3 important areas coaches scrutinize while recruiting anglers to top programs
By A1 Founder and Adrian Assistant Coach, Caleb Taylor
Having fished for the Adrian College program and continued into working with high school anglers I had a pretty good idea what coaches and programs are looking for when it comes to recruiting. Now, as the Head Assistant Coach at Adrian College I have an even clearer picture what we are looking for in high school anglers who we want to become apart of our program. As high school fishing grows the competition for scholarship spots is strong than ever. Today what we are looking for is becoming more common than when the Adrian program initially started. Simply stated, if you don’t have most of the following you will have a tough time garnering attention of recruiters and coaches. So read on!
#1 Solid Academics
This is not something new. When looking at a recruit they need to be able to be admitted into the school or otherwise we are wasting our time. Good grades show an ability to focus and commit. They also show the angler has a better chance of balancing a college workload efficiently and that they are able to finish tasks.
Coaches have to be sure you can stay eligible to participate in tournaments and that starts with grade point average. Not having to worry about grades and an angler being able to handle the load of fishing and school leaves more time to focus on things that will produce results on the water. So stay committed to your academics. Not only will it look good to coaches, but can also help you secure more scholarship money and relieve more of the financial burden of college.
#2 Experience Operating and Towing A Boat
In the beginning of college fishing and recruiting it was harder to find experienced anglers with everything a coach would look for. High School fishing wasn’t as big and so taking a few kids with different skills around fishing was normal. Now that is not the case. No longer is it slim pickings and having to compromise for anglers with partial skill sets. It is rare to contend for a scholarship if you do not have experience in this area of operating and towing a boat and will only continue to be even more rare as the sport grows.
The reason this skill is so important is because college coaches send their teams all over the country towing and running boats on new water. It is vital that each angler know how to tow safely and also operate a boat safely to ensure a tournament is executed properly. Some schools, like Adrian College & Campbellsville, even provide the trucks and boats for angler use making it more important that the anglers can handle towing and operating responsibly.
Having experience around a boat can also prove valuable in case of a break down. Being able to troubleshoot on the water and get back to fishing is an extremely critical skill. Making sure the boat is also maintenanced properly and ready to go for the next event relieves some of the pressure off the coach and makes life easier all around.
If you don’t have a boat you can not let that stop you from getting experience. Find opportunities to co-angler or fish with a buddy who has a boat. Don’t be afraid to ask them for advice on operating or towing and even for them to let you get some experience behind the wheel. Here at A1 Angler Development we know how important this skill is so we spend time in our programs allowing young anglers to back the boats in and put it on the trailer as well as run the boat under power. We offer experienced guidance and instruction to help young anglers gain a solid foundation of operating experience.
#3 Experience on Different Fisheries
College fishing is a national sport. Tournaments from divisionals to championships are routinely held on lakes spread over a wide geographic area. In the BASS College Series, tournaments ranged from the St. Lawrence River in New York to Lake Chickamauga in Tennessee. Even in a series like the FLW Northern Division the tournaments ranged from Lake Erie in Ohio to the Potomac River in Maryland. Quite a different part of the country for being in the same division and quite the change in ecosystem.
It is no surprise that having experience on bodies of water outside an anglers comfort zone(outside home state) speaks volumes about the skill of an angler. It is vital to be able to adjust and break down large new bodies of water quickly and efficiently. Even if you do not have experience on the exact lakes college tournaments travel to, having experience breaking down new bodies of water away from home shows a coach you can do it and you have the confidence necessary.
To gain this experience make it a point to travel at least once a year to a new body of water in a different area of the country. BASS and FLW have open high school tournaments where anglers can travel to compete. I would highly recommend traveling to at least one of these events while in high school. If you are not able to travel to a tournament then just going on a fun trip to a new body of water will give you a good experience. Work on breaking down new water and quickly being able to put yourself in high percentage areas. These are necessary skills when traveling on a collegiate fishing team.
We also recommend trying to visit places college events usually take place on. It isn’t hard to look at past schedules and see where college series frequently visit. If you look at the FLW Northern Division you can say it’s a safe bet Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia will be on the schedule. So do some homework and try to expand your knowledge on reservoirs or river systems frequently seen on college tours. By the time I was graduating from high school I had experience on Lake Guntersville, Lake Fork, Lake St. Clair, Wilson Lake, Wheeler Lake, Old Hickory Lake, Lake Norris, Newton Lake, Table Rock Lake, and even a Northern Divisional BASS High School tournament victory on the Mississippi River. All of these were way outside my norm and also big bodies of water. I didn’t always smash them either, but I learned invaluable lessons about traveling and seeing new bodies of water. It was a big factor in my recruitment to Adrian College by Coach Borton. Do this and throw in a good finish in a high school open and you are head and shoulders above the crowd when it comes to recruiting. Again we work this experience piece into our A1 Angler Development programs by offering to travel to these events with our teams. We know how important it is and know that we can help show young anglers how to execute a tournament away from home properly.
Now that you have an idea of what coaches look for you it is up to you to put in the work! Don’t be fooled, this sport is not easy and if you want to become a successful collegiate angler you will need to put in large amount of work on and off the water just like any other college athlete! You can do it and it has to start with that belief. Believe you can do it, make a plan, take action steps and go after it! We are here to help along the way.