Derek Jones went to the weigh-in of the Bassmasters tournament in Birmingham a few years ago when he was a UAB freshman, saw members of the University of Alabama fishing team on stage during the event, and was envious.
He wanted to be a part of a collegiate fishing team.
|UAB students Derek Jones (left) and Scott Cooley show off a bass they caught last November in the first tournament UAB’s fishing team competed in on Lake Guntersville.
“When I saw Alabama’s team, I wanted to compete,” Jones says. “I wanted to do what they were doing.”
Jones and fellow student Bradley Myer decided to start a club fishing team at UAB, and it has turned out to be a great decision for them and the university.
The fishing team was recognized as an official student club this past November, and on Sept. 18 it will be competing in the Boat U.S./National Guard/Fox College Sports National Championship Tournament on Lake Lewisville in Texas.
All of this comes in a year when UAB has already claimed the 12-school Southern Collegiate Bass Fishing Series (SCBFS) regular season championship, a second-place finish in the SCBFS tournament and an eighth place finish out of 55 schools at the ESPN/UnderArmour national tournament in July.
“To compete against some of the schools they’ve competed against and have the success they’ve had I think says a lot about these guys,” says Adam Vines, instructor of creative writing and faculty sponsor of the team. “We’ve got several really good fishermen who could at any time win tournaments.”
Vines agreed to become sponsor of the team after being approached by Jones and Myer.
“I was involved with the fishing club at the University of Florida when I was in school there, so I thought the fact these students wanted to start a team here was a wonderful idea,” Vines says. “They started calling meetings and I went and these guys were so highly structured and motivated — everyone on the team. Before I knew it there were 30-35 members participating in all the meetings. They had qualifying tournaments and fundraisers. They wrote their constitution and the bylaws very quickly and pushed that through UAB so they could get some funding. They’ve really been doing all the work.”
Jones and Myer have set up and run collegiate tournaments locally and arrange travel schedules among many other duties. They also hold fundraisers to help pay expenses.
“It’s a good bit of work, but it’s worth it,” Jones says.
Many tournaments — like the upcoming national championship — require students to be on the road for a week. The students provide their own boats, gas and food. The fact that the majority of the team has a 3.0 GPA or higher shows its members’ motivation and desire to succeed, Vines says.
The upcoming national championship is going to provide national exposure for the school on Fox sports, including a scholarship that will be presented to students Andrew Weathington and Walter Malone.
Weathington and Malone won the Big Sack award at the SCBFS with a 21-pound haul and will be awarded $500 scholarships from the fishing accessories company Berkley for catching the Big Sack of the Year.
“The presentation is going to be wonderful exposure for our students and UAB,” Vines says. “During the tournament our students are going to be on national television, wearing UAB jerseys and promoting UAB, and they’re outstanding students.”