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In the latest installment of Premier Angler’s College Fishing Talk, we chat with William Bruin. William is a sophomore Mechanical Engineering Technology major who serves as secretary of the Purdue University Bass Fishing team.
Talking College Fishing with William Bruin, Purdue University
Premier Angler: Thanks for chatting with us, William. To kick things off, tell us how you got started fishing.
Bruin: I started really getting into fishing towards the end of middle school and early freshman year of high school. My neighbor happened to be the high school bass team faculty sponsor and had taken me out on his boat before. He recommended I try fishing one of the high school tournaments and giving it a shot. Once I got out on the water, I immediately fell in love with the sport.
Premier Angler: Did the fishing team have any influence on your decision to attend Purdue?
Bruin: The Purdue Bass Club, though it was not the sole reason, was a major factor in my school selection process. I had always seen their booth at the boat, sport, and tackle show and they always were the easiest guys to talk to and get along with.
Premier Angler: How long has Purdue’s fishing team been around? Can you share any information on the club’s history?
Bruin: I cannot provide exact details or dates but I know the club has been around for awhile. I know that Purdue and IU’s rivalry has some history to it. Kind of a play-on-words, but the two fishing clubs compete for the “Minnow Bucket” each fall in a 5-on-5 tournament.
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?
Bruin: Purdue, being such a large university, definitely has its perks when it comes to clubs. The Bass Club is a great example of how large universities can bring large groups of students together who share a passion for a sport or extracurricular activity. Being a BIG 10 school helps more on a national stage in the sport as a boost to getting the club out there, especially in a growing sport.
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.?
Bruin: The main channel the club uses to promote itself would be the social media platforms where most communication and promoting takes place. Our second largest stream of recruitment would most likely be the annual boat, sport, and travel show in Indy where we have our own booth right next to the giant “Hog Trough” tank.
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.?
Bruin: Finding sponsors and funding for the club is definitely the hardest aspect of keeping the club going. As of right now, our strategy for finding funding is by securing sponsorships from family-or-friend-owned companies locally that are willing to pitch in.
Our larger sponsorships come from the national level of the juggernaut rod and tackle companies that offer discounts and perks rather than monetary donations. Depending on the year and design, the club-designed merchandise is sold for additional funds that could help pay for accommodations for the larger national tournaments.
Premier Angler: As a follow-up, can you tell us more about any fundraisers and events you host during the year.
Bruin: The club does not have a set-in-stone, annual fundraiser, but instead we rely mostly upon the generous sponsorships and merchandise sales. We have discussed for this year possibly hosting a fundraising tournament for the club; however, the details have not been finalized.
Premier Angler: Walk us through the 2020 fishing season — where will your anglers be fishing? What are some individual and team goals this year?
Bruin: With the recent change in club officers, the lakes we are going to fish in the upcoming season will be different with some of the usual bodies of water (Lake Shafer, Lake Maxinkuckee).
Our team has many new goals for the new season. One thing we would like to focus on as a club is to fish different water. The club is taking this as an opportunity to break down new water and truly develop ourselves and our techniques to become better anglers. Secondly, we would like to be more active in the national tournaments. The previous season, we had a hand full of anglers participate in some national tournament and prove to be very successful. With the success we saw, we hope to send more guys to tournaments, thus allowing the club to get more presence on the national stage.
Premier Angler: What advice would you give to someone interested in fishing at the college level and, in particular, for Purdue?
Bruin: My advice to anyone coming into the college fishing world or the fishing world in general is to not be intimidated or overwhelmed. Everyone starts with different knowledge, gear, and tackle. The great thing about the college fishing community is the shared love for the sport and the respect for other anglers and the environment. New anglers should not be scared to ask questions.
In fact, I would strongly urge anglers at all levels to continue to ask questions to grow and develop their knowledge and skills.
Premier Angler: Throughout the year, what are some of the most popular fishing spots near campus? What type of preparation goes into improving as an individual anglers and as a competitive team?
Bruin: Around campus there are some spots to fish, but they are few and far between. Not too far from campus though, numerous quality fisheries surround the region, all within an hour to an hour and a half in any direction.
I find myself trying to improve my angling abilities everyday on and off the water, whether it be map study, tackle prep, or simply researching patterns and techniques.
Premier Angler: On Facebook, Purdue often uses the hashtag #wrongspecieswednesday. Can you share a story of a time you hooked into something you didn’t want?
Bruin: I have a very fond memory of the 5 minute battle I endured against a 6lb. “Smallmouth.” It was our last tournament of the 2018 season in late November and we had a small club tournament at Lake Freeman.
We were fishing post-frontal conditions in late November and everyone was having a rough day. One of those bites where you have to put it right in front of their face, and, of course, we were facing 40 degree rain and 15-20 mph wind — arguably some of the worst fishing conditions possible.
It was a finesse kind of day and my partner and I were drop-shotting a creek channel that swung under some deep docks. We thought the fish would be sitting deeper just outside the current and wind gusts taking shelter under these deep docks. My partner pitches his rig to a post about mid-dock and lets it sit, dead sticking it.
He gets a bump bump and, sure enough, he hooks up with a little smallmouth — maybe a pound and a half — but he ends up measuring just shy of the required 14 inches. So I decide to parallel the dock with my drop shot and just before I get to that same dock post, I get a very subtle tap and decide to set the hook. I halfway expected to catch a clone of the one my partner caught; however, I was immediately surprised to find my drag screaming and feeling deep head shakes in the soft mud bottom.
After an incredibly hard day and slow bite, my partner and I panic and start to rush around the boat fighting this fish and managing the net. Finally after a few minutes of fighting on light line, the beast flashed its side and in the stained water, my partner and I saw a big brown body roll.
The excitement and promise of a monster smallmouth revamped that initial adrenaline rush. Again, the beast rolled and my partner, being the good net man he is, managed to scoop it up. I watched his face and, immediately, he began to laugh and held up a nasty, slimey, 6 lb freshwater drum.
The disappointment of it not being a smallmouth was temporarily trumped by laughter. We were so happy to have actually hooked up with a fish in general. Sometime,s even in the rough days of tournament fishing, it’s the fluke catches that stick with you.
Premier Angler: Is there anything else you would like people to know about you, the team, or college fishing in general?
Bruin: After Purdue, I hope to get a job in the fishing or marine industry so I can continue my passion for fishing and the outdoors in my professional career.