If you think fishing is simply baiting a hook, throwing a line into the water, then sitting back to crack a cold soda, you’d be wrong. For two Slippery Rock University students, it’s psychology, environmentalism, nutrition, meteorology and determinism all rolled into one.
Tyler Branca, a geology, geography, environmental studies major from Hermitage, and Benjamin Tawney, an undeclared major from Stoystown, had the chance to prove their mettle when they placed just out-of-the-money in the National Guard FLW College Fishing Northern Division tournament on Betty’s Creek at Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia last month. The tournament drew 40 college teams.
The pair ended the competition in sixth place, one ounce shy of the prize money. First prize, $10,000, went to the fishermen from Hampden-Sydney College who turned in 16 pounds of bass in the five-fish-limit competition; second prize paid $3,000; and third- through fifth-place paid $2,000 each. Anglers and their school’s fishing club split the prize money.
Branca and Tawney weighed in their five-bass limit with a total of 13 pounds. Only six teams caught the five-fish limit
“The day started off sleeting and as we were flying across the lake at 70 miles per hour ‘it feels like knives stabbing you in the face’ my partner said,” Tawney wrote in an e-mail after the competition. The water temperature was 50-degrees.
“It was around 10:45 a.m., when I finally caught our first fish by slowing down and fishing a worm with an eight-ounce tungsten weight and straight hook that I purchased from one of our great sponsors. Even though this fish did not measure 14-inches, which is the length they had to be for the lake, it was a signal. Once this happened, my partner and I put our heads down and never gave up. We knew the fish were there, we just had to figure them out. Using that same worm, we went on to catch five nicer fish that had a combined weight of 13 pounds,” he wrote. Once the psychology was put in play, it only took 90 minutes to reach the limit.
Tawney called the day “more than a good finish” in a news story carried by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
"We were pretty bummed, but we were pretty proud of ourselves, too," he told the newspaper. "We were disappointed we didn't qualify for the Northern Region championship, but when Ben and I talked, we agreed we didn't make a mistake all day, either. We didn't miss out on anything that would have made up that one ounce, so we were pretty happy with how we finished."
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