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Post Column: Pro endorsements are bad for college fishing

Many people don’t understand the nature of tournament bass fishing, so I will briefly catch everyone up to speed.

Bass fishing, just like any other competitive sport, has different levels of competition. There are professional organizations with millionaire athletes and fishing leagues that compete locally, similar to golf leagues that play Tuesday evenings at the local courses.

In the local, amateur tournaments and the national, professional tournaments, the basic rules are the same. That universal set of rules includes a deadline outlining when the competitor must be back at the dock for weigh-in, a predetermined method for scoring the fish and a list of permissible techniques one can use to catch the fish.

The levels of competition can vary drastically, but the intensity and love for the sport seems to remain the same. The competitors love to fish and compete, and when it’s all said and done, they love to win.

This is where I bring college fishing into the discussion. Hundreds of colleges and universities across the U.S. have fishing teams that compete in national tournaments for big money, including our very own Ohio University. The FLW college fishing champion crowned this April will win a package valued at more than $60,000, which includes a new boat.

These winnings are something that can propel a small school’s bass club into the short list of consistently winning programs. Our club here at OU has grown tremendously in the past five years, most recently winning $1,500 with a second-place finish this past summer, but we are still nowhere near the competitive advantage of powerhouse schools such as Virginia Tech, Auburn, Oklahoma State and North Carolina State. Some of these schools actually offer bass-fishing scholarships.

It was recently announced that bass-fishing pro Skeet Reese would sponsor and mentor the Oklahoma State Cowboys fishing team. He will be providing members with free rods, reels, tips and strategies.

What does that mean? Simply put, the best will get better. The up-and-comers, like OU, will be left behind. I anticipate many other professionals will follow suit and sponsor their own handpicked elite colleges. The top winning schools will attract the big-name pros.

What this means for the professionals is more endorsements. It’s the art of money-making at its finest. I understand that in our capitalist society the objective is to make money, but I don’t think the sport of college fishing is a place to embrace it. This is supposed to be a sport with amateur athletes, not something where the focus is on making money.

The inevitable outcome that will result in the rich getting richer, so to speak, is a diminishing interest in the rapidly growing sport of college fishing. It will drive the majority of schools away from the sport because the smaller schools might not find it worth their efforts financially or scholastically.

Reese said in a news release, “But, really, spending some time to give them some of the things I’ve learned throughout my career, both on and off the water, is really what this is about.” But the influential power of the almighty dollar is just too great for me to genuinely believe his comments.

If teaching and influencing college anglers is really what it is all about for him, he has an opportunity to prove me wrong; the OU fishing club is still waiting for a response.

Ryan Dentscheff is a junior studying journalism at Ohio University, the president of the OU Anglers Organization and a columnist for The Post. Tell him your fishing stories at rd291709@ohiou.edu.

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