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Lamar students splash into the sport of collegiate fishing

Lamar University students, Matt Morrison and Danny Iles, are making waves in the world of collegiate fishing. The two mechanical engineering majors have been representing the Collegiate Anglers of Lamar since 2008. With their exemplary talent and teamwork, these anglers are successful at catching fish and reeling in an admirable reputation for Lamar University.

Morrison and Iles are two of the eight members in the Collegiate Anglers of Lamar. Morrison, along with former Lamar student Josh Maddox, got the idea to create the organization in the spring of 2008 when collegiate fishing was starting to gain popular recognition across universities. The team was created in collaboration with Kevin Smith, LU senior associate provost, who took on responsibility as team advisor.

“He is a vital part of our organization and was crucial in getting us to be an officially recognized student organization,” Morrison said.

Iles joined the team in fall 2008. Since then, he and Morrison have paired up to win multiple tournaments and bring in ample funds for the organization. Within the past year, Morrison and Iles have won approximately $75,000, including a Ranger 177TR bass boat donated to Lamar University and the bass-fishing club.

The prizes Morrison and Iles have received resulted from participating in National Guard FLW College Fishing tournaments. This competitive bass-fishing program operates in association with FLW Outdoors, the largest fishing tournament organization in the world, and is open to all full-time students at four-year colleges and universities. It consists of 20 qualifying events, five regional championships and the national championship. The goal is to catch the biggest five fish.

“It’s a major adrenaline rush,” Morrison said, as his face lit up with enthusiasm when explaining the excitement of catching a tournament-winning fish.

The thrill of competing in tournaments, however, is not the only benefit of fishing for the Lamar team. Morrison and Iles have been able to take their passion for fishing and apply it toward earning an education. The hard work and effort they bring to winning tournaments has provided them with funding from the bass-fishing club to help with educational expenses.

It takes talent to take a hobby and support one’s education with it, and these delightful young men are superb at what they do, Smith said.

Both anglers can trace fishing back to their childhood. Morrison found his love for the sport at age six, sparked by encouragement from his older brother, grandfather and father. For Iles, it was more of an entire family tradition.

“I’ve been fishing for just about as long as I can remember,” Iles said.

Both anglers try to fish whenever they can. Morrison, who will graduate in May, explained that even as a team member fitting fishing into a demanding college schedule is feasible.

“I’m a pretty busy person myself, but I make time so I can fish,” Morrison said.

The time and dedication these team members put forth has left a mark on this collegiate sport.

“They consistently stay on top and win,” Smith said.

The Lamar bass-fishing team has successfully beat schools such as Texas A&M University, Louisiana State University and the University of Oklahoma in various tournaments. Despite the small number of anglers on the Lamar University team in comparison to other larger colleges, the LU team continues to win.

“We might not have numbers, but we have quality here at Lamar,” Iles said.

The teammates said they hope for the Collegiate Anglers of Lamar continues and grows for semesters to come.

“It would mean a lot to me, as one of the guys who started it, to keep it going,” Morrison said.

“The recognition the tournaments are getting really benefits the university and seems to be making people more interested,” Iles said.

And interest is just what the team wants to generate. A web page, LUFishing.com, and a Facebook page, Lamar Fishing, are up and running for anyone curious about the Collegiate Anglers of Lamar.

Whether it’s the thrill of the catch or simply a leisurely hobby of fishing with the boys, this team can offer both.

“If you are passionate about bass-fishing then it is definitely a door that can lead to other doors if you would like it to,” Morrison said.

Morrison and Iles have proven that it is possible to take a passion and turn it into an education, or a future.