UNA’s fishing team is kicking bass and taking names.
The Lions occupy the top spot of the Association of College Anglers’ 2015 Cabela’s School of the Year leaderboard with an 80 point lead over the University of Louisiana Monroe. UNA won the title last year and the players said they plan to reclaim the championship this season.
“It’s an honor and a blessing to be ranked No. 1 in the nation,” said senior Ryan Darracott. “We want to win it again this year. Anything less than finishing No. 1 would be a disappointment for us. Eighty points is a pretty good lead but we still can’t let up.”
Team President Dawson Lenz said the two toughest competitors are Louisiana Monroe and Murray State University but says his team is up to the challenge.
“It’s going to be an awesome year for us,” he said. “We will go and get points at every event. We have a team willing to travel eight to nine hours to an event.”
Darracott joined the fishing team when he came to UNA as a freshman fall 2011. He said he has seen a vast improvement of the team since then.
“My freshman year we had 15 people on the team and didn’t have that good of a year,” he said. “Sophomore year we finished No. 2 with 20 people on the team. Junior year we won it all with 25 players, and this year we have 35. We’ve climbed each year I’ve been here, and I hope it continues.”
Lenz said being ranked No.1 is impressive considering the schools they compete against.
“The whole top five other than us was D-I,” he said. “We still held our No. 1 spot, and it just shows the kind caliber of anglers we have.”
Darracott said the closeness of the team is a key component to success.
“We spend time with each other outside of fishing and just hang out,” he said. “It’s more than just a team. It’s like a brotherhood.”
Lenz said the team has an advantage over other schools when it comes to fishing because of the location of UNA.
“No other university has the opportunities like UNA does,” he said. “Because we’re so close to the Tennessee River we can fish three or four times a week where other schools can’t. I’m from Atlanta but I’m paying out-of-state to come here and be on this team. In Georgia I had to drive an hour to fish but here I can finish my homework at 2 p.m. and be on the water at 2:30 p.m. Freshmen are coming here just to fish.”
Lenz said he wants to thank UNA for all the support they have given to the fishing team.
“We do everything we can to represent UNA well,” he said. “We want to prove ourselves against the big schools too.”
UNA’s next event is the Fish Life Series in Guntersville Feb. 7.
The 2015 Cabela’s Collegiate Bass Fishing Series starts March 13 at Cabela’s Collegiate Big Bass Bash at Kentucky Lake. The series closes out close to home May 20 at Pickwick Lake for the BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship.