Shaye Baker wakes before his alarm and hops out of bed at 3:30 a.m. as some college students are just going to bed. He slides on his jersey and gets ready for a long day.
He hooks the boat to the truck and picks up his partner. As they arrive at the lake, Baker and his partner waste no time getting the boat into the water. They hurry up and wait for the sun to rise.
While most people may see competitive sports as being football, basketball or soccer, Baker gets all the competition he needs from intercollegiate bass fishing.
“Once we blast off and I get a rod and reel in my hand, I'm ready for the day,” says Baker. “We spend a few hours on the water and bring as much weight to the scales as we can.”
Baker is a competitive bass fisher for the Auburn University Bass Sports Club. A Spanish-international trade major, Baker serves as president for the club that started three years ago.
“You know, I’ve always liked fishin’,” says Baker. “I saw a collegiate fishin’ tournament on TV one day and called to start a club here at Auburn.”
What he soon found was that there already was a bass club at Auburn and two years after it started, Baker would become President.
Every semester, the bass sporting club holds four tournaments they call qualifiers. These qualifiers decide who ends up on the traveling team which can hold two to eight members.
The traveling team competes in three or four tournaments in the fall and seven or eight tournaments in the spring.
“Sometimes we travel more than we fish,” says Baker. “In the spring, we can put up to 100 hours in traveling alone.”
All the traveling may prove to be worth it if the team keeps winning.
“We’ve won five or six intercollegiate tournaments and placed top five in several more,” says Baker.
The sport of bass fishing is strongest in the southeast with schools in Alabama and Georgia participating, and it is becoming more prevalent in the Midwest as well as the North.
Auburn once placed fifth in the national championship that takes place every summer and currently has three teams heading for the regional tournament. The hopes are to win regional and head to the state tournament.
Bass fishing is a mental game according to Baker. He says you have to stay sharp because as soon as you let your guard down the big one will strike.
“If you get them all in the boat and you find yourself on stage holding up the first place trophy you better step back and relish the moment,” says Baker,” ‘cause it doesn't last long and it'll be somebody else up there next week.”