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As the college bass fishing tournament season starts warming up, Premier Angler continues its College Fishing Talk series.
In this edition, we speaking with Kevin Lukens, a senior supply chain management major, who serves as vice-president of the Michigan State University Fishing Club.
Talking College Fishing with Kevin Lukens, Michigan State University
Premier Angler: Hi Kevin. Thanks for chatting with us. To start things off, tell us how you got started fishing. How did you go from fishing enthusiast to college angler?
Lukens: I really got started fishing while I still lived in the Chicago area when I was about 10. I would ride my bike everywhere and fish little ponds all around my house. When I got to high school, my father accepted a new job in Muskegon County and the fishing there is about 100x better.
Throughout high school, I fished a few weeknight derbies but I really started to fish tournaments about every week after my senior year of high school.
Premier Angler: So you moved to Michigan during high school. With plenty of options available to pursue your higher education, did the fishing team have any influence on your decision to attend Michigan State?
Lukens: The fishing team actually didn’t have much to do with my decision to go to MSU. Going into college, I really knew I wanted to major in Supply Chain Management (Business), and MSU has one of the best programs in the country for it, so it all worked out.
Premier Angler: How long has Michigan State’s fishing team been around? Can you share any information on the club’s history?
Lukens: The club has been around for 20 years I think. I don’t really know much about the history. One of the presidents a few years ago, Ross Parsons, was a trend setter and created the Michigan College Bass Circuit which really kick-started Michigan College tournaments. Those are a blast to fish.
Premier Angler: What are some of the biggest rewards being part of the fishing team at a major university? Conversely, what have been some of the biggest challenges?
Lukens: The rewards are definitely the people that I have met and the places I have fished. I have met some of my best friends ever through the club and it’s really enjoyable to travel across the country to fish with them.
We also have ice fishing trips and steelhead trips, which are a great way to meet new members even if they don’t compete in tournaments.
Premier Angler: Michigan State Fishing has a very active social media presence and a really nice website. Many of the newer college teams — and even some established clubs — have little to no online presence whatsoever. How important do you believe that schools having an active online presence is both for individuals teams and for college fishing in general?
Lukens: I think it is pretty important to give sponsors a shout-out and all, but there is nothing like telling someone face to face that the companies you support you are really great.
Premier Angler: How does the school bring on new members to the team? What type of promotion, if any, goes into raising awareness about the team on campus, locally, etc.?
Lukens: Michigan State actually does a really great job at engaging their students in clubs throughout the entire student body. At the beginning of each year, Michigan State holds an event called “Sparticipation” in which every student organization can operate a booth, free of cost, to inform students about their club.
We try to keep everything simple because most of the time people will reach out to us on social media if they are interested in joining the club.
Premier Angler: One challenge many college fishing teams face is securing funding. How has the team been able to raise funds and secure sponsorships over the years to cover the cost of travel, accommodations, supplies, gear, tackle, boats, etc.?
Lukens: Securing funding is definitely a challenge, but we have worked with some really great mentors throughout the years that assist us with getting to know the fishing community. Todd and Ken from Rec Lending continue to sponsor us and mentor us on how to approach situations with different companies.
We also have a couple guys on the team that really enjoy promoting sponsors, so we try to include everyone in club decisions — not just the elected board.
Premier Angler: Michigan State Fishing has had a presence at some big events recently, including the College Bass Tour and an invite to the MLF College Face-off. Walk us through the preparation that goes into making all of this a reality — the training, behind-the-scenes coordination, etc.
Lukens: As far as preparation goes, I personally like to get a feel for the body of water we are going to fish. Everybody has access to the internet, so I definitely try and use that as a resource when going to a lake I’ve never been to.
Premier Angler: In a given year, what events does Michigan State typically fish? What are some of the biggest events, some highlights from those events, furthest travels, etc.?
Lukens: We are pretty lucky here in Michigan in that we have both Collegiate-level tournaments that are based in Michigan, as well as the national events like B.A.S.S.
This year, we qualified for both the FLW and B.A.S.S College National Championships. Due to internships and jobs, only one member for each tournament was able to attend the events. Riley Welch was able to get the big bass for the B.A.S.S National Championship this past year on Lake Chickamauga and we were all pretty stoked for him.
We also were able to get wins in Michigan for both the College Bass Tour and Michigan College Bass Circuit on the opening weekend for bass in Michigan.
Premier Angler: What advice would you give to someone interested in fishing at the college level and, in particular, for MSU?
Lukens: I would say that you should just try and bass fish as much as you can. When you eventually get to college, reach out to the club on social media so you can become a new member!
Premier Angler: East Lansing is sandwiched right in the center of Michigan, putting you a couple hours away from fishing hotbeds like Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair. What are some of your favorite lakes to fish, either near the college or at home, when you are not on the circuit?
Lukens: I really think the west side of the state is the best side for bass fishing. I consider myself a largemouth fisherman, so I really lean towards the west side more than the east side. Muskegon Lake is one of my favorites, for sure.
On Muskegon, you can catch a largemouth flipping a big tungsten weight and then pickup a dropshot and catch a big smallmouth all down the same stretch.
For Smallmouth, I really enjoy going up to Grand Traverse Bay or Charlevoix over there on the west side, too.