This is no fish story.
UD has a fishing club, established four years ago by senior Robert Petrick.
And this year, it competed at the Fishing League Worldwide College Conference Finals on the Chesapeake Bay.
It may be a sport with a leisurely reputation, but in August Petrick and fishing partner junior Sam Tunnacliffe found themselves racing back to the shore to qualify for the finals.
The team had been on Chautauqua Lake, New York, for eight hours, casting lines under the dock — where they knew the bass would be hiding in the summer heat. With two minutes to the 2:45 p.m. weigh-in deadline of the FLW College Northern Conference qualifier tournament, they pulled their livewell filled with bass onto shore. Wearing blue and red Flyer jerseys, they stepped onto the stage and learned that their five heaviest catches for the day totaled 7 pounds, 13 ounces: enough to land them in the top 20 out of 75 teams and qualify them for the finals.
Although the September finals did not go well — bad weather contributed to 15 teams, including UD, not catching any qualifying bass — Petrick and Tunnacliffe said they were proud to represent UD for the first time at the finals.
The team members also say they are used to being the underdogs. They compete against a sea of teams that have school-funded boats and equipment, or even full-ride fishing scholarships. UD’s team has two boats — which its members have purchased themselves.
“It’s hard to find guys who are willing to put the time, energy and money into this, because it’s just a student-run club,” Tunnacliffe said. “But mostly, it’s just really fun, and rewarding when we do find those people.”
Since most tournaments take place during the summer, the club’s 12 members spend most of the academic year fishing for smallmouth bass on the Great Miami River, and strategizing and researching for the tournaments with the help of their advisers, Jeff Kavanaugh, biology department chair, and health and sport science associate professor Jon Linderman.
“The professionals can look at the temperature and the water clarity and say, ‘OK, you should be fishing in that kind of spot using that kind of bait and that color.’ So, we’re trying to get better at that sort of thing,” Tunnacliffe said.
If they can, the team visits the lake prior to the tournament, so that they can ask local fishers about the most reliable places to buy fish and bait and to discover the best spots to fish in the lake.
“Local knowledge is huge,” Petrick said. Even so, he admits that a lot of it is up to chance. You can spend days preparing, but because of factors like weather and water conditions, you still may not do well on the day of the tournament.
“It’s a guessing game. But that’s what we like about fishing: It keeps you on your toes. It forces you to adapt,” Petrick said.
Tunnacliffe will take over leadership of the club once Petrick graduates, but both say they will never stop bass fishing. “When I started this club, I was looking for a lifetime hobby,” Petrick said.
“And that’s exactly what this is.”