Keeping Score

Want To Get Paid As A College Athlete? Go Fishing

Unlike most college sports, angling can pay off

  • Share
  • Read Later
Hollis Bennett for TIME

Jordan Lee, who fishes for Auburn, holds a 5-lb. largemouth bass he caught at the FLW College Fishing National Championship.

The June 10 issue of TIME, on newsstands now, features a story on the booming sport of college fishing. Yes, there’s such a thing as college fishing. According to FLW Outdoors, an organization that runs pro fishing tournaments and started a college division in 2009, there are now 610 bass fishing clubs at campuses across the country. Five years ago, there were 90. “We were looking to reach the next generation of anglers to grow our business,” says Trisha Blake, FLW’s marketing chief, and daughter of FLW founder Irwin Jacobs. “We’re absolutely amazed by how quickly it’s grown. And we still feel like there’s more to tap into. We’re just getting started.”

One reason fishing has hooked the college kids: an opportunity to win cash and prizes. For example, the team that won the FLW national championship in April — the University of Louisiana at Monroe — took home a $27,000 bass boat, $3,000 in cash, and spot in the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup, the Super Bowl of bass fishing. There, the winner gets $500,000. Football and basketball players may help generate millions of dollars for universities, while not seeing a dime. But if you want to get paid as a college athlete, go fishing.

(MORE: Big Fish On Campus)

Bass fishing is a club sport, which means it’s outside NCAA regulations. “We want the N.C.A.A. to stay out,” says Joe Landry, who fishes for LSU-Shreveport. Most schools require that anglers plow earnings from college tournaments back into the club. But they can get individual sponsorships and win cash in noncollegiate tournaments while still fishing for their school. For example, Miles “Sonar” Burghoff–son of Gary Burghoff, who played Radar on M*A*S*H–says he won some $30,000 in tournaments while also fishing for the University of Central Florida. That about covered the cost of college.Bethel University, a small Presbyterian school in McKenzie, Tenn., even offers fishing scholarships. “The students I recruit are coming here to fish,” says Bethel coach Garry Mason, “just like kids go to Alabama to play football.”

Click here to read the full story on college fishing, which features reporting from the FLW College National Championship in Rogers, Arkansas.

Not a subscriber? Subscribe now or purchase a digital access pass.

(MORE: Want To Make $1 Million Fishing Online?)