West Virginia’s Chase Sansom Assumes New Fishing Industry Role
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A quote attributed to 19th-century Dutch post-impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh states, “great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”
In late-20th and 21st-century America, millions of young adults have assumed and accepted that some of those aforementioned small things take place during their tenure in college – an endeavor that is, in itself, not at all a small thing. The model of go to college, declare a major, secure an internship, graduate, and get a good job has been promoted as a loose template to success for several generations.
Like many emerging, fresh-faced college freshmen, Salt Rock, West Virginia’s Chase Sansom entered Marshall University in the Fall of 2018 with the rough draft of a blueprint for his future. From a macroscopic lens, his plan consisted of simple-but-ambitious component parts: major in marketing, fish often, and, upon graduation, hopefully parlay that combination into a full-time job within the industry.
While millions of college graduates deviate from their intended trajectory for any number of reasons, Sansom stands as living proof that a curated cocktail of education, experience, and exposure can pay dividends.
Marshall University Fishing: An Internship Aliquantum
On November 6 and 7, 2022, the Marshall University Fishing Team will hold its fourth annual Marshall Bass Trail Cup on Summersville Lake in Nicholas County. At 2,700 acres, Summersville is the largest lake in West Virginia and has been home to the team’s annual championship for each of its four years.
Since the 2019 trail season, the team’s tournament trail has grown to offer frequent four-figure payouts for qualifying tournaments and, in 2021, a handsome $3,000 payout to the winning boat at the championship. That’s not too shabby for an event organized, promoted, and operated by college students whose club is not financially subsidized by the university.
Throughout most of his college tenure, Sansom has steadied at the helm, steering the Herd’s best-kept-secret in unchartered directions. Sometimes this has meant coordinating with event and team sponsors; sometimes it involved organizing trips to high-profile college fishing events or handling thousands of dollars in tournament payouts. At the core of his role, however, Sansom has been tasked with responsibilities that are scarcely available within a standard college program. In that sense, Sansom essentially developed his own extended field internship.
Marshall University, West Virginia’s second largest post-secondary educational institution, introduced its fishing club in 2015 and grew to a membership of sixteen anglers by Sansom’s sophomore campaign in 2019. Three years later, not only has Sansom served as both a member and president of Marshall University Fishing but has, in many ways, established himself as a premier champion of fishing in The Mountain State.
Outside the comfort of Wild and Wonderful, Sansom and his teammates were also regular fixtures on the Strike King Bassmaster College Series this past season. Sansom, along with fishing partner Tyler Drown, joined fellow Marshall angling duos Bailey McKinney/Levi Smith and Lawson Blake/Caden Fuller for respectable showings fishing one of the top college fishing circuits in the nation. Sansom and Drown concluded their 2022 campaign with a Top 100 series finish.
After a long and eventful several years in the captain’s chair, Sansom handed the presidency over to Bailey McKinney this summer.
“There wasn’t much of a passing of the torch moment,” recalls Sansom. “I told him, ‘this was it. It was yours to do what you want with it.'”
Despite what may appear a seamless handoff, Sansom looks back upon his tenure atop the team’s operations fondly.
“It’s definitely bittersweet. It was tough giving it away,” Sansom notes. “It was tough for a while. You don’t want to give up something like this that took forever to grow. Even today, it means the world to me. (I) never would have thought that back in 2018 when we started… it’s just crazy that it went this far.”
Talkin’ From the Dock: West Virginia’s Fishing Podcast
While Sansom’s name is inextricably linked with Marshall University Fishing, he has also established a respectable fishing presence of his own outside of the team.
Videos on his Chase Sansom Fishing YouTube channel have received thousands of views. Sometimes whimsical, sometimes instructional, Sansom has utilized the platform to document his career on the water for over six years.
He has also been an integral player in the growth of Dock Talk West Virginia, a popular Mountain State Facebook page and YouTube podcast. Adding to his growing list of commitments, Sansom assumed the duties of running Dock Talk’s operations in January 2022.
The growing channel has over three dozen hour-long podcasts with anglers from across the state and recently launched an official website highlighting fishing news and stories in West Virginia and beyond. One major feature on the nascent website includes an interview with UNC Charlotte’s Louis Monetti, an angler who recently qualified for the Bassmaster Classic while fishing from a 1996 Ranger boat.
For Sansom, the decision to add a website for Dock Talk was simple. “There needs to be a home for the stories we’re telling,” he states.
B.A.S.S. and Beyond
Sansom admits that, despite his marketing major, it was the lessons he learned and connections he made outside the classroom that have opened the most doors within the fishing industry.
“Education is important, but how you apply yourself outside the classroom is far more important,” he notes. “It’s important to make those connections outside of what you learn inside of school.”
Despite having the opportunity to fish some of the nation’s top waters, competing with names who will inevitably find themselves competing for the Bassmaster Classic championship at some point, Sansom admits that his aspirations for competing at that level may not materialize. At least not yet.
Instead, the destination point he imagined over four years ago – a career within the fishing industry – recently came to fruition when he was offered a position as Digital Content Editor and Web Producer for B.A.S.S.
Because of Chase’s visibility at college fishing tournaments and across numerous new media channels, Bassmaster’s Kyle Jesse reached out to inform him of the position this summer. After an in-person interview in Birmingham, Alabama, and short waiting period, Sansom was formally offered the role.
The position will involve editing content highlighting B.A.S.S events from around the country. At times, Sansom himself may be attending those events. Understandably, he also maintains a soft spot for the college fishing circuit.
“I’m not sure exactly what tournaments I’ll be covering, but hopefully most of the elite ones. I definitely want to do the elite ones,” Sansom notes. “And the college ones — I relate to those dudes. Whatever they send me to do, that’s what I’ll do. You’ll absolutely make more connections doing that.”
Despite his forthcoming relocation, Sansom plans to continue maintaining Dock Talk West Virginia remotely and keeping his finger on the pulse of fishing in the Mountain State.
Carving Similar Paths
No prescribed curriculum or internship series exists to prepare aspiring college anglers and future industry professionals for the growing opportunities within the field. The path that Sansom and others have taken (and, arguably, paved) – fish in college, travel, make connections, and pursue opportunities when they arise – may be the closest thing.
Sansom hopes this path may lead to more youth from his home state escape an embedded cycle of low expectations, however.
“To the kids in West Virginia, if you have a goal and want to do something in the fishing world, stick to it. Nothing is impossible,” he states. “It seems we have a lot of people in West Virginia who don’t really put themselves out there. Do something outside the box to promote yourself. Do something crazy like Dock Talk.”
For those who believe only the top-tier anglers land competitive jobs within the industry, Sansom also notes that he stands as an exception to that rule.
“There’s this idea that ‘if you want to make it, you’ve got to catch ’em.’ And I think I’m proof of that not being the case — I didn’t always catch ’em.”