By, Ryan Dentscheff
The FLW College Fishing Series has been going on for many years now. The series is divided into northern, southern, southeastern, and western divisions. Colleges on each division compete against each other in attempts to qualify for regionals and nationals. In past years, the prizes were big and participation was easily obtainable. However, things have drastically changed for the worse.
The biggest reason for these changes is almost certainly the cost factor. I believe FLW just isn’t getting the sponsorship dollars they once were, and have had to make cuts, which is unfortunate for schools like Ohio University.
Just two years ago in 2012, there were four divisional round tournaments with cash payout as follows:
1st Place: $5,000
2nd Place: $1,500
3rd-5th Place: $1,000
The regional event, that took the top five finishers from the four divisional events, had payouts of:
1st Place: Ranger z117 bass boat with 90horsepower Evinrude outboard motor (estimated value of around $20,000+)
2nd Place: $5,500
3rd-5th Place: $3,000
The national tournament paid out:
1st Place: $50,000 and a Ranger bass boat
2nd Place: $10,000
3rd-5th Place: $5,000
This year, the payout will be:
1st Place: $2,000
2nd Place: $1,000
3rd-5th Place: $500
1st Place: $4,000
2nd Place: $2,000
3rd-5th Place: $1,000
1st Place: Ranger bass boat
2nd Place: $5,000
3rd Place $4,000
4th Place: $3,000
5th Place: $2,000
The money aspect dropping is not what has me so disappointed, although bigger winnings would be certainly welcomed. The disappointing reduction in the series is that FLW will no longer be supplying boats to colleges who can’t supply one themselves. Many colleges, including Ohio University, do not have a team boat, and have no way of participating in the tournaments.
Not being able to participate in tournaments spells bad news for schools like OU. Advancing and improving the school’s team in reliant on taking part in tournaments. For our team here at OU, winning tournaments is the biggest way to raise funds and the best way to improve as tournament fishing anglers. Winning tournaments is also a perfect way to get more sponsors to commit to helping the club with deals and donations. We are now stuck in a point where we can no longer do any of these things.
I can’t say that I blame FLW for cutting the supplying of boats, but it is very upsetting. Our club has worked hard to get to the point we are today. Last year, we sent two teams to the regional qualifying event, and the year before finished second in a divisional tournament (the team was formed only six years ago). This fact if going to further widen the gap between teams like ours and teams that have been around for a longer time and have club boats.
It is already being seen this season in the teams that are registered for the first of now only three northern division events. In 2012, 36 of the 40 registered teams in the first northern division event at Kerr Lake were represented by different colleges. This year, in the first northern division tournament this Saturday at Smith Mountain Lake, of the 47 registered teams, only 27 of them are represented by different colleges. Ten of those 27 teams have more than one team competing, as opposed to only three schools sending multiple teams in 2012. Virginia Tech is sending the most schools this year, sending seven teams.
Ohio University Fishing Club tournament and sponsor liaison, Tony Vo, believes the rule change will only effect the smaller schools that do not currently have a boat or a way to fish in these tournaments.
“It’s not going to hurt the teams and schools that already have quite a bit of funding and already have boats,” Vo said. “It’s going to hurt the clubs, (like) OU’s club, (that) don’t have boats that can compete in the big tournaments. It does widen the gap a lot between us and them.”
“I think we, as a school, and some of the other smaller, newer schools, just need to push and push for a boat to make this sport more competitive,” he said.