While most students spend their Saturday at Syrup or curled up in their dorm room binge watching “Parks and Rec,” OU Fishing Team members are crawling out of their tents and getting their boats in the water — all before the sun comes up.
For the same length of time in a normal workday, the 12 active OU Fishing Team members stay out on the water casting, reeling and, hopefully, catching the biggest fish of the day.
“The eight hours on the water usually goes by pretty fast — unless you ain’t catchin’ nothing,” the team’s vice president Charles Vang said.
These long days happen about once every month when the team loads up in their trucks and drives to whatever college fishing tournament they’re competing in that week. The rest of the team’s tournament-free Saturdays are still spent practicing at their second home: the water.
Luckily, all of that practice pays off. Just this year, OU’s team of Landon Dixon and Charles Vang placed 18th out of 850 teams at the Fishing League Worldwide 2016 National Tournament. They have also snagged numerous other titles, including second place in the 2015 Okie Challenge Series at Keystone Lake and were also the 2014 Bassmaster College Classic champions.
For each member of OU’s team, fishing has always played a huge role in their lives. They all grew up fishing from the time they were in middle school and the OU Fishing Team has given them the opportunity to continue that in college. For the team’s president Alex Edgeman, fishing was the first thing he remembers doing — and it always trumped any of his other activities.
“I played golf in high school but I would always skip practice to go fish,” Edgeman said. He loves being on the team because “I get my competitive spirit out through fishing.”
One of the team officers, graduate student Nate Sleight, got an early start on tournament fishing when he was 11 years old. Then, while studying as an undergraduate student at Lake Superior State University, Sleight actually started the college’s first fishing team. As he transitioned to graduate school here at OU, his first question was not surprising.
“Who the heck do I need to talk to so I can be on the fishing team?” is what Sleight recalled saying.
When the OU Fishing Team isn’t out catching the biggest bass around, they are making an impact on young students at Oklahoma City schools the best way they know how: fishing. Each year, the team is called in to help with a program named “Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs.” During that program, the members of OU’s fishing team mentor and teach elementary school students how to cast and reel in fish, just like them. Then, in the summertime, the team brings students out on the water to let them test their fishing skills.
In addition, area schools contact the OU Fishing Team to be guest speakers for classes that involve all of their favorite things: fishing, conservation and natural resources.
If you weren’t already impressed enough, the OU Fishing Team is also entirely self funded. They host annual tournaments, including one for the OU Alumni Association, and have a number of sponsors like Carhartt, Toyota and Norman’s own Nichols Marine. These sponsors provide the team with the money needed to attend tournaments across the country — and the rare luxury of a hotel (Camping in 20-degree weather? No thanks.).
The OU Fishing Team looks forward to reeling in more titles and big bass on April 30 at the FLW Southern Regional Qualifier on Fort Gibson Lake and at the BASS Midwestern Regional at Illinois in June. To show them some Sooner spirit, use the hashtags #OUBass and #OUFishing, and stay up to date on their future fishing adventures by liking them on Facebook and following them on Instagram.