It’s no surprise that fishing is a popular South Carolina pastime. What might be surprising, however, is how successful South Carolina’s club bass fishing team has been.
“Collegiate bass fishing is, from what I’ve been told, it’s like the fastest-growing college sport,” team president Colton Parrott said. “In the last 10 years, I think there's probably been over 500 new clubs introduced.”
The Anglers were founded in the spring semester of 2009 and is now up to around 20 active members. South Carolina is one of only two schools to win back-to-back national bass fishing championships in 2015 and 2016.
“Typically, we have people qualify every year,” Parrott, a senior marketing student, said.
The Anglers are looking for other fishing enthusiasts to join their ranks. Club secretary Tyler Dotman said their social media page attracts a fair amount of interest from students but the best way to get new recruits is to set up near Russell House.
“People are like ‘Dang! Y’all got a fishing team?’" Dotman, a junior biological sciences student, said. "We probably had, I don’t know, 20 kids [direct message] us on different social media accounts about this year’s team."
For life-long fisher and junior biological sciences student Jackson Denny, joining the Anglers was a no-brainer.
“I probably got into fishing when I was five or six just with my granddad and dad, and then I started getting into tournament fishing in high school,” Denny said. “I knew USC had a team, and I knew I was coming here, so I was just going to go right into it and join it.”
The team is funded through yearly club dues and sponsor donations. Recently, it has also sold Anglers t-shirts and received over $1,000 through GoFundMe donations to help pay for travel expenses.
The Anglers normally travel around the Southeast for qualifiers, but, due to the coronavirus, South Carolina has placed a 25-mile radius travel restriction on the team. The team is hoping it doesn’t ruin its chances to compete for another title.
“It’s put a hindrance on our traveling,” Parrott said. “We’re not allowed to go more than 25 miles outside of Russell House, and all of our qualifiers are that far out. That’s a rule [South Carolina] placed on all sport clubs, on all student organizations.”
This isn’t a problem just for the Anglers, however. Schools all over the country have adopted similar restrictions on travel for club teams and organizations. Despite these regulations, the Anglers are hopeful they can still qualify to fish at a national championship.
Two of the three national championship fishing tournaments have announced a travel exemption for students that are under school-imposed travel bans. Essentially, this exemption would allow the Anglers to individually compete instead of competing as a team representing the university.
“Next semester, if they adopt the travel exemption allowing students to participate individually, not attached to a school, I don’t think it’ll be an issue. But right now, it’s difficult because, you know, you’re banking on hoping for next year,” Parrott said.
The major tournaments swing into full gear starting in the spring, so there is still time for the situation to improve.