What’s the fastest growing college sport? It’s not women’s soccer, it’s not curling. It’s bass fishing. It’s not something that’s all that new. Competitive bass fishing at a national (now international) level is more than fifty years old. Competitive walleye fishing tours such as the Master’s Walleye Circuit and Professional Walleye Trail have been around for more than 25 years. Even professional ice fishing competitions are gaining momentum across North America’s “Ice Belt” in recent years.
It’s no wonder bass fishing at the collegiate level is now threatening some of the lesser, but more traditional college sports for prominence. At schools across America’s mid-south — Kentucky, Tennessee and other areas, the guys on their bass fishing team are better known than the guys on their baseball, tennis or golf squads.
As college fishing continues to grow, more and more fishing tackle companies are stepping up to help promote the sport. Big Bite Baits is the latest. First, with the help of competitive college anglers, Big Bite designed a soft plastic crawdad called the College Craw. It’s proven to be a solid bass producer since it’s inception. Now, Big Bite Baits is planning a new program to help college fishing teams competing in the ACA — Association of College Anglers.
Four percent of all sales of the College Craw will go towards grants to be awarded to teams selected by a pre-set application process. The money won’t just be going to the “winningest” teams or those from the colleges with high-profile bass catchers. A variety of criteria will be used to determine which teams will be awarded in December of 2019.
College bass fishing isn’t like college football, basketball or other top tier collegiate sports regulated by the NCAA and funded similarly to those sport teams at this level. Some colleges do allocate some money to their fishing team — perhaps through their intramural sports programs or others. Many don’t give them a dime and the teams are either self-funded or more often have sponsors either from alumnae, local businesses or other sources.
COLLEGE CRAW: The College Craw is available in 3.5” and 4” sizes, with nine colors to meet any water condition. The ninth color, Spicy Purple was even designed by a collegiate angler earlier this year. The College Craw makes a great jig trailer, featuring a subtle swimming action. The 3.5” size is a great choice for finesse jigs and the 4”size pairs perfectly with full size jigs. Both sizes of the College Craw can also be fished alone on finesse or Texas rigs.
ACA: The Association of Collegiate Anglers (ACA), a division of CarecoTV, is a tournament organization created to facilitate growth, development, and structure within competitive collegiate bass fishing. The ACA created the original BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Series, fourteen seasons ago, which has now become the Bass Pro Shops Collegiate Bass Fishing Series — still sponsored in part by BoatUS. Together this series is the longest running collegiate bass fishing tournament in existence.
The ACA provides support to dozens of school operated regional events nationwide and owns the Bass Pro Shops Collegiate Bass Fishing Series, Bass Pro Shops School of Year Program, and associated assets. The ACA also provides the largest amount of televised coverage of any collegiate fishing series with dedicated programming on several television networks ranging from Discovery Channel, CBS Sports, NBC Sports, Pursuit Channel, World Fishing Network, as well as other regional and national networks. For more information on the ACA or the Bass Pro Shops Collegiate Bass Fishing Series, visit: www.CollegiateBassChampionship.com.
Several colleges and universities in Indiana and Illinois have teams and compete in ACA tournaments including Indiana University, Purdue and University of Illinois. Currently, McKendree University in Lebanon, IL is the point leader in the school of the year standings among the 263 institutions across the country who have teams.