News - Fishing By Number: Hooked on Competitive Bass Fishing

Fishing By Number: Hooked on Competitive Bass Fishing

Carla Morris


Sometimes Shane Campbell just has to laugh at the misconceptions going around about competitive collegiate bass fishing. 

“People think we set up lawn chairs on the bank and fish with bobbers,” he says. 

A seasoned competitor, Shane has served as Greenville University’s assistant bass fishing coach for the last two years. He takes every opportunity to set the record straight about the sport he loves, and often by way of numbers. 

Facts Tell The Story

  • 300 – The number of colleges and universities that participate in Bass Pro Shops’ “School of the Year” seasonal standings. “But, more than 300 colleges have fishing teams,” he adds.
  • 250 – The number of boats typically competing in a single event.
  • 50-60 mph – The rate boats often travel as teams race across the lake to promising locations.
  • 5 – The number of “keeper” bass each team submits at the end of the day for weigh-in. The team with the heaviest haul earns the most points, and points determine a school’s rank in Bass Pro’s standings.
  • 4,145 – The points GU’s team earned as of March 10, 2020, placing them 24th and landing them in the top eight percent of competitor schools.
  • 2 – The number of boats GU owns and the number of competitors assigned to each boat.
  • 2+ – The number of boats GU sometimes fields in a competition. “We have guys on the team who bring their own boats,” says Shane. More boats competing means more opportunities to accumulate points, but it also means greater cost. Managing a budget, travel, fuel, and lodging to cover the season requires strategic thinking at every turn.
  • 50% – Shane’s estimate of the number of Panther competitors who chose GU because the University offers competitive fishing as a club sport. Like other athletes, they want to continue pursuit of a sport they love, a sport they engaged in throughout high school.


Then Come the Tough Numbers . . .

  • 11 – The hours it took GU’s team to drive to a competition in Texas, and the miles per gallon they realized towing a boat. 
  • $1,000 – The cost of gas to cover travel to the national championships in Florida. 
  • 3 – The miles per gallon a boat gets on the water.
  • 1 – The air mattress Shane packs for overnight trips to reduce the cost of adding another hotel room; money saved sleeping on the floor means additional funds for fuel.
  • 5 out of 6 – The meals Shane personally cooked for the team on a recent trip. DIY-meals save money, too.

90% Mental Game - Harder Than You Think

Like any other competitive sport, bass fishing pits teams not just against each other, but also against the clock. Success rides on scoring the most points in a given time. 

05BassFishing.pngBut unlike other sports, bass-anglers often don’t know their playing “fields.” If they’ve not fished a lake before, they don’t know the mysteries that lay beneath. Thorough research on a lake before “game day” is critical. It tells teams where they’ll point their boats, and what bait they’ll use. Still, lakes are huge. “Kentucky Lake stretches 115 miles,” says Shane. Strategizing necessarily involves limited information-gathering mixed with educated guesses.  

Depth finders, a pricey investment at $3-4k each, help. They show contour lines below the surface, a point, for example, a drop-off, or a submerged island.

Knowledge of seasonal fish movements and spawning patterns helps, too. Conversations with others who have fished a lake can sharpen an angler’s competitive edge. If professional tournaments previously occurred on a lake, video coverage of the tournament is usually available. Shane and the team watch them when they can.

“It’s just like live football coverage,” says Shane. “They have a guy shooting video of the guy fishing in the back of the boat. He’ll talk about the baits that they’re using; he’ll talk about the area that they’re in. Sometimes they’ll show a map with an overlay of where certain anglers are on the lake. You can use that to kind of start . . . ‘I might want to go check this spot out; I might want to check that spot out.’” 

Shane contends that 90 percent of competitive fishing involves strategic decisions, some before the event, some during the event. “It’s largely a mental game.”

Media Exposure and Unmatched Camaraderie

While maintaining a bass fishing club gives GU media exposure, it benefits the anglers, too. Shane says that the camaraderie of GU’s team surpasses the cohesiveness he has seen in any other team on the college fishing circuit. 

“It’s really unique . . . 40 years down the road, these guys will [probably] still be talking to each other.”

He has seen student-anglers develop in other areas of their lives as well. Membership on the team depends on meeting academic standards. Shane tells of freshmen whose dipping grades kept them off the team, but whose determination to fish lifted their grades. He tells of team members exhibiting poise behind microphones at post-weigh-in interviews. He tells of maturity, grace, and problem solving. 

“When you’re on a basketball court, the basket isn’t going to fall down. When you’re on the lake and your boat’s in trouble, you have to deal with it.” 

And, about skeptics who claim that catching a fish just boils down to luck, Shane says this with a grin: “They’ve maybe fished before . . . but not competitively.”

Learn More

Bass Fishing at GU
Bass Fishing Lands solid Finish at FLW National Championship
Overocker and Seggerman Provide Strong Finish at Table rock Lake
Fishing Team Ranked 19th in National Standings

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This story was published on May 07, 2020

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