Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Fishing team looks to reel in national title


For members of the University of Alabama’s fishing team, catching big bass means more than excelling in a hobby. It means winning national championships.

Founded in 2005, the fishing team won the collegiate national championship in 2006 and has placed in the top ten teams nationally each year since their creation.

President Ben Weldon, a senior whose brother founded the club five years ago, said there are over 200 collegiate bass fishing teams nationally, but Alabama’s strength in size – with the team containing almost five times the average number of members – and ability to compete make the team the front runner for the 2011 title in May.

“Our goal every year is to be the best, to win the national championship, because we know that we are capable of doing it,” Weldon said.

Because the Tide team contains more than 50 members, competition between teammates gets intense as only 6 are selected to compete in the championship tournament.

“What we actually do in a nutshell is have tournaments in our club as well, and we call them qualifiers so we get point totals against each other,” Weldon said. “We call them solo tournaments. You fish by yourself in your boat, just you, and we have a point system with how you did in each tournament. We rank each person, each angler, and that is how we determine who goes to the national championship.”

These solo tournaments make up the majority of fishing team practices, but the team leaves early for larger tournaments to get on-site preparation.

“For the national championship, we go out there three to four days before the tournament and try out the waters, try and get an advantage on the field or the fish to see what is going on,” Weldon said.

Although the team competes together for championships, many members also participate in individual tournaments throughout the year.

“Personally, I fished close to 20 tournaments last year,” Weldon said. “Each individual fishes 10-20 tournaments each year. We have 50 guys this year and last year we had 30. We disperse because it is a pretty large group. I may be in Jackson, while another guy goes to Georgia. We try and split up so we can get a guy at each location.”

Team treasurer Kyle Hirschfeld said he has been fishing for as long as he could hold a rod and joined the team to find other people at Alabama who share his love for outdoors and the water.

“I wanted to be with a group of guys who enjoyed doing the same thing that I do,” Hirschfeld said. “I enjoy being around people who enjoy the same hobbies and things as me, and the fishing team was that, so I decided I would join it.

“I just love being outdoors and in the outside. I love the hunt of the fish: finding the fish, throwing a particular lure at them and then catching them.”

Hirschfeld feels his participation on the team allowed him to grow in his abilities as a fisher.

“I try to learn something new in particular every time I get on the water,” Hirschfeld said. “I have learned about the competitive side of fishing. I am learning how to fish fast and fish smart. You can’t lose many fish to be a good tournament fisher.”

This season, Hirschfeld is setting his sights on participating in the national championship tournament.

“The top six on our team go to the national championship,” Hirschfeld said. “My goal is to qualify for that. My personal goal is to get more people my age into competitive fishing. The goal of college fishing is to get more people into professional fishing.”

The expertise of his teammates, Hirschfeld said, makes him confident that they will become national champions again this spring.

“Our goal is to become national champions,” Hirschfeld said. “We have some really expert fishermen who have been fishing for a really long time in many Alabama lakes. They have a natural instinct for fishing. Not everybody can be out on the water for eight hours casting at what you cannot see. That is what you are doing — casting at what you cannot see; you just have to have faith that the fish are there.”

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