Story by Leslie Miller
It was only the second year for the College SmashMouth competition and the first year for Tech to compete. The competition, for students at four-year universities, grew from just six participating universities its first year to 38 during the second year.
Christy Austin, the ATU fishing club advisor, started the local organization to give students with a competitive nature and love for fishing a way to be involved on campus while promoting the sport of competitive fishing. But, winning a national championship during the club’s first year, was a surprise to everyone.
Since the big win, Kevin and Dylan have been seen on ESPNU and ESPN2. They were even invited to The Fishin’ Hole Celebration honoring the final season of ESPN’s first outdoor show starring Jerry McKinnis.
Also attending the event were fishing legends Roland Martin and Bill Dance, coach Bobby Knight, Governor Mike Huckabee, Ranger Boat founder Forrest L. Woods, and fishing pros Kevin VanDam, Davy Hite, Kevin Short, and Greg Hackney.
However, Kevin and Dylan have remained humble, saying it has been an honor to represent Arkansas Tech in such a positive light.
In addition to winning national championships, the ATU Fishing Club wants to give back the community that has supported them throughout this adventurous first year. Members of the fishing club will be going to local elementary schools to teach boating safety and fish habitats.
“The students recently voted to adopt a new boat ramp being constructed on Lake Dardanelle,” said Christy Austin, club advisor. “They will be responsible for the maintenance and up keep of the ramp,” “The students want to get involved in the community that has been so supportive of them,” said Christy. She emphasized that members are now in the spotlight and will strive to be good examples and mentors to younger generations.
The club’s desire to give something to the community comes from their appreciation of the River Valley’s continued support for the organization.
Dylan said that the moral and physical support of the community, university and club made it possible for Tech to do so well at the championship.
Drew Buford, president of the ATU fishing club, added that it is rare to have such dedicated supporters who are willing to put their hearts into helping college students achieve their goals.
“The club could not ask for a better community or school to be a part of. There has been a deep personal investment into our success,” said Buford.
“On behalf of the ATU Fishing Club, thank you all for making this first year possible.”
If competitive fishing sounds interesting, Kevin’s advice is to just “go for it.”
“The main thing is don’t be afraid,” said Kevin.
The club’s next big event is the second annual Arkansas Tech University – College SmashMouth Bass Invitational. The tournament will be held on Lake Dardanelle on March 9-10, 2007. Tech students interested in becoming involved with this growing organization or local individuals wishing to assist with the upcoming tournament should contact Christy Austin at (479) 968-0378.
Story by Leslie Miller