College Fishing Talk: Auburn University’s Chase Mundhenke
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Premier Angler continues its College Fishing Talk series with another member of the Auburn University Fishing Team.
In this edition, we chat with Chase Mundhenke, a sophomore Agriculture Business and Economics major from Chatham, Illinois.
Editor’s Note: Since we spoke with Chase, he and teammate Blake Milligan placed 18th at the 2020 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series at Toledo Bend, earning them a spot in the B.A.S.S. National Championship
Talking College Fishing with Chase Mundhenke, Auburn University
Premier Angler: Thanks for chatting with us, Chase.
As we have established during our interviews with your teammates Anthony Vintson and Logan Parks, there’s a lot of pride that goes in to fishing at Auburn. What does it mean to you to be part of such a successful squad?
Mundhenke: It is hard to overlook the success of the Auburn Bass Fishing Team, and many people across the fishing industry recognize that. While our success on the water has been amazing, hailing from Auburn University makes being a part of this team even better.
If you ask anyone that has deep roots connected to Auburn their opinion on the community, there is one common theme that always reappears in everyone’s answers: The Auburn Family. This is present on-campus, off-campus, in the airport traveling, and everywhere in between.
Another place it is present is on the Auburn University Bass Fishing Team. I joined as a freshman, and since then I have created some of my most fond memories and best friendships over the past two years with people I would have never met if I had not joined the team. These are the memories and people I will remember and be in contact with long after my time in Auburn has come to an end and we all separate to begin our lives.
As for being such a successful team, that is also another amazing aspect of the team. It creates a certain level of competitiveness among members on the team, as well as with the other premier college bass fishing programs.
Another thing our previous success has created is expectations. Just as Auburn’s football team has expectations to be competing for a National Championship, the Auburn Bass Fishing Team has the same high expectations.
Since the FLW National Championship was created ten years ago, Auburn has sent a team to each and every one of them. Going into our last chance to qualify a team for the 2020 National Championship, we had not qualified anyone yet. This led to a high level of comradery between the Auburn teams trying to help at least one team qualify to keep the streak alive.
Lucky enough, my partner and I were able to ease into the top finishers on Lake Hartwell to qualify for the National Championship, keeping the streak alive.
Premier Angler: What has separated Auburn’s bass fishing team from other college fishing teams? To what do you attribute the team’s success over the years?
Mundhenke: The biggest thing that has separated Auburn from other college fishing teams across the country has to be that we are a nationally known university — even all across the world — and we have a very large alumni base that is very willing to help us. Whether it be through sponsorships or donations.
When we go to ICAST in Orlando every summer, we talk to our current sponsors and try to create new relationships with other sponsors as well. The one thing that a majority of these companies have in common is that someone is an Auburn Alumni or has serious ties to Auburn. This goes back to the Auburn Family because they want to help us out be as successful as possible.
These gracious sponsors attribute to our success in such a huge way. Through these sponsorships, we are able to send even more teams to these tournaments that may be many hours away. By having all these teams there, we raise our chances for success up even higher.
Premier Angler: How does the team handle recruitment? Do you find that some team members come to Auburn specifically for fishing?
Mundhenke: Recruitment for the Bass Team is not like typical recruiting for any other sport. We do not have recruiters that go out and search for the best fishermen across the country. Instead, what we have is our team members, our connections, and the biggest social media page in all of college bass fishing. Unless someone knows someone on the team, the way we are contacted most is through our Instagram page.
Potential recruits will reach out to us and show interest. Once we have a potential recruit, if at all possible, we try to take them out fishing when they make a visit to Auburn, just to show them the fishing offered around Auburn, and to get to know the person.
In my time as a part of the Auburn Fishing Team, I have found many kids factored our fishing team into their decision. For example, my partner on the team came to Auburn from California only to fish on our team. He and his dad pulled his boat 44 hours from the Sacramento area to pursue his dreams of fishing on the college level, and for such a prestigious program.
Another example: we have another sophomore on the team that came all the way from Montreal, Canada solely to fish for Auburn. There are many closer universities he could’ve attended and gained the same level of education, but fishing for Auburn was his deciding factor. In my two years as a member of the team, we have had around 60 members both years.
