This summer, two UF students will represent their school with fishing poles in hand.
On the Chatuge Reservoir in Northeast Georgia, 167 people will compete in the 2014 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship. These students represent 58 different colleges and will fish to win cash, prizes and to move on to the next stage of the competition.
Hank Weldon, tournament manager for the college series, said this will be the biggest championship so far.
When the tournament first began in 2011, only 49 universities participated and only 115 people competed.
Shelby Concon and Kyle Smith, members of the Gator BassMasters club, will put their skills to the test and represent UF in the three-day tournament.
The duo qualified to compete in the championship after fishing the South Regional on Lake Okeechobee, where they finished third out of 119 teams.
Come July 31, the two will cast off in Smith’s 19-foot, yellow and white Skeeter Boat.
They will reel in and keep the five biggest bass they catch each day. The competition goes by the combined weight of the fish over the course of the three days, and the highest overall weight wins.
Concon, president of Gator BassMasters, started fishing competitively in his junior year of college. The 21-year-old is now going into his senior year majoring in mechanical engineering.
He knows the skill of his competition will be at its peak in this tournament, but he isn’t worried. He said he enjoys the competition.
“You have to try your best and hope to get a little lucky,” he said.
Smith, 26, is a structural engineering senior and is thrilled that he gets to compete in the championship before he graduates.
It is the first time he has qualified for the championship and is taking time off from his summer internship with BP to compete.
Smith will take off just three days for the tournament and will miss the pre-fishing week, which is designated time for the collegiate anglers to learn the new body of water and develop a strategy.
He said that week is especially important because the body of water will not be like Florida’s water, and it will take experimenting to see what tactics work.
He will rely heavily on what Concon discovers in that week and hope for the best.
Smith’s birthday is July 31, the day the competition starts. He said his birthday wish is to win.
[A version of this story ran on page 5 on 7/17/2014 under the headline "Two UF students hope to reel in summer fishing championship"]
Shelby Concon (left) and Kyle Smith (right) at the South Regional qualifier holding the bass they caught that day.