By (Matthew Wilson)

As a child growing up on the lake, John Davis would watch fishermen in boats catch bass, all the while dreaming of owning his own boat and competing in tournaments. Now, as president of The University of Alabama club fishing team, Davis is 
living that dream.

Davis, a junior majoring in marketing, and his fishing partner Payton McGinnis, also a junior majoring in marketing, qualified for the 2015 Ranger Cup Team of the Year Challenge after placing seventh at the 10th Anniversary BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship. The two will travel to Florida in October to compete against anglers from Liberty University.

“Honestly, it was a surprise because we didn’t expect it,” Davis said. “One of the qualifications for Ranger Cup is you have to have their logo on your jerseys. I was looking at all the guys in front of us, and I still hadn’t seen somebody with a Ranger Cup on their jerseys. I thought we might win Ranger Cup. I’m really looking 
forward to it. It’ll be great experience.”

Having fished nearly his entire life, McGinnis said he didn’t start fishing competitively until he came to Alabama. Fishing in tournaments is a more competitive environment than recreational fishing. He said it takes days of practice and weeks of preparation before they go to a 
competition. At the BoatUS championship, they practiced for three days and went up against 165 boats.

Despite its competitive nature, Davis and McGinnis both said they’ve made good friends with competitors from different schools. McGinnis said everyone knows everyone, and tournaments give them a chance to get together and have a good time.

“You’re just trying to figure out how to catch the best fish you can. It’s a lot of fun. That’s why we do it, but you also want to do good,” he said. “It’s a good time when we get to big tournaments like that because you get to meet groups of people from different schools.”

Starting in January, the team, which currently has 29 members, goes all year competing in a number of tournaments across the United States. They usually meet about once a month for meetings and compete against each other a few times during the year. Depending on the tournament, the team has entered up to seven boats in tournaments.

“It is a lot more work than recreational fishing,” Davis said. “We don’t just go out and sit in a boat with a bobber all day. We wake up at 2 or 3 in the morning and stay out from daylight to dark, in 40 degrees or 100 degrees, trying to find fish we can catch and get an edge on our competition.”

Only an angler and co-angler are allowed in the boat. Davis and McGinnis have worked together since McGinnis joined the team. McGinnis said a good fishing partner is someone you can get along with and who thinks similarly. So far, the two said they’ve proven to be an effective team and plan to finish their collegiate career together.

To prepare for a competition, the team looks at maps and on the Internet several weeks in advance so they can learns how the lake is set up, how people were catching fish last year and how they are catching them now. Fishing changes day to day, and McGinnis said he witnesses firsthand tactics that work one day but might not work the next.

McGinnis said he hopes by participating in the competition, which will be televised, the team will receive more publicity.

“It’ll help other people notice that Alabama has a fishing team, and high school students come to Alabama to be on the fishing team,” he said. “We’re going pretty good right now. In [the Association of Collegiate Anglers] there’s school of the year, and we would like to win that eventually. Winning a national championship like that would be a really good long-term goal.”

As president, Davis said he’s responsible for setting up all the meetings and travel arrangements, but more importantly, acquiring sponsors. Dealing with companies inside and outside the fishing industry, Davis said the team had a good group of sponsors this year. Davis sees the Ranger Cup as an opportunity to give these sponsors exposure and maybe acquire a few more along the way.

At the end of the day, Davis said his favorite part about fishing is figuring out how to catch the fish and the community aspect of it.

“In competitive fishing, you’re up against a bunch of guys, and outside of that, you’re sitting with a bunch of guys,” he said. “It’s fun to get out there and test yourself against others, and being in Alabama, we have a lot of talented and professional anglers to test yourself against.”

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports