By Cindy Carroll
Student fishing is off the hook at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. The Mocs Bass Anglers are reeling in big money and big fish and finding inspiration from a member of this relatively new club sport on campus.
Alex Craw started the team in 2008 with a group of six student fishermen. By the time he graduated in May 2011, membership had more than quadrupled. UT Knoxville and UT Martin also have bass fishing teams.
The UTC anglers are making their school proud. Last January, students Nick Pratt and James Childers placed in the top five boats of the FLW College Fishing Southeast Division Regional Tournament, netting $7,500 for their club and $2,500 for UTC. They beat teams from the University of Georgia, Auburn University and Clemson University. In 2010, Craw and Casey Murray placed third in a collegiate tournament. Their combined winnings funded team costs and provided a pair of $2,000 scholarships for high school students to attend UTC.
One of the anglers fished out of his wheelchair. Robby Crosslin had suffered devastating injuries in a car accident, battled toward recovery and continued to take online classes at UTC.
“Our team finished in fourth this year out of over 40 schools, and we couldn’t have done it without Robby and his partner’s contribution to the team weight,” says Craw. On the second day of the competition, Crosslin caught the biggest bass of the day out of the entire field ¬¬– a 7.54-pound largemouth bass.
“To see Robby hold that huge fish up on stage with a huge smile on his face after all he has gone through was one of the most inspirational things I have ever seen. It is definitely a testament to Robby’s courage and perseverance to return to the sport of fishing that he has been so passionate about his entire life,” Craw says.
Graduation hasn’t kept Craw from competitive fishing. Craw parlayed his love for fishing into a new career when he landed a job with the Bass Fishing Federation as national director of the Student Angler Federation. He is responsible for working with high school anglers.
“We held our second annual 2011 High School Fishing World Finals tournament in Russellville, Ark., and had over 100 different boats/teams representing 24 different states. This was more than a 50 percent boost in participation from the previous years, so that tells us that high school fishing is here to stay for a long time,” Craw says.
The same could be said for UTC’s team.