Written and Media by: Thomas Hajny
This last weekend marked the end of the first season for the Greenville College Bass Fishing team. They drove up north to Clinton, IL for a two-day open tournament hosted by Illinois State University. On the first day, the team brought in two largemouth bass, weighing in at nearly 5 pounds. Day two did not see as much luck, but the team made it back home safe and sound Sunday evening.
For these guys, the weekend started with packing the car with everything they needed. Daniel Ellensburg and Trey Gibson were the selected anglers to compete on behalf of Greenville, and they looked like they were going to war. Between the two of them, they easily brought between 15 to 20 rods in total and several tackle boxes filled to the brim with different kinds of bait and lures. The reason they have so many is so they can prepare each rod with a different bait or lure. This gives them a lot less down time on the water and more time to fish.
Every tournament begins with lots of preparation and strategy. The competition didn’t start until Saturday, but the anglers went out Friday evening to scout out the lake to look for prime fishing holes. This also helps give them a layout of the lake so they spend less time finding locations to fish during competition. It is good to know the condition of the lake as well, as no two lakes are the same. A fishing technique might work very well in one lake but hold no results in another, so it is good to know what you are dealing with and prepare accordingly.
The team wakes up bright and early before the sun comes up. At 5 am, they go through the necessary preparations for the day ahead of them. Once everything is geared up and ready to go, they leave their motel and head over to the loading docks. It was a particularly chilly morning and you could see the fog rolling off the water as the sun started to creep up over the horizon. The boats line up in the bay and race off their fishing spot one by one as the officials release them. The tournament starts at 7am and goes until 3pm. The anglers are not allowed to leave their boat between those times, so this sport can definitely be a test of endurance on the worst days. Trey and Daniel brought back two bass with a combined weight of about 5 pounds that landed them 6th place at the end of day one. When asked what they used, Daniel mentioned that they used buzz baits.
Day two began similar to day one. The exception to this is that the team reworked their strategy and started off in a different location. As the day progressed, the wind picked up speed to the point that it forced some of the teams to retreat to safety. It was a beautiful day but the waves were getting to dangerous heights that threatened to capsize some of the smaller vessels. However, the guys braved the waves and made it back in one piece. They did not weigh-in for the second day because they didn’t catch fish that were big enough to register. There are certain weight and length regulations for tournaments and if you break those, it typically results in a penalty reduction to your total weight.
The guys came back home on Sunday evening. Though they did not return with a trophy, they definitely didn’t act defeated. They caught some fish, overcame the brutal waves that made several teams pull out early, and even had some fun along the way. I asked Trey what his highlight of the weekend was, and he told me that they ran into UFC Fighter Matt Hughes in a tiny burger joint on the way up to Clinton. They even got him to sign the boat. This officially ends the team’s first season as an official team, with hopefully more to come. Even though competitions don’t start up again for several months, you can expect these guys to keep at it. For them, fishing and hunting is an all year thing and they often have friendly competitions amongst themselves.