodgers recently joined the team as faculty advisor following the passing of longtime advisor and passionate fisherman Professor Emeritus Scott Northrup.
“Everyone loved Dr. Northrup,” Watson said. “He was a really passionate guy who would do anything for you. He would literally give you the shirt off his back. He was just that kind of guy, and he was just as passionate about fishing as we are.”
NetMinders, a local ministry directed by Northrup for many years, now offers a scholarship to a member of the fishing team, and team sponsors like Cookeville RV Marine contribute to the team’s success.These college anglers say they have found a home between the Caney Fork River, Center Hill Lake, the Cumberland River, Cordell Hull Lake, the Obey River, and Dale Hollow Lake, along creeks and within a short distance of National Parks and Forests on and around the Cumberland Plateau at Tennessee Tech.