The Association of Collegiate Anglers(ACA), a division of CarecoTV, is a tournament organization created to facilitate growth, development and structure within competitive collegiate bass fishing.
The ACA created the original BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Series 14 seasons ago. It is now the Bass Pro Shops Collegiate Bass Fishing Series, and still the longest running collegiate bass fishing series in existence.
The ACA provides support to dozens of school-operated regional events nationwide and owns the Bass Pro Shops Collegiate Bass Fishing Series, Bass Pro Shops School of Year Program, and associated assets. The ACA also provides the largest amount of televised coverage of any collegiate fishing series.
Sports Destination Management: Professional bass fishing has gotten huge, and it is growing at the collegiate level as well. How long as the Association of Collegiate Anglers Federation been around?
Wade Middleton: The Association of Collegiate Anglers was formed in 2005, with the first Championship taking place on Lake Lewisville, Texas in Fall 2006, and has been around for 14 years now.
SDM: Was it formed by Bass Pro Shops?
Middleton: This event was formed via discussions by CarecoTV, Ranger Boats and FOX College Sports to start. It was the first major college event ever held and televised and was designed to grow a segment of college fishing that really didn’t exist at that time.
SDM: What is the season for collegiate bass fishing?
Middleton: Competitive bass fishing in general is typically a year-round sport. It is obviously dependent upon the climate in a given area. From January through December, there are regional college events happening across the country.
SDM: Any idea how many schools have teams?
Middleton: There are an estimated 350-plus bass fishing clubs across the nation based on the teams that are active in the annual Bass Pro Shops School of the Year Program which tracks schools that have bass fishing teams competing in various college events across the nation. There are quite a few other schools that have fishing programs that may or may not compete during a given year.
SDM: Is that number increasing, holding steady, dipping, etc.?
Middleton: The number of clubs is definitely increasing from year to year. This season alone, we have seen a spike in the number of freshman anglers participating. College fishing is a growing sport that generates a lot of excitement and energy around the fishing community.
SDM: Do collegiate tournaments award monetary prizes, trophies, or does it depend?
Middleton: Yes, depending on the organization, some do award monetary prizes and trophies. Since this is a club sport and not governed by NCAA, school teams are allowed to receive a variety of prizes based on the event.
SDM: Are fishing clubs in each individual school generally set up and run by the students?
Middleton: Not all fishing teams are the same. Some are clubs. In these cases, the club is student-run and affiliated directly through the university (similar to an intramural sport). In other cases, these groups are actual teams. They are funded by the university, receive scholarships, and have a head coach.
SDM: What do students need to have/bring in order to take part in a tournament?
Middleton: Student anglers must register online and bring a valid student ID with them to check-in. Our Series doesn’t require any membership fees and our tournaments are free to enter. All we require is that the student anglers be active in their university/college fishing club, be a full-time student, and have a 2.0 GPA or higher. From there, it is up to the anglers to furnish their own boat and fishing equipment.
SDM: Are there any areas in the country that have a stronger bass fishing club/team presence? Are there teams from states you wouldn’t have expected?
Middleton: The south, southwest and northern states all seem to be the strongest, which isn’t a surprise based on where bass fishing is the most popular. The only surprise to us is that many of the strongest programs are tied to smaller schools and not the larger schools. It seems this is a sport where your smaller schools, as well as community colleges, certainly do dominate your larger and more well-known state schools.
SDM: What are the demographics – more men than women? An even split?
Middleton: The field is predominately male, but over the last couple of years, we have seen an increase in female anglers.
SDM: How does the organization select locations for its events? What factors go into consideration, apart from being an area that has a good bass population, obviously?
Middleton: We try to mix it up by traveling all over the nation, but we also work with cities and tourism boards to go to locations that recognize the value of having major televised events and all the anglers coming to their location.
Editor’s note: Locations interested in hosting an event should contact Wade Middleton at email@example.com
SDM: What benefits does being a collegiate angler have?
Middleton: College fishing has helped to spur a growth in the fishing industry both in total anglers but also in the industry itself by growing new leaders. We’ve seen a lot of anglers who competed in the Association of Collegiate Anglers go on to start prominent careers in the fishing industry, as well as compete successfully at the professional bass fishing level.
SDM: Does your organization see interest at the high school level as well?
Middleton: High School fishing has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years! This has led to a large increase in underclassman now competing at the collegiate level.