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In the world of college fishing, it is not uncommon to see larger, “big name” universities dominate the scene by bolstering the most competitive, well-funded squads.
That’s not to say these teams don’t face considerable challenges, however.
In our Premier Angler College Fishing Talk with Auburn University’s Logan Parks, we learned that even students fishing for a national powerhouse often have to secure funding and raise awareness with little or no direct support from the institution.
Considering those challenges, one has to wonder how smaller schools are even able to maintain a presence on the ultra-competitive college fishing scene.
Cue California University of Pennsylvania, a modestly-sized state school whose name regularly confuses people who aren’t familiar with the institution.
In this installment of College Fishing Talk, we chat with team member (and co-founder) of the California University of Pennsylvania Bass Fishing Club, Nick Fulks.
Fulks, who owns his own custom baits company, discusses the challenges of running a burgeoning college fishing club, the fishing scene in Western Pennsylvania, and offers some advice for getting a college fishing team started.
Talking College Fishing with Nick Fulks, California University of Pennsylvania
Premier Angler: California University of Pennsylvania’s fishing club is fairly young. Can you tell us about the origins of the team?
Fulks: I started the club in 2017 with the help of David Blaker. I fished in high school through B.AS.S and knew I would like to compete in college. My high school did not have a club either at the time, so I started one there as well.
Premier Angler: As co-founder of a new college fishing club, how have you been able to spread the word and increase awareness around campus?
Fulks: We mainly use social media to spread the word about our club as well as piggybacking off of other clubs that were outdoors-related. We find that most anglers in our area have some experience fishing — mainly for trout — but some have bass fished before.
Premier Angler: Many college fishing clubs — even those that are well established with a rich history of success — receive little or no financial support from their institutions. For many anglers, this can make competitive fishing incredibly cost-prohibitive. How has your team been able to handle the related costs of fishing numerous events per year?
Fulks: Like others, we receive no funding from the school and are entirely self funded. Each team splits the costs down the middle to attend the events.
Premier Angler: Since its inception, what events has the team fished? Any noteworthy performances?
Fulks: Since 2017, we have fished the FLW Yeti College Trail in the Northern Division. This past year, David and I also competed in 2 events on the BASS College Series.
Our best finish came at Smith Mountain Lake 2018, where David and I finished 10th to qualify for the National Championship. Also, the team of Eric Freeman and Colton Higgins finished 8th in Sandusky Bay in 2019.
Premier Angler: Everyone has their preferences when it comes to fishing locations. What are some of your personal favorite spots to fish? As a team, what lakes tend to be the consensus favorites?
Fulks: I grew up fishing Lake Erie and the Three Rivers out of Pittsburgh, PA. Both these are mainly smallmouth fisheries, and luckily CalU is located right on the Monongahela River.
Erie is by far my favorite due to the smallmouth size and numbers. Catching one hundred fish in the spring in a day is not uncommon at all. My personal best smallmouth has come from there, weighing 7.4 lbs.
As a team, we enjoy traveling to new lakes for trails that we may have never fished before without the help of tournaments being held there. I believe the general consensus of the team is that our favorite lake to fish for the trail is Smith Mountain Lake. Since we’re usually there around the spawn, the fishing tends to be pretty good and you can fish for them however you’d like there.
Premier Angler: What advice would you give to anglers looking to fish at the college level?
Fulks: If you’d like to fish in the college level, do not be afraid to attend a college that doesn’t have a program set up at the time. It’s generally pretty easy to setup a club through FLW and BASS, with most of the work being done at your school.
Premier Angler: How many members does the Cal U PA fishing team currently have? Are any anglers looking to transition to the pro circuit after graduation?
Fulks: Right now we have 8 active members making up 4 teams. Being a smaller school, I was actually shocked at how many people wanted to join and had boats to be able to fish these tourneys. In high school, it was just my partner and I fishing.
Right now, I know it would be a dream to fish a pro circuit for most our members, but the financial backing to attempt to do so would be hard to come up with right out of college.
Premier Angler: How can interested anglers find out more about your club?