Fishing club gains national recognition

Silas Gilklay

The Augustana fishing club is one of the formidable forces in the central conference. Little is known about them, but these Vikings know the water, the art and have the prowess to compete at state and national championships. 

Ranked 6th in the central conference and 46th in the nation, the club has built its reputation over the years but has not been able to rack up the fanbase and support on campus. Since its inception around 2016, the fishing club has been competing in the Major League Fishing (MLF) and Bass tournaments with numerous high-ranking stats and competitiveness, thus making it one of the elite teams in the conference. 

President of the club, Benjamin Ford, asserted that the team has great potential to compete this year and the years coming because of the players’ commitment and their individual talents. Ford believes the current club members have great potential and the commitment to sustain the club’s legacy in the coming years. 

“I believe in the future of this team and our commitment to building the club will increase the fan base gradually,” Ford said. “They are a great group of guys with lots of potential to transform the club. I don’t think it’s super popular, but the fanbase is growing every year.” 

The club also plans to host several small outings on campus to attract the student community and recruit potential new members. Its plan is to scout students who are interested in fishing and to recruit amateurs and semi-pros alike. 

“We just want people who are interested in fishing, but on the competitive side, we want to have more people with the skills and experience,” Ford said. “I think having a good mixture of beginners and experienced team players will signal a good start that is very inclusive.” 

Junior Matt Strauss added that the recruitment of college first-years has always been the plan, but informing students about the opportunities in the competition has received little attention. Straus attributed the problem to the availability of boats because they didn’t know how many students own a boat. 

“We’re going to start working with college freshmen, because over the years, we haven’t really informed the student community about fishing opportunities, but we want to start doing that because we think a lot more people have boats than we initially thought,” Straus said. “Being from Illinois, Iowa and the Great Lakes, a lot of people typically have boats and our freshmen don’t really know that one of the best fishing teams exists here until later.” 

Known as a competitive club from a small college makes senior Cole Bathje feel very accomplished. For Bathje, their representation in the last two national championships coupled with their own unique challenges is an amazement to them. The fishing club does not gather as much attention as other clubs on campus, but having the potential to rank top in the central conference and national championship reveals their tenacity and potential to succeed. 

“We’re ranked for being a really small school, however, we’re ranked very highly in the country,” Bathje said. “That’s kind of cool that we can compete with large schools, and just qualifying for the nationals is a huge deal.” 

Junior Matt Straus admonishes their success over the years but wants more support from the Augie community. Straus believes their strides in recent years reflect an attachment with the college that should arouse interest from everyone. The club carries the Augie brand in the competition, but the incurring challenges are part of the growth. However, the problems they face locally do not match their status in the conference and are planning to normalize hosting small events anticipated to pull in the support. 

“We would like to see the club get equal publicity and following as one of the teams representing Augie at its best,” Straus said. “We’re trying hard to promote the club and we expect our efforts to receive recognition from the campus community. We hope to keep improving that connection with the students every year because we are as good as any sports team on campus.” 

Ford encourages students to follow their Instagram account and website where students can purchase their merchandise and stay updated on events. These efforts are small steps intended to increase their fanbase on campus—giving the team credit and recognition for their astounding performances in fishing competitions.