The sky is clear, the water is blue, the weather is a comfortable temperature to be outdoors. Boats line the lake, each carrying passengers with the same goal in mind: to catch as many fish as possible before the end of the day.
Joe Howe, a fifth-year landscape architect and president of the Ball State Bass Fishing Club, said he’s been fishing since he could hold a rod, so joining the Ball State club made sense to him.
“I joined a fishing club in my hometown – Mishawaka – when I was 16,” Howe said. “When I came to school here, I was looking into their fishing club and joined my second year.”
The Ball State Bass Fishing Club is a group of approximately 10-15 college students who have participated in tournament fishing or want to try the sport. Members can use their own boat if they have one, but if they don’t, Howe said the club has a “good list of alumni and close contacts” who can take students to tournaments.
“We try to run three or four tournaments in the fall and then we try to run as many as we can in the spring if the weather permits,” he said. “It’s just about students going out and getting involved in bass fishing tournaments.”
Kayden Effinger, a sophomore in business administration, said tournaments usually last about one to three days and last eight hours each – running from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. At the end of the day, competitors weigh their five largest fish and receive a score based on the sizes.
Club members fish lakes near Ball State, such as Geist Reservoir, Summit Lake, or Prairie Creek Reservoir, however, they will occasionally go to northern Indiana lakes as well.
“We’re trying to do everything we can in Indiana,” Howe said. “It’s more just about involving people in the sport.”
Club members don’t have to attend every tournament, and Howe said the club is “very low-involved” and just wants to involve as many people as possible. Since Howe became a member, club members have recruited at the Ball State Activities Show and other events, such as the Indianapolis Boat Show.
However, Howe said during the COVID-19 pandemic recruiting and building the club has been more difficult.
“From spring 2020 to spring 2021 we weren’t allowed to fish so we were closed for a while,” he said. “People graduated and we didn’t have activities, so it was hard to get the word out unless you knew someone.”
Now, as COVID-19 restrictions and concerns have eased, Howe said things have improved and more people are gradually joining the club, like Effinger.
Effinger attended Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky, his freshman year of college, but transferred to Ball State to be closer to his family. At Murray State, he said there were more people involved in bass fishing, so it was a team rather than a club like Ball State.
“I knew if I wanted to fish college tournaments and stuff like that, I had to be in the Ball State club,” Effinger said. “I joined this year and hope to give it a try in the next couple of years while I’m here to get a few more people into fishing tournaments.”
Effinger started fishing when he was in seventh grade, when he said one summer he and his friends got bored and tried fishing. When he was in eighth grade, he got involved in fishing tournaments.
When he transferred to Ball State, Effinger said he knew the school would have an angling club because tournament fishing was becoming more popular, and since he becomes club president in the fall, he wants to involve more students in the world of bass fishing.
“I really feel like in Indiana fishing isn’t as big as it is in southern schools,” Effinger said. “Hopefully by my senior year, maybe school will look at us differently…I’ve been doing this since middle school and I’ve seen how it all works. I just hope the school can let the students in the organization do whatever they want to do for her, because if we did that, that would be the best way for her to grow.
As Howe graduates this spring, he said he believes the club will be in good hands going forward and that underclassmen will be able to recruit better with fewer COVID concerns and restrictions. -19. He also thinks it helps that they’ve gotten used to playing smaller tournaments because the more people join, the more they’ll be able to play in bigger tournaments and gain more experience.
“I think for next year, in the fall and spring, the numbers will increase and [there will be] more participation,” Howe said. “We’re going to have more of these tournaments overnight… I think [Effinger] will do a very good job of organizing things and being able to make sure everything is running efficiently; I have a lot of confidence in him. I think the future is looking pretty good.