Premier Angler: The team travels to numerous events throughout the year, which is obviously expensive. How have members been able to raise funds throughout the years? How do you meet the financial needs of the team?
Mundhenke: A large portion of our funds are raised through sponsors as stated previously. We come into contact with most of our sponsors through the annual ICAST convention in Orlando. We offer these companies a spot on our jersey for a set amount of money depending on the location of the logo on the jersey.
Another way we raise money is through selling spots on our booster banner that we set up at each tournament we are present at. These spots are much cheaper. Another way we raise a large portion of our money is by selling the custom shirts we have for the bass team.
Finally, our newest fundraising method began this year with the Annual Pat Dye Fish Fry. We sold tickets to get in, as well as having silent auction items. This event ended up being our second largest means of fundraising.
Premier Angler: What is Auburn looking for in a prospective team member? What advice would you give to someone looking to fish either for Auburn or at the college level in general?
Mundhenke: There isn’t a textbook prospective member that we look for on the team. Each person brings their own unique talents to the team that enables us to be successful in future tournaments. My advice to anyone looking to fish at the college level is simply to fish. Fish as much you can, on as many lakes as you can. This will help you be able to be ready to figure out the many lakes these tournament trails lead us to.
Premier Angler: One of the team’s major highlights was recently winning the first annual Major League Fishing Redcrest National Championship in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. You also mentioned your previous success on Lake Hartwell. What goes in to preparing for such high-profile events? What type of competition did you face?
Mundhenke: Preparing for such an event as the Redcrest National Championship was different than any other tournament I had ever prepared for. This is because it was a new style of tournament fishing I had only been a part of very few times.
Luckily, we had quite a few days to practice for this event. We had our boats split areas up to divide and conquer the waters we were able to fish. This gave us the best opportunity to succeed, and due to this style of practice, it paid dividends and we were able to pull off the victory.
The competition we faced was some of the best in the nation, starting with Adrian College from Michigan. The other intimidating prospect was facing the University of Wisconsin- La Crosse, which is only an hour up the road. The other teams we faced, were mostly all from up north.
Premier Angler: Auburn qualified for Redcrest after winning the MLF College Iron Bowl. How many events does the team participate in per year? What are some of the bigger events you have participated in? What are some of the highlights from those events?
Mundhenke: The amount of events that Auburn competes in has generally been anywhere from 7-14 depending on National Championships and how far people are willing to drive. The biggest events by far are the different national championships such as the BASS National Championship and the FLW National Championship.
The biggest event I have competed in the MLF Redcrest National Championship, but I am competing in the FLW National Championship on Harris Chain of Lakes in Florida at the end of February, which is very exciting.
The highlight of the Redcrest, was definitely being the only school with more than one team with in the top ten. In doing this, we actually had three different teams finishing 3rd, 4th, and 7th.
Premier Angler: Auburn has a history of producing high-level pros like Matt and Jordan Lee. Do you or any teammates have similar aspirations of joining the pro circuit after graduation? How has college fishing prepared you for that transition?
Mundhenke: I would love to have the chance to fish at the professional level, but there are a lot of things that have to go right, and I also need to step up my game if I want to be able to compete.
I know and believe that we have a few future Tour Level pros currently on the Auburn Bass Team. If I were to choose the professional level, fishing at Auburn has helped me prepare for this in many ways. A few being sponsor relations, and how to create those relationships and to keep them. Another is how life on the road is, with all the traveling we do there are many sacrifices we have to make to do what we love. Lastly, the diversity of the fisheries the college tournaments take us to seriously helps with developing my skills for the next level.
Premier Angler: We’ve talked about your potential aspirations in the fishing world, but what about your origins? How did this whole fishing journey begin?
Mundhenke: I got into fishing at a very young age, fishing off the dock at my family’s lake house. This then led to bass fishing in the ponds around my neighborhood that I was able to ride my bike to. Once I made it to high school, I joined my school’s team and my tournament career was born.
Ever since my freshman year of high school, I have competed in tournaments. After having great success at the high school level, I decided I wanted to test my skills at the next level, and I decided college fishing was the best option for me.
Premier Angler: How can interested parties find out more about the Auburn Bass Fishing Team?
Mundhenke: Reaching out to our Instagram page, or even one of us individually on social media — we are all more than willing to talk and answer any questions!