BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – With 32 applicants, competition was stiff for this year's Shimano/B.A.S.S. Nation scholarships for those pursuing careers in natural resources and fisheries management.
"Our review team had a difficult time narrowing down the field because of the quality we saw in these student anglers," said Gene Gilliland, B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director, who served on the selection panel.
"In the end, those applicants who expressed the strongest desire to pursue a career with a state or federal agency rose to the top of our list."
Notably, the nine winners of $3,000 each included Cantley Krafft of Radford, Va., who received word while competing for Virginia Tech in the 2018 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Championship on Oklahoma's Lake Tenkiller.
"I'm blessed to be able to attend such a great university where I can pursue my career and my dream, all in one," said Krafft, who is studying fisheries conservation and also aspires to be a professional angler.
Other winners included the following:
Charly Hope Crosby of Rock Hill, S.C. When not involved with wildlife and fisheries studies at Clemson University, she enjoys fishing for bass and tarpon.
Hunter Hatcher of Spotsylvania, Va. He earned a degree in fisheries from Virginia Tech and is pursuing a master's degree at Mississippi State University. He's also a competitive collegiate bass angler.
Kevin Lambert of Cape Girardeau, Mo. He is graduate student in natural sciences and biology at Southeast Missouri University, with a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University. He enjoys fishing for a wide range of species, including bass and sunfish, along with apex predators like musky and sharks.
Peter Leonard of Russellville, Ark. He is working on master of science degree in Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences at Arkansas State University and has been involved in numerous projects focused on sauger in Arkansas, as well as salmon and northern pike in Alaska.
Summer Lindelien of Gainesville, Fla. She is a University of Wisconsin-Superior graduate and now a graduate research student at the University of Florida, where she has done seasonal research work at the Gainesville Freshwater Fisheries Research office.
Stephen Stang of Bluemont, Va. He is majoring in fish conservation at Virginia Tech, where he is a member of its bass team, and already has fisheries experience with the Paint Bank State Trout Hatchery in Virginia and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
Riley Kilpatrick of Athens, Ala. A recent graduate of Athens High School and a member of its bass fishing team, he will major in biology with a concentration in environmental science at the University of South Alabama this fall.
Cody Salzman of White Oak, Ark. With a bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin, he is now working on a master's degree in Fisheries and Aquaculture at the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff. He also is president of the school's bass fishing team.
"These were the applicants who want to become practicing fishery management biologists," Gilliland said. "They want to be involved in taking care of the resource that they themselves enjoy as anglers. As managers they should be able to relate to the users of the resource because they are one."
According to Phil Morlock, Shimano's Vice President for Government Affairs/Advocacy, the scholarships are a key element of the Shimano Varsity Program. As such, they "help recruit students who already enjoy fishing and understand the importance of conservation efforts through their involvement with B.A.S.S. to pursue a college degree in natural resource professions," he said.
"As a leader in the sportfishing business, we join our friends at B.A.S.S. in addressing the critical decline in professional natural resource managers who fish, all in hopes that the future of the recreational fishing industry is based on sustainable use and proper management of our public lands and waters."
Along with Gilliland, Morlock served on the panel that selected the winners, as did Chris Horton of the Congressional Sportsman's Foundation.
Number of students competing increased significantly this year because applications were invited from high school seniors, as well as those already attending college, including graduate school.
For more information on the Shimano/B.A.S.S. scholarship initiative, check out the Shimano Varsity Program.