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In the latest installment of Premier Angler’s College Fishing Talk, we are chatting with Colin Steck of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Colin is a junior pre-med major who serves as the team’s president.
We spoke with Colin at the start of 2020 to discuss the growth of the fishing team in Madison, his individual goals as an angler, and any advice he had for young anglers looking to take a similar path.
Talking Fishing with Colin Steck, UW-Madison
Premier Angler: Hi Colin. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. As we normally do with these interviews, let’s take a look at your fishing journey. How did you get started? What is the process that led to you moving from recreational angler to the president of a college fishing team at a major university?
Steck: I started fishing when I was able to hold a fishing rod. I think this was around age 3 when my dad would start taking me. This is what started my journey into bass fishing. As I progressed, I was able to start doing tournaments with my uncle who competed in bigger bass fishing tournaments. I then started doing weekly night tournaments along with weekend tournaments. This started a snowball effect to get into as many tournaments as possible. After that, I decided to start fishing high school tournaments. I qualified for three national championships in high school. That really fostered my competitiveness as an angler.
Premier Angler: Did the fishing team have any influence on your decision to attend the University of Wisconsin?
Steck: Yes, it did. I wanted to stay in state and go to the best school I could get into and continue following my dream: bass fishing.
Premier Angler: Wisconsin-Madison’s fishing team was founded in 1996, really setting the trend early for what has been an eruption in college fishing in recent years. How has the team evolved over the past twenty years and where do you see the team headed in the future?
Steck: When our team started, it was to compete in the big college fishing circuits and we still carry on that tradition today. We are still sending many boats all over the country, and usually one to three boats to the national championships each year in BASS and FLW.
The biggest step that the club has taken since my arrival is graduation to the “club sport” level at UW-Madison. This is a big step for the team here at UW-Madison. Being at the club sport level allows us to access the school’s resources like equipment, trainers, and funding. This is the step required to proceed to the next level for the team that I see eventually coming, which is varsity level. I am not sure how long it will take, but years later I believe the team has the potential to make it.
Premier Angler: UW-Madison’s Fishing Team has a very active social media presence and a fantastic website that is regularly updated. While compiling our College Fishing Talk series, we have seen a lot of teams — usually newer squads — who struggle in those departments. How important do you believe that schools having an active online presence is both for individuals teams and for college fishing in general?
Steck: Social media is the best arm to reach out to not only the members, but the public. The way I look at it is that everyone knows about the Badger Football team, and that opens up doors for their team like recruitment, profits from tickets to the game, or apparel.
Sometimes when I wear my apparel from the Fishing Team, students or professors will go, “Madison has a Fishing Team”? I don’t like hearing this and believe that a lot of good can come from public knowledge. People can’t support what they don’t know exists. This public awareness also opens up the door for sponsorship, funding, and recruitment opportunities.
Premier Angler: As you mentioned, awareness and perception are both major issues for your squad and most college fishing teams in general. In light of this, how has the team managed to attract new members? What type of promotion, if any, goes into raising awareness about the team on campus, locally, etc.?
Steck: This year, we emphasized on engaging freshman by posting flyers up in freshman dorms and partaking in the two Club and Org fairs at the Kohl Center on campus. Most of our members are here because they want to be on the team, and that’s partly why I believe our team is strong. It is full of people how share the same love for fishing as the rest of us, whether that’s competitive or not.
Premier Angler: You mentioned earlier that the team has been approved as a “club sport” at the university which opens up a cache of resources that many other schools simply do not have access to. What we have seen is that securing funding is often the biggest hurdle for college fishing programs. What are some other ways 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.?
Steck: Our team has also struggled with this. We generate team funding through working campus events, school funding, team membership dues, selling apparel, sponsorships, and participating in fishing expos.
We believe in good relationships with our sponsors and doing what we had promised to do. This goes hand in hand with our social media and presence as a team. Fund raising and securing the resources to compete becomes far easier the larger and more well-known our club is.
Premier Angler: You also mentioned that the school often sends numerous boats out throughout the year and has maintained a presence at the BASS and FLW National Championships. What are some of the other events the team has competed in recently? Are there any big events you are looking forward to over the coming year?
Steck: Our team has competed in:
October 7th, 2017, Mississippi River-Prarie Du Chein, Yeti College Central Divisional
January 25th-27th, 2018, Toledo Bend, Bassmaster College Series
May 30th-June 1st,2018, Red River, FLW College National Championship
July 19th-21st, 2018, Lake Tenkiller, Oklahoma, Bass National Championship
July 28th, 2018, Mississippi River Wabasha, FLW State Qualifier
Sept 29th, 2018, Lake of The Ozarks, FLW Regional Qualifier
June 4th-6th, 2019, Potomac River, FLW National Championship
Oct 18th, 2019, Lake of The Ozarks, FLW Regional Qualifier
This coming year we have two teams that qualified and will be competing in the 2020 YETI FLW National Championship Feb 26th-28th.
Team 1- Colin Steck & Sam Medo
Team 2- Jack Risch & Matt Mikolajczak
Premier Angler: Campus isn’t too far from Lake Michigan, and the Madison Chain of Lakes essentially wrap the city. How much of a benefit is it to have so many lakes nearby and how often do you get to spend time fishing each week?
Steck: This is vital to our team. With being in Wisconsin, we can only fish for a couple months if we are lucky before the ice takes over. The easy access to the water is very valuable to the team. It depends on each angler’s classwork, but most of us try to get out as much as possible.
Premier Angler: What advice would you give to young anglers looking to fish at the college level? What advice, if any, do you wish you would have been given?
Steck: I think a good bit of advice would be to get involved in a youth club as this opens up the doors to you as an angler. I also think a big thing is fishing as much as possible and getting involved with tournaments if you like them. The last piece is every time you hit the water, take away something that you learned from the day!
Premier Angler: What else would you like people to know about you, the team, or college fishing in general?
Steck: College fishing is an accelerating college sport that anyone who has an interest should take advantage of. I know some of my favorite memories have been with my teammates at tournaments or other events!