GC bass fishing making waves across the country
The GC bass fishing team is ranked in the top 55 of all schools in the nation. With the National Championship on the horizon, the team has high expectations for the rest of their season.
Many people are unaware that the GC bass fishing team competes year-round. The season begins in September and ends with the National Championship in July.
The competition is not as easy as some may think: the competitive side to fishing is more than simply casting a line.
According to the president of the GC bass fishing team, Robert Keene, the level of competition is extremely intense.
Keene is a senior marketing major who grew up in Oconee County with a 12-acre pond in his backyard where he spent most of his time fishing. Keene’s interest in GC was sparked by his uncle who told him that GC had a fishing team.
“The bass fishing team is one of the reasons why I came to GC, and I have loved it ever since,” Keene said.
When he entered his freshman year at GC, Keene said he helped out as much as he could to benefit the team. He began promoting the team by updating the team’s website and posting on social media. His efforts boosted the number of team members from nine to 18 in just one season.
Keene was then elected president by his team for his junior year. The president’s duties are managing money, sponsorships, traveling and lodging details for trips.
Along with Keene, junior team members Austin Stanley and David Keener are both anglers. Anglers, also known as boaters, are the owners of the boat.
Stanley and Keener both started fishing at a young age, and their passion for fishing has grown more over the years.
“I’ve been fishing since I was two years old with my dad,” Stanley explained.
The team practices at Lake Sinclair in Milledgeville, which is known for some of the best fishing in Georgia, according to Keener and Stanley. There are 20 members on the team, ten boaters and ten non-boaters. When competing, there are only two people in each boat, the boater and non-boater.
The responsibilities of the boater include having all the supplies needed, such as the net, life jackets, paddle, scale and measuring board. Most importantly, the boater must possess the knowledge of where to go on the water. The non-boater helps pay for the gas and provides any other help that the boater may need.
Throughout the season, the team practices about twice a week on their own time. They do not have scheduled practices.
“For practice, we just call a couple of the guys that are free and want to go out on the water, which is usually on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons,” Keener said.
However, for tournaments, the fishermen practice three days before the tournament from sunrise to sunset to understand how the fish are biting and what areas on the lake give them the best chance of winning. On the day of the tournament, they start at daybreak and go to the weighing station around 3 p.m.
From September to December, the team competes in four qualifiers. These are the tournaments that rank the fishermen for the spring, depending on their outcome.
The ranks are important because only the top four anglers are funded by the school. Whoever is ranked first is 100 percent funded, second is 75 percent funded, third is 50 percent funded and fourth is 25 percent funded. The weight of the top five fish that are caught determines a win.
“You can catch as many as you want, but you only keep the top five that you think weigh the most.” Stanley said.
The team travels across the southeast for tournaments to places like Lake Chickamauga in Tennessee, Lake Pickwick, Lake Guntersville in Alabama and Kentucky Lake and Toledo Bend between Texas and Louisiana.
Keene said he enjoys being able to represent GC in a positive way and travel all over the country.
“It’s a dream being apart of this team,” Keene said.
Keene described his relationship with his team as his fraternity, saying they are all best friends. However, his favorite part of fishing is the adrenaline rush that he gets when he catches a fish.
His teammate Keener explained that it takes much experience and luck to become a good fisherman.
“You learn more about the fish over time and how to cast, what to throw, where to throw and when to throw,” Keener said.
However, many aspects of fishing are out of fishermen’s control, such as the fish biting or the weather cooperating.
Keener and Stanley said it takes patience, motivation, hard work and a positive attitude.
From tournament to tournament, improvements must be made just like any other sport.
“In order to improve, it simply takes more time on the water,” Keene said. “This allows you to try new and different techniques each day. Time on the water also builds your confidence.”
Keene’s goal for the rest of the season is to continue being successful as a team and finish in the top 15. Since Keene is graduating in May, he is in the process of passing his knowledge of the president’s responsibilities down to Stanley, who is president-elect for next year, hoping for a victorious bass fishing team for the future at GC.