The Arkansas Tech University (ATU) Fishing Team holds the distinction of being the nation’s first collegiate bass fishing School of the Year after amassing 896 points in the new points system designed and maintained by the Association of Collegiate Anglers.
The point system awards one point for every team overtaken during competition in 22 sanctioned events. Bonus points were available for hosting events and participating in the Berkley Conservation Institute program. ATU capitalized on every opportunity presented to earn this prestigious honor.
Their fishing team knocked off 846 different competitors over the course of the season between the BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship Series, Bassmaster College Series, and FLW College Fishing events, as well as a handful of student-run events. Some competition highlights include wins in the Cabela’s Collegiate Big Bass Bash, Arkansas Collegiate Fishing Trail Championship and ULM Invitational, an 8th place finish in the Bassmaster College National Championship, 3rd and 4th place finishes in their ATU Invitational, 2nd and 6th place finishes in the Bassmaster Central Super Regional, and other respectable finishes spread across the year throughout the country.
“Tech has one of the most active programs in the country,” said ACA Program Director Danny Blandford. “If there is a collegiate competition taking place, there is a good chance you’ll find someone there representing ATU. They competed in 10 of the 22 sanctioned events, and those they missed were a long way from Russellville, or Tech simply wasn’t eligible based on the tournament criteria. This team is full of fishing fanatics. I think they’d take on just about anyone anywhere and hold their own quite well on the water.”
Beyond competition points, ATU also earned 50 bonus points for their efforts off the water. They hosted the 6th Annual Arkansas Tech Invitational and submitted two different projects to the Berkley Conservation Institute, one of which was runner-up in the collegiate portion of the program. Their community outreach and conservation projects included trash weigh-ins, ramp clean-ups, and educational programs for elementary school children and developmentally challenged adults.
Christy Austin, the ATU Fishing Team creator and co-advisor, is excited about this recognition.
“I am very proud of the ATU Fishing Team,” Austin said. “These anglers have stepped up in many different areas within our club. They have donated many hours of community service for the Russellville area, used their knowledge of fishing, boating safety and habitat management to teach elementary and middle school students, and even taken time to help individuals with special needs participate in fishing through our annual fishing derby.”
Austin went on to add, “We have coined a new motto for our team: ‘We’re more than fishing’, because of our emphasis on the importance of giving back to our community and mentoring younger generations. The team has many supporters and volunteers that help our annual ATU Invitational, and we couldn’t have come this far and grown this much without each and every one of these people. We are honored to receive this award.”
The ATU team’s team co-advisor, Dr. Cathi McMahan, echoed Austin’s excitement.
“We were ecstatic when we heard the news and very much consider this an honor for Arkansas Tech University to be recognized as ACA School of the Year!” McMahan said. “I would like to thank not only the dedicated members of the ATU Fishing Team, but also Christy for her vision and persistence to make the club one of the best in the nation. I would be remiss if I didn’t also thank Arkansas Tech University and the Russellville community for the support and dedication they have shown the ATU Fishing Team since its inception in 2006. This level of recognition is much appreciated and cherished!”
Everyone involved in the Arkansas Tech University Fishing Team certainly has something to be proud of. They have developed a program that epitomizes what it means to be a team, on and off the water. As true champions do, they are already looking ahead to the next program year and a summer of fishing. Their 7th Annual ATU Invitational is scheduled for July 13-14, 2012 and registration runs through July 2nd. Those interested in learning more or registering for the event can do so here.
Although Tech has taken top honors, many other teams deserve recognition for their accomplishments as well. The runner-up position was contested right down to the last event, the Collegiate Bass Fishing Open, presented by Pepsi. In the end, the University of Louisiana-Monroe (ULM) was able to overtake the University of Arkansas team by a mere 51 points. Like Tech, ULM did all they could to take the top honors, including hosting their own event, as well as submitting multiple Berkley Conservation Institute projects.
The University of Arkansas, the eventual third place finishers, did all their work on the water, actively competing in as many events as possible. Ironically, their accomplishments included a victory at the ATU Invitational, as well as strong finishes with the Bassmaster College Series, the Cabela’s Big Bass Bash, and the BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship.
As winners of the 2012 ACA School of the Year program, Arkansas Tech will receive a sponsor prize pack valued at more than $7,000, including 50 ATU-colored CastAway rods for the teammates and a club fundraiser. An episode of Americana Outdoors, as well as features within the BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship Series, will also be devoted to the 2012 program, the race to the top, and the ultimate winners. Louisiana-Monroe will receive $3,000 in merchandise courtesy of the Association of Collegiate Anglers’ sponsors for second place, along with recognition within the programming, and the University of Arkansas team will receive a third place package valued at $1,500 in merchandise, as well as recognition.
For a complete look at the most comprehensive collegiate ranking produced to date, please visit: CollegiateBassChampionship.com
Images courtesy of BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship Series