Another national title could be in Eastern Washington University’s future but any banner or sign would hang on the walls of the Pence Union Building.
At least that’s the hope of Nick Barr and Jared Walker as they compete at the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship Aug. 1-3 on the Chatuge Reservoir near Young Harris, Ga.
The two EWU students are part of the university’s Sportsman’s Club and qualified to represent the school as one of 68 teams from 49 schools to see who can haul in the most pounds of bass. Preliminary rounds of competition today (Aug. 1) and Friday (Aug. 2) will narrow the field to the top five teams who will fish Saturday for the title.
Barr, 21, but who will turn 22 on the final day of the tournament, thinks he and his teammate have an excellent chance to celebrate on two fronts. “I think were really going to do well,” Barr said. “Jared and I usually do well when we just throw things together.”
Barr’s been doing a lot of research on the Chatuge Reservoir. He’s spoken with locals and found out where the best holes are.
“Being from the West Coast I think is an advantage to us,” Barr said. “We fish so many bodies of water that we’re really versatile.” They don’t get stuck on a single technique, he said. “When things get tough we have some things up our sleeve.”
Barr said they are the underdog, however, having traveled 38 hours and 2,700 miles. Barr towed the boat from home to Georgia while teammate Walker, 24 and from Moses Lake, will fly in because of work commitments.
The two qualified in competition earlier by finishing seventh in a regional at Clear Lake in California in April. The top-10 finishers in each region earned berths into the nationals.
Bass fishing tournaments are conducted using boats that once the tournament starts, teams race – literally – to their favorite spot. “It’s all about getting there first,” Barr said.
It is kind of a redneck sport so everyone likes to go fast, Barr said jokingly. In reality, “The more time you can shave off from place to place the better.”
“You only have eight hours to fish, usually weigh-in is at 3 p.m., so you have to maximize those eight hours,” Barr said.
There are the known places that produce the most hits on the hook, but Barr said there’s kind of an unwritten sportsman’s rule where people don’t crowd in on another’s spot.
There are some areas – “community holes,” Barr calls them – that always produce fish, and those get crowded. “The first person there gets the choice.”
Competition is based on the total weight of your best five fish. The daily catch is kept in live wells on the boat and the ones not being kept for competition are tossed back into the lake.
Barr and Walker would likely not be competing at all had it not been for the passionate obsession Barr developed for fishing – particularly catching bass – when he was just 12. That led, in a roundabout way, to the formation of the EWU Sportsman’s Club, which includes competitive bass fishing teams.
Barr’s gravitation to fishing came in sixth grade when he fractured his knee, was in a full leg cast for three months, and couldn’t play baseball in the spring. “I asked my mom to buy me a rod and reel and take me to a little juvenile (fishing) lake in Lacey,” Barr explained.
Always active in sports like baseball and football, when Barr found out he could fish competitively, “That was it for me,” he said. “In middle school I fell in love with bass fishing and competitive bass fishing.”
Barr’s been competing with the rod and reel since he was 13, Barr said. To the extent that he even started a fishing club in his high school.
“I picked Eastern (Washington University) because I love Eastern Washington, I picked it because of the location,” Barr said. “In all honesty, I picked Eastern because it was close to all the lakes I wanted to go fish.”
He considered going to college in Alabama or Texas, places where bass fishing is king, but Barr didn’t want to go that far away.
“I knew from the start that I wanted to form a fishing team and do these kind of tournaments,” Barr said. “I got the Sportsman’s Club going literally three weeks before school started.”
With the support of the school and Rick Scott, the club sports director, Barr started out the club with six members his freshman year, doubling his sophomore year, “And this year it’s just exploded,” he said. Members come from all walks of life, Barr said, noting “We have just as many women in the club as we do guys.”
Part of the funding comes from the Associated Students at Eastern, but in order to travel as they do, “We fundraise a ton,” Barr said, particularly at the annual Big Horn Sportsman Show each March. The club’s fundraising is matched by the ASB.
The Lacey, Wash. native, who will be a senior in pursuit of a degree in business and marketing is the president and founder of the club, a campus group with about 60 members. “We do a lot of local fishing and hunting trips, we do a hunter safety course, we do community service activities out at the Turnbull Wildlife Refuge,” Barr said.
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.