DAYTON, Tenn. --- Every good team needs a place where its members can come together -- a place they can talk strategy, build camaraderie and boost morale.
A football team has a locker room. A baseball team has a dugout.
And the Bryan College bass fishing team has…a hardware store?
For the first couple of its five years of existence, Bryan College anglers did actually meet at a former Dayton-area Ace Hardware that had storage buildings on-site where the team kept its boats. The location is a couple of miles from the school’s small but serene campus in the heart of this Tennessee city, and while it might not have been the ideal meeting space, it served a purpose for the dozen young men who were Bryan’s bass fishing pioneers.
But as the team found success and doubled in size, it seemed practical that the anglers have a place of their own on Bryan’s campus.
That’s what Mike Keen, the team’s coach, thought anyway. So he approached Bryan College President Stephen Livesay with an idea and a proposal. The pitch was to erect a stretch of buildings that would not only eliminate the rising cost of rent but also would give Keen’s anglers a convenient meeting place on campus.
Livesay, who Keen said is among the college’s most ardent supporters, was sold on the idea in a hurry.
“He said ‘This is a no-brainer,’” Keen said. “And that’s how we got what we have today.”
What Bryan has is a stretch of seven buildings that house the bass boats its anglers use in competitions across the U.S.
Each structure is 32 feet deep by 24 feet wide and made of aluminum painted beige with forest green trim (which almost perfectly matches the leaves on the tall stands of trees surrounding them.) The metal buildings each can house two boats and motors, and each is accessible by a pair of 10-foot, roll-up barrel doors.
The floors are made of easy-to-clean concrete and fluorescent lights illuminate the space. Electrical outlets line the back of each building and give anglers a place to power their vessels after a long day on the water.
A combination lock on each building assures that only Keen, and the angler whose boat is inside, have access to the space.
In the real world, the buildings are not a fancy thing. But in the world of college bass fishing, they are a luxury item not afforded to most.
In fact, during this week’s Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship presented by Bass Pro (which Bryan College is co-hosting,) Keen has brought several coaches to see the string of boat-houses. He said they’ve all been wowed by the layout.
“I was looking for three things,” Keen said. “I wanted someplace where we one, we had power, two, where the boats were out of the weather and three, where we could lock ‘em up and keep ‘em safe.”
Those are important factors to the fathers of his anglers, who Keen said often times own the bass boats their sons are piloting.
“One of the first questions dads ask is ‘Where you keeping the boat?’ I joke with them and say ‘Well, we have a big tree down here and the fellow at Ace Hardware gives us all the chain we want.’ They look at me like ‘Is he kidding?,’ and then I bring them down here and show them this.”