Despite a lack of funding, the UCF bass fishing team and Reel Knights club has been catching wins left and right.
In 2016, the club placed first, eighth and 20th in the Fishing League Worldwide (FLW) College Fishing Southeastern Conference opener. It then placed 12th in the Bassmaster College Tournament, its second and most recent tournament this past weekend.
Kyle Oliver, a junior business managment major and member of the team, was surprised with the team’s success in the face of stiff competition.
“It’s really just surreal because there’s so many teams that strive every year to do what we’ve done,” Oliver said. “We’re just really blessed to do what we’ve done.”
The team has also had to adjust to the unpredictable weather the state has seen this winter season; despite these obstacles, it still has managed to succeed.
“In Alabama, in practice, it was pretty much sunny and 70 degrees for most of practice and then tournament time,” Oliver said. “I think the high was probably around 55 degrees, the low was high 20s. So that makes the fish sluggish and it makes the fight worse. So it hurts everything when it gets like that.”
Justin Brown, a senior biology major, attributes the team’s success to camaraderie. The bass fishing team is affiliated with the UCF fishing club, Reel Knights, and it attends the club’s events and gets together to discuss what they’ll be catching during the tournaments.
“It’s an evolving sport,” Brown said. “Even though the year has gone by and it’s still that same time of year, it’s a new learning curve and new things you gotta learn. Each year, each season, I learn more — that’s the biggest thing.”
Every year, after recruits have joined the Reel Knights club, members have the opportunity to try out for the Bass team that will travel to competitions in August. In addition to the chance to compete in tournaments, the members of both groups get discounts to major companies around the nation such as Costa, Aftco and Guy Harvey, which in turn makes it easier for members to live out the purpose of the club.
The club’s mission is to preserve and promote the next generation of fishermen and women at the university, according to its website. The club wants to create an environment that allows people to share their experiences and passion with each other.
“At the end of the day, we go off and we’ll be like, ‘Hey, how’d you do today, where’d you catch a fish at,’ and then we can all use our different gathered knowledge to help inform each other on how to fish, what type of routers to use, what areas to fish,” Brown said. “That’s what allowed us to do really well in the tournaments.
“We were all helping each other out, pitching different things. It kept us up to date on what we thought we needed to catch to get into the qualifying.”
Hunter McKamey, a junior marketing major, attributed the team’s success to the amount of support that they receive.
“Our parents help us out a lot, we also have really good sponsors that factor,” McKamey said. “‘Cause fishing is a really expensive sport, so without the financial help we wouldn’t be able to do it.”
McKamey said the Knights have had a sizzling start to 2016 and want to preserve the heat throughout the year.
“The goal is definitely to send as many teams as we can to the national championship,” McKamey said. “We had two for the first tournament and one for the second. That’s pretty much a really good start to the year, that’s beyond our expectations. So I think we’ve reached our goal.”
Jean Racine is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.