Did you know Auburn University has a bass fishing team? It does, and they’re good – really good. The team placed second at this year’s College Bass National Championship and Auburn’s own Matt Lee qualified for the 2013 Bassmasters Classic.
In case you’ve never heard of the Bassmasters Classic, it’s like the Super Bowl of bass fishing, and only one college student is chosen from around the world to compete each year.
Lee, a senior in industrial engineering, began fishing when he was just three or four.
“My mom claims that she was the one, not my dad, to put a fishing rod in my hand,” he jokes, “and it really just took off from there.”
Lee fell in love with the sport and began learning everything he could about fishing. He fished every free minute he had growing up, but didn’t start competitive fishing until he was out of high school. Then Lee came to Auburn and joined Auburn University’s Bass Sports Club.
The club has 33 members, and the top five members compete in tournaments. Tournaments are either multi-day or single-day and generally last eight or nine hours. Competitors keep their best five fish in a process called culling, where if you catch a sixth bigger fish, you throw the smallest of the five back. The fish also have to be kept alive in the boat throughout the tournament or the team is penalized.
When asked if fishing has to do with luck, Lee usually says, “I tend to think if Tiger Woods plays golf, he might hit a hole-in-one. It might take a little luck for him to hit a hole-in-one, but he’s going to hit a lot more holes-in-one than I am.”
He explains a lot dictates how the fish will bite. The time of year, cloud cover and type of water all factor into a fisher’s success, and you can never stop learning.
Even more goes into professional fishing. Bass fishing is different from other sports in that the marketing side of it – how you market yourself, whether or not you can sell products, if people know your name – dictates everything. You have to be able to catch fish, but you also have to be able to single yourself out in the industry.
A career in industrial engineering is more realistic for Lee, though he hasn’t completely rejected the idea of professional fishing.
“I love fishing and it would mean the world to me to be able to do it as a career,” Lee says.