What started as an interest meeting of 50 students in the spring of 2019 led to a promising future for Florida A&M’s first fishing club.
Robert ‘Bob’ Carroll Jr., the director of FAMU’s Campus Recreation Center vision finally came true.
“Mr. Carroll wanted to start a fishing club for a very long time. It wasn’t until the spring of 2019 that we really started focusing on it. Bob knew someone at Bass Pro Shop and connected us because he thought they will be a good resource when we decided to do the club” said club adviser George “Chip” Heimbach.
It was through this great relationship that influenced a few members from the Bass Pro staff to attend their first meeting. Bass Pro was impressed by the goals that they wanted to achieve, the number of students that showed interest and suggested that they apply for a Bass Pro grant.
The students applied and received the grant. Which allowed them to purchase equipment for the club. They were also honored at a barbecue hosted by Bass Pro, where Florida Wildlife and other parties came to speak. To be surrounded by so much support, shifted the focus of the students. Their next steps were to organize a team and do the groundwork to become a registered club.
In the meantime, students attended casting clinics with pros and fished alongside other fishing clubs in their personal boats. They also got the chance to help with other tournaments in town. The students were able to enhance their skillsets, gain new insight and connect with the Tallahassee fishing community.
Despite losing students in the summer due to inactivity, 17 core students remained. This group of passionate individuals become an official organization the following semester.
Club historian Rachel Dunn, a sophomore Vet Tech student was one of the 17 that witness the evolution of the club.
“I entered this new club at their first interest meeting at the end of spring semester 2019, nervous yet intrigued. I worried that because I wasn’t fishing every weekend and didn’t know how to tie a hook to my line that I would be lost and out of place. But instead the members there made me feel comfortable and like a family. They helped teach me the basics and made me feel included,” said Dunn.
At the beginning of Fall semester 2019, Bass Pro reached out to the club with a once in a lifetime opportunity to Fishing League Worldwide. A league that allowed them to compete against collegiate fishing clubs. In addition, they offered to sponsor the club with a boat and additional resources. FAMU became the first Historically Black College to be presented with this sponsorship.
During the homecoming parade, the club made its first appearance as an organization to the FAMU community.
The students were excited about the new opportunities that the boat provided for them. They now would be able to fish out in the water rather than on land. This affected the competition team a great deal because they now can practice on their own terms to prepare for tournaments. The gift of the boat made the students even more proud and determine to represent the school. Especially with them knowing that Bass Pro will be there every step of the way.
After a few test rides and adding the finishing touches on paperwork, the club was ready for recruitment. On Jan. 30, the club hosted another interest meeting that became another success.
The club was able to attract about eight new students that were brand new to fishing. They weren’t really interested in competing, but they did want to join the fishing family from a social standpoint. This aligned with one of the goals that the club set in place for the semester. Which is to grow the club at large. In order to fulfill its purpose at providing a recreational, educational and competitive atmosphere for students.
FAMU’s Fishing Club is creating a buzz around campus. The club not only offers a competitive team but opportunities for students to learn how to fish and build meaningful relationships with their peers. Students from all backgrounds can learn from each other and contribute to the overall essence of the club.
Not to mention, volunteer with the club’s sponsor Bass Pro and network with the fishing community in Tallahassee. Students can benefit by staying active and engaged with wildlife.
On Feb. 7, the club competed in their first tournament at Lake Seminole in Bainbridge, Georgia. Where students Benjamin Johnson and Dylan Jackson placed 69 out of 140 boats. The match was live streamed on www.flwfishing.com.
Benjamin Grant Johnson, a junior environmental studies student has been fishing since he was three. FAMU’s fishing club provides him with hands-on experience and access to activities that assist him in developing his craft.
“To compete at the first tournament of the semester was an amazing opportunity and experience. Being able to be a part of an amazing team and make FAMU history was a blessing,” said Johnson.
If you would like to get involved and learn more about the club, contact club president Marcus McDuffie at (813) 600-8272 or visit Instagram @famufishing and FAMU Fishing Club on Facebook.