Collegiate Anglers of Lamar head to nationals

The Collegiate Anglers of Lamar University stand upon the bridge overlooking the water at the John Gray Center, April 1. UP Lainie Harris

The Collegiate Anglers of Lamar University stand upon the bridge overlooking the water at the John Gray Center, April 1. UP Lainie Harris

“It’s a constant guessing game, so really it’s mentally strenuous, because you’re always thinking — you’re trying to complete a 1,000 piece puzzle, but you’re only working with 100 pieces,” Brandon Simoneaux said.

Simoneaux is president of The Collegiate Anglers of Lamar University, who will send three teams to the Fishing League Worldwide college national championship, April 16-18, in Colombia, S.C. Each LU team consists of two students who had to qualify for the tournament.

Simoneaux, Bridge City, junior, has been fishing for Lamar since he was a freshman.

“I started fishing as soon as I got here, that was one of the reasons I came here, because I heard we had a fishing team,” he said. “I didn’t really have any reason to leave home. I wanted to go to college for engineering, and Lamar is a good engineering school — then an extra perk is that Lamar has a fishing team.”

Simoneaux has more than a decade of fishing experience.

“I’ve been fishing my entire life,” he said. “My grandparents used to take me to the lake when I was little, and I used to go fishing with my dad growing up.”

The team competes in tournaments throughout the year, fishing mainly in the FLW and Bassmaster’s college series.

Fishing is unpredictable, Simoneaux said, and the best place to learn is in a tournament.

“The more tournaments you are fishing, the more you are going to grow as an angler,” he said, “You’ll learn most (when) it’s for prize money. You are trying to win, and when you make that wrong decision, you remember that wrong decision.”

Member of the Collegiate Anglers of Lamar University, Cameron LaFleur, Orangefield senior, in midcast, on Cow Bayou in Orange, Nov. 17. UP Lainie Harris

Member of the Collegiate Anglers of Lamar University, Cameron LaFleur, Orangefield senior, in midcast, on Cow Bayou in Orange, Nov. 17. UP Lainie Harris

Simoneaux said that, no matter how skillful one is, fishing is still just one big guessing game.

“Over a period of time, you get where you are better at predicting what they are going to do, but you are never, ever just going to know,” he said.

One may catch a lot of fish one day, then the next they don’t bite.

“Then you think, ‘How did I catch them? What’s changed between then and now?” he said.

The 10-member team is split into pairs and they practice together throughout the season.

“There is no qualified time that you have to devote, but if you are not willing to devote a whole lot of time into it, then you won’t be able to compete with these guys,” Simoneaux said.

The team competes against other college fishing teams throughout the nation.

“I know it’s a college sport, and you would think that the competition is going to be a little bit lighter, but if anybody comes into this stuff thinking that they are not going to be facing some of the best anglers in the nation, they are wrong,” Simoneaux said. “A lot of these guys we fish against in every tournament are just waiting until they graduate to go hop onto the big circuits where the real money is.”

Most of the fishing team members are striving to become pro bass fishermen after college, Simoneaux said.

“Which essentially is what all of us are really shooting for, really that’s our end goal, that’s what we want to do,” he said.

Team members compete in three qualifying tournaments throughout the season, with the top 15 making the regional tournament. From there, the top 10 teams from each of the five regions go on to compete in the national championship.

“You’ve got one shot,” Simoneaux said. “It’s the best 50 teams, so that’s where you really get to see who’s the best in the nation — who shines.”

Lamar’s three pairs are Simoneaux and Josh Bowie, Cameron LaFleur and Justin Royal, and Colby Ogden and Quinton Evans.

LaFleur, Orangefield senior, said he started fishing at the age of five, but then stopped at the age of 13 to race dirt bikes. However, four years ago, inspired by his father, LaFleur began fishing once again and joined the LU team last fall.

The best part of the tournament is setting the hook on a fish, LaFleur said. He and Royal qualified by finishing eighth in the regional tournament on Sam Rayburn. This will be his first time fishing on Lake Murray in Columbia.

“I don’t know what it is going to be like — different lakes use different baits, some have grass, some don’t, and we won’t find out until we get there,” he said.

Member of the Collegiate Anglers of Lamar University, Cameron LaFleur, Orangefield senior, prepares for a cast, Nov. 17. UP Lainie Harris

Member of the Collegiate Anglers of Lamar University, Cameron LaFleur, Orangefield senior, prepares for a cast, Nov. 17. UP Lainie Harris

The teams will have two official days of practice, and if they win, they go on to compete in the Forrest Wood Cup.

“You then have to compete against your partner, and the person who wins out of the two, gets to fish the pro side of the FLW Forrest Wood Cup, which is like the world series of that particular circuit,” Simoneaux said.

Lamar is one of the only, if not the only, club in the nation that has seven FLW wins, Simoneaux said.

“As far as tournament angling though, if you are not a competitor — I mean a true, like everything you do, you just want to be the best at it — then tournament bass fishing is not for you,” he said.

Over Spring Break, Simoneaux, Bowie, Ogden and Evans went to South Carolina to fish the waters in preparation for the national tournament. Each location has its own set of variables to overcome, Simoneaux said.

“I like to say there are a thousand different scenarios for every minute of every day,” he said. “It could be anything as simple as your cloud coverage, which has to do with your barometric pressure, and even if your cloud coverage isn’t changing, a slight change in barometric pressure can make a difference. Wind speeds, wind direction, water temperature, water depth, time of year, what structures are in the water, what is their main food source in the lake, line size, how fast is your lure falling, are you reeling too fast, are you reeling too slow —everything that you have control of could be an issue, and everything that you don’t have control of, also could be an issue.”

Simoneaux said that conditions change all the time, even in different times of the day.

“One half of the day you’re doing this, and the other half of the day you have to go and do something completely different,” he said. “You’re trying to catch those five big fish, which is a lot harder than it looks.

“You’re never going to complete the puzzle, but you’re going to do the best you can to get almost there.”

For updates during the tournament, visit www.flwfishing.com/tournaments/college-fishing.

For information on joining The Collegiate Anglers of Lamar University, call Simoneaux at 718-1596, like the Lamar Fishing Facebook page, or follow them on Instagram at @LU_FISHING.

Lainie Harris

UP Contributor

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