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Omaha Magazine

Angling for Extracurriculars: Husker Bass Anglers Throw Lines, Not Footballs

Apr 29, 2021 03:44PM ● By Patrick McGee
angler fishes on Bowling Lake Nebraska

Photo by Bill Sitzmann

Nebraska isn’t known for bass fishing, but the Cornhusker state has plenty of bass and those who fish for them. In fact, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln supports a bass fishing team that hooks an increasingly impressive number of new members every year—the Husker Bass Anglers. This group fuses the college experience with competition fishing. The draw is obvious for adventurous undergrads who want to wind down on remote lakes and reel in living trophies.

The Husker Bass Anglers provide many opportunities for adventure. Tournaments take team members to Table Rock, Arkansas; the Lake of the Ozarks; and Toledo Bend in Texas. Hunter Suchsland, the team’s president, said that travel to competitions is not only fun but is paying off for the team’s reputation. He said that in one division, the Bass Anglers ranked in the top five earlier in 2020. Unfortunately, the coronavirus travel ban made it impossible to finish the season, and the Bass Anglers’ collegiate ranking slipped due to reasons beyond their control. Still, the early season was a huge success, and not just due to successful competitions. Most years, these Huskers compete in about four tournaments nationwide. 

Husker Bass Angler faculty sponsor Eric Einspahr, who is also an academic adviser, said travel to tournaments is one of the perks for the four-to-six anglers the Husker Bass Anglers sponsors to compete in collegiate fishing events. In Einspahr’s mind, competition results are great, but a meaningful college experience is the greater perk. He is more than happy to assist with navigating expense reports and reimbursement to make the trips possible for student anglers. 

The adventures provided by this group helps students stay engaged. “We know that students who are engaged, connected to the university, have a higher instance of graduating,” Einspahr said. “Even if it’s not related to their major. That’s why I sponsor the club.” 

Einspahr emphasized the importance of providing such an experience to college-aged young adults. He said that college is the ideal time to introduce people to the sport. Students are reaping the benefits of newfound independence and learning how they want to spend their time. He emphasized the importance of getting young adults involved in the outdoors to create the next generation of conservationists, aside from the cathartic benefit the sport provides students. 

Einspahr’s guidance has proven true in Suchsland’s case as well. Suchsland’s collegiate fishing experience has provided him with a curriculum focus. Since his time in the Husker Bass Anglