College Fishing Talk: Ohio State University’s Patrick Henry

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In the latest installment of Premier Angler’s College Fishing Talk, we chat with Patrick Henry, President of the Ohio State University Bass Fishing Team.

Talking College Fishing with Patrick Henry, Ohio State University

Premier Angler: Hi Patrick. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us.

To get started, let’s begin with your fishing journey. How did that journey lead to you becoming president of the bass fishing team at one of the nation’s largest universities?

Henry: I started fishing at a young age in the creek behind my uncle’s house, which was across the street from where I lived. Many of my uncles were fisherman, hunters, and overall outdoorsmen, so an appreciation for nature was something I developed very early on. 

I never had a boat growing up, so I really got into fly fishing in middle school and high school. In my part of New Jersey there is a lot of native and stocked trout habitat, and I could drive 10 minutes away after school or on a weekend and get lost wading in Appalachian freestone streams. 

Youth tournament fishing in NJ as a whole is rather nonexistent, and although I was a fan of Mike Iaconelli and following BASS growing up, I never had the exposure or opportunity to get into bass tournaments. I would participate in youth bank tournaments now and then, and actually won one on the lake in my town when I was in middle school. 

Once high school hit, I really started to transition into bass fishing though and tried my best from the bank.

Premier Angler: Can you share any information about the history of the fishing team at Ohio State?

Henry: After talking to our faculty adviser, the current club is in its third iteration. Since we are classified as a club and not a sport (which we will get into later), high turnover rates make it hard to ensure a successful future for the club. 

Our current team began in 2012 and despite receiving no help from the university, have actually had a solid competitive history. 

At the end of 2018, we sat at 21st in the Cabela’s ACA School of the Year standings, and we are ending 2019 in 19th place out of over 250 schools. We have had one of our members, Bassmaster Open Pro Tyler Berger, win an FLW event on the St. Lawrence River, and have had teams finish 2nd and 5th in the past two years at the FLW Lake Erie Northern Regional. 

On average, we have 3 national championship qualifications per year, and have both of the first two Ohio Bass Nation College Championships so far.

Premier Angler: Did the fishing team have any influence on your decision to attend Ohio State?

Henry: The fishing team here at OSU actually had no bearing on my college decision at all. 

My choice was solely based on academic prestige, in addition to being a major Buckeye sports fan. I looked at a lot of Big Ten schools and other big name colleges, but none of them compared to how at home I felt on the Ohio State campus. 

I didn’t officially join the team at OSU until late in my freshman year. I had been looking for organizations to join early on and got involved with the Fly Fishing Club, as I had reached out to the bass team but never actually heard back from them for a while. When I did, I was still reluctant as I wasn’t sure if tournament fishing was for me.

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?

Henry: Name association for our club is key.  People love anything related to Ohio State, and when they can combine their love for the Buckeyes with a passion for fishing, it really helps our club get exposure and sell apparel to raise money. That money is then given to host youth events, other fundraisers, and primarily provide travel money to our teams who do qualify for national championship events. 

On the flip side, working with such a big school makes it hard to get anything done on the front of receiving funding or securing a better future for our club.  It often leads to a circular pattern of people referring you to other people, and because of this we have lost donations and even missed out on the opportunity to receive a club boat from a donor since no one from the university wanted to help us.

Premier Angler: Ohio State’s Bass Fishing team has a very active social media presence and a presence on the college’s 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?

Henry: When I took over as president, I could have easily assigned the task of social media chair to another member so I could lessen my work load and focus on other aspects of the club.  However, I had a very specific vision for our social media and wanted to put in the work to make it what it is today. 

The first time I logged in, our Instagram account had about 300 followers; and in about 2 years, it has grown to over 1,560.  I actually set a goal that first day to get our profile to pass Penn State’s team in total followers (who doesn’t love some friendly Big Ten competition?), at a time when they already had over 1,100, and we now have roughly 30 more than they do. 

The Twitter and Facebook pages have had similar success. The main reasons for this big push are threefold; it makes us more attractive to sponsors, it widens our exposure to fans, donors, and high schoolers looking to be on a college team, and gets us to a point where it would be very hard for the university to ignore us. 

I also think what we’re doing is very sweet, and want to consistently share what we’re up to with people since we get so may comments on our profiles saying “I wish they had a fishing team when I was in college!”  Social media is fun to me, and it makes doing it like this an enjoyable activity and a challenge to be creative.

Premier Angler: How does the school recruit members to the team? What type of promotion, if any, goes into raising awareness about the team on campus, locally, etc.?

Henry: As far as member recruitment, we don’t have the funds or incentives per say to entice “top” high school anglers to come to our program, however that is pretty much the case almost everywhere. 

Member recruitment happens at Ohio State’s annual Student Involvement Fair during the first week of fall classes, as well as by word of mouth and social media. Having an active social media presence gets you more exposure and increases your chances of being seen, and we want to be as visible as possible for high schoolers and new OSU students looking for a club to join or looking for a fishing team to get involved in. 

The amount of times we hear “Oh, there’s a fishing team?” or “We actually have that here?” is incredible, and the more we can minimize that and get the word out, the better.

Premier Angler: One challenge many college fishing teams face is securing funding. As you’ve mentioned, Ohio State’s Fishing Team also gets no direct funding from the university. 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.?

Henry: One of our biggest accomplishments in my mind is securing the sponsors our team currently has. They are: Shimano, G. Loomis, Venom Lures, Rapala, Hacksaw Jigs, Trokar, Minn Kota, Humminbird, NuThreadz, Field & Stream, Costa, Dairy Queen, TH Marine, Spool Speed Bearings, Pyscho Fish Lures, and PowerPro. 

This has been a fruit of our social media efforts, as the bigger our audience becomes, the more appealing our brand is to sponsors, as well as putting out more and creative content to promote them. 

On a funding front, we have a few sources of income. Like I mentioned earlier, the money we raise goes to the teams who qualify for national championship events from regionals to use as travel funds. It doesn’t cover the cost completely, but it helps since the championships are usually a lot further away for us (i.e. 17 hours to Louisiana, 15 hours to Florida, etc.).   

A big source of income for us is our apparel: NuThreadz makes a full line of OSU Bass gear available for purchase, and all the proceeds from sales are given to our club. We are not allowed to use the Block O logo, meaning we had to make our own OSU-themed logo and it prevents us from selling our tournament jerseys to the general public, but people seem to love what we’ve designed.

Premier Angler: As a follow-up, can you tell us more about some of the fundraisers you hold during the year (i.e. Buckeye Battle, Ducks Unlimited, etc.)

Henry: Our two main sources of income are selling apparel at our booth each year at the Columbus Fishing Expo and our annual Fundraiser tournament dubbed the Buckeye Battle. Our apparel can be bought online, but we move the most volume in person during the three days of the Expo.  In addition, we usually have some items to raffle off from our sponsors. 

G. Loomis provided us with some rods for that very purpose this last year, and we really appreciate it. The Buckeye Battle is an open tournament with 70% payout that we hold each year. It has been on Tappan Lake, Indian Lake, Alum Creek, and others, and we plan to hold it on Alum Creek again this upcoming May. 

We advertise on Facebook, Instagram, at the Expo, and through word of mouth to try and draw a big crowd. Venom Lures has been kind enough to sponsor the event and give us some door prizes, along with door prizes from Trokar and Field & Stream. Vice President John Kristof is also the VP of the Ducks Unlimited OSU Chapter and as a smaller OSU club with a shared passion for conservation and the outdoors, we want to lend a hand advertising their events and getting their name out there. Many members of our team are also members of the DU club, and we coexist quite nicely.

Premier Angler: Ohio State maintains a presence at some high-profile events, including those sponsored by FLW and the Bassmaster College Series, which you touched on a bit. Walk us through the preparation that goes into making all of this a reality — the training, behind-the-scenes coordination, etc.

Henry: This is perhaps one of the hardest things to accomplish as our team has such high turnover and no guarantees since boats all belong to members and vary from tournament to tournament.  The fact that we have been able to come by some success despite all this speaks to the talent and hard work some of our anglers put in. 

Those of us who fish most of the tournaments we can are usually on the water multiple times a week anyways. The best way to get better in this sport is through experience, and we all strive to get as much of that as we can. When not fishing college events, we can be found fishing week night pot tournaments, TBX, Megabass, Bass Nation, BFL’s, and every circuit we can find. Before events (sometimes months in advance), we start studying lake maps and scouring YouTube and Google for all the videos and articles we can on a body of water. 

If BASS or FLW has been to a body of water, those videos are picked apart.  Our top guys not only love fishing but love watching and learning, and having those resources to watch the best in the business break down lakes is very special. Once the schedules are announced, we try to coordinate who is going to which events as soon as we can. 

If possible, we try to travel and lodge together to save money and work as a team. It definitely is a very individual sport, but I would rather see three Ohio State teams in the top ten of a tournament than just one.

Premier Angler: In a given year, what events does Ohio State typically fish? What are some of the biggest events, some highlights from those events, furthest travels, etc.?

Henry: Our schedule generally consists of the four College Bassmasters, three FLW Northern Regionals, the FLW Open, the Ohio Bass Nation College Championship a few tournaments hosted by other colleges, the Cabela’s ACA Big Bass Bash, and any Bassmaster, FLW, or Cabela’s ACA National Championship events we qualify for. 

With the tournament circuits favoring southern lakes, Ohio isn’t the most out of the way (we feel for teams in New York, Wisconsin, etc.) but it definitely isn’t the closest. In recent history, the furthest event was the 2018 FLW National Championship on the Red River in Louisiana, which was over a 17 hour drive. We have an upcoming Bassmaster on Toledo Bend which is another 17 hour drive and a subsequently possible one if any of our teams is traveling to that. 

Three major highlights come to mind in recent history of our club;

1) Going back to back in the Ohio Bass Nation College Championships

2) Having 2nd and 5th place finishes at the FLW Lake Erie Regional the past two years

3) Having one of our most consistent duos in Jacob Miller and Jaycen Newsome have a big second day to jump up to 36th place (out of 148) in their final tournament which happened to be the 2019 FLW National Championship.

Premier Angler: What advice would you give to someone interested in fishing at the college level and, in particular, for OSU?

Henry: Having been involved in college fishing for a few years now, I would say the biggest things I’ve learned are patience and to roll with the punches. 

I am already a very patient person, but this is a sport where things work out according to plan an extremely low percentage of the time, so you have to live with that and keep your head above water.  It’s very easy to get down on yourself and beat yourself up, especially if you’re a perfectionist like me.  I would get really discouraged early on since things never seemed to go right, but the good anglers are those who keep a positive attitude, assess the situation, and adapt accordingly. 

Stick with it and put in the work, and eventually your time will come. Don’t feel rushed to be successful and definitely don’t do it for the sponsorships; those too will come in time. 

Most professional anglers didn’t come to the pros straight out of college and there is no draft. (Mike) Iaconelli worked at a Dick’s Sporting Goods for a few years out of college. Bass fishing is a sport where you can succeed at any age, so don’t feel rushed. 

As far as those interested in fishing at OSU, don’t be afraid to reach out!  We regularly monitor our email, Facebook, and Instagram, so get in contact with us, ask questions, and get involved.  We don’t have the resources to recruit so we rely on interested people to find us. No matter what level of experience you have in tournament angling, feel free to join our club. At the very least you have a way to network with some like minded individuals and make friends with some fellow anglers.

Premier Angler: Columbus is located directly in the center of a state with a handful of quality lakes. As you mentioned, however, the tournament scene often tends to favor southern lakes. What are some of your favorite lakes to fish, either near the college or at home, when you are not on the circuit?

Henry: “Quality” is a funny word to describe the lakes around Columbus in terms of bass fishing! 

Surprisingly, Ohio has been said to be one of the top 5 worst states in the country in terms of bass fishing if you exclude Lake Erie. That being said, there are bass to be caught if you know what you’re doing.  You can’t ledge fish or pattern fish like you can on TVA lakes for example, but you learn how to junk fish really well!  Alum Creek is a personal favorite of mine and a few other team members, and lakes such as Griggs and O’Shaughnessy are also well liked. 

Delaware Lake provides a challenge but can be rewarding, and Lake Erie is second to none. I work as a first mate during the summers for our VP John Kristof on a walleye charter boat, and every day off you can find us out around the Lake Erie islands in search of smallmouth. 

Almost everyone on our team who traveled to the Bassmaster event on the St. Lawrence last year fell in love with the place, and a bunch of us love taking trips up to Lake St. Clair as well.

Premier Angler: What else would you like people to know about you, the team, or college fishing in general? 

Henry: College fishing has been one of the best things I could have gotten involved in (or maybe the worst)!  I live and breathe bass fishing now, and it’s on my mind every day as I constantly try to get better. It provides people of our age a chance to gain big tournament experience while not completely draining us financially. 

If you have the chance, at least give it a try. A big aspect of our team that I am especially proud of us our work with youth events. We recently held a youth tournament in conjunction with one of the local high school clubs for youth anglers around Ohio where our members were boat captains and weigh masters. 

We try to send a few volunteers to local fishing derbies, open houses, and any other events we can. A lot of organizations reach out to us and ask for help, and with our 50 some members in the club (not all of them fish tournaments) we are usually able to lend a hand. Our club has grown drastically in the past 2 years, and it seems to be continuing to do so. 

While the future is always uncertain, I can proudly say I’ve done my best to leave the club better than I found it and have set up our future anglers for success.  I really do enjoy running this club and thank you for reaching out to us to complete this interview. Feel free to contact us at any time with follow ups, new questions, or anything else as we will be happy to oblige!

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