LAKELAND, Fla. — Ten years after Weston Marsh graduated from the university that set his life in motion, he now has the opportunity to return and help future student anglers achieve their dreams.
In June, Marsh accepted the role as head coach of the new bass fishing team at Southeastern University.
With fall 2023 as the target date to start competing, Marsh has been working to secure sponsorships as well as fill out the roster. During the 2022 Abu Garcia Bassmaster High School Combine presented by Skeeter, Southeastern officially signed their first two anglers, partners Cody Morgan and Brant Langley from Marion County High School in the Palatka, Fla., area, and he hopes to have a squad of 10 anglers to start.
The new program will be a part of the school’s athletic department and will offer full scholarships to student anglers as well as cover travel expenses during tournament trips.
“There are so many amazing benefits to attending SEU, including new facilities and a great scholarship,” explained Morgan. “But it is also important to both of us to be part of building something here in our home state of Florida. We’re really excited.”
Marsh has always been an avid outdoorsman. He grew up fishing and hunting around his hometown of Adrian, Mich., and went to high school with the national championship-winning coach Seth Borton of Adrian College, which won its first Bassmaster College National Championship in 2021. Marsh says Borton has been an invaluable source of advice and guidance when building the SEU program.
Despite consistently being one of the country’s most popular bass fishing destinations — Florida had seven fisheries on the Bassmaster Magazine’s most recent 100 Best Bass Lakes list — no college in the state has ever won a Bassmaster National Championship or Association of Collegiate Anglers School of the Year title. Marsh is ready to leverage Florida’s in-state high school talent to create a powerhouse college fishing program at SEU.
“I knew there was going to be a significant amount of Florida kids that were extremely talented that … wanted to stay in the state of Florida,” Marsh said. “Now, we are in a great position to pick up those phenomenal anglers and provide an opportunity to continue to be in Florida.”
With Southeastern fully backing his program financially, Marsh believes he will be able to retain some of the talent that has been leaving the state to go to full-scholarship programs.
In an effort to spread awareness about the program, recruit and learn how the tournament scene operates, Marsh has been attending as many events as he can, including the Bassmaster High School and College Championships as well as the Combine — and he has been impressed so far with the amount of traction he has gotten in such a short time.
While he anticipates the majority of his roster will hail from Florida, Marsh said he has received interest from anglers in Alabama, Texas, Louisiana and even Michigan. With potential anglers hailing from several parts of the country, as well as Marsh’s background fishing the northern part of the country and on tidal systems, Southeastern could boast a very well-rounded program.
Along with the financial backing, the Southeastern University administration plans to create an on-campus facility for student anglers to house their boats as well as test equipment and make repairs.
“We have a spot on campus for a boat barn. We are working on design ideas that we will have built for students who are bringing their own boats with them,” Marsh said. “We are lucky to have a small body of water that will be against the future building that we will have a boat ramp on [and where] we will be able to test electronics and do maintenance checks. That provides a huge relief for students and parents.”
Marsh believes Southeastern will be immediately competitive on both local and regional college trails and hopes that Southeastern will be in contention to win national championships within five seasons.
“With the anglers we could potentially get, I have no doubt we will step out of the gate and have something to offer,” he said. “You will see Southeastern’s name quickly move through the rankings, and I would think we will be in contention for a national title within a few years of the program launching if we are able to obtain and hold the talent that has shown interest.”