College bass fishing catches lifelong friends

I’ll be real honest; I can’t imagine what my life would be like without organized college bass fishing.

Knowing that kids from schools all over the country were competing at the Carhartt College Series National Championship and Classic Bracket tournament in Georgia this week brought back a ton of awesome memories.

While college bass fishing is still recognized as a club sport, its increasing growth on nearly 200 college campuses around the country is definitely the coolest and most exciting cause for increased participation in fishing. For years, fishing license sales were pretty stagnant in our country, but I see college bass fishing as a way of getting a whole lot more people to make fishing a part of their lives.

College bass fishing became a part of my life when I started at Auburn in the fall of 2009. We had some qualifier tournaments back then that guys like Shaye Baker, Paul Davis, and Shane Powell competed in. They really became the foundation of Auburn’s awesome bass fishing success.

We worked hard at it. Unlike most college kids, sometimes we’d be driving 12 hours in the middle of the week to a place like Okeechobee, Fla., to compete in a tournament that upcoming weekend. A lot of times I felt like I really needed to be back on campus, purely out of concern that I’d fail academically as a result of being gone so much. The house we lived in had four or five boats parked in the yard at any given time. It wasn’t a frat house; it was a fishing house.

But I look back now, and I realize that along with learning how to make sacrifices to chase dreams and passion, and doing something I loved, that college bass fishing was also the path to many of the best friends I still have today.

My buddy Shane Powell is a huge example of an awesome friendship formed through college bass fishing. Shane and I started at Auburn the same semester, and later graduated at the same exact time. Along the way we chased girls – and bass, of course – and found a ton of fun times and great memories.

There’s no greater proof of that friendship than the fact that when I beat Shane last September on the Grand River near Muskegon, Mich., to earn the one and only berth to the Bassmaster Classic, Shane didn’t become jealous or bitter, instead he first and foremost remained my close friend.

In fact, the attached photo is one of us fishing together on Lake Guntersville a few weeks ago. He took a few days off work from his job at their family business, MP Garage Doors down in Dothan, Ala., and instead of going to the beach, he drove five hours to Guntersville, so that he and I could hang out and fish together.

Shane and I try to share time on the water every couple months, and because of the friendship formed through college bass fishing, I can see us fishing together for the rest of our lives.

I hope the kids that competed at the Carhartt College Series National Championship in Georgia will find similar important friendships throughout the upcoming year as they return to campus this month, and onward throughout the rest of their lives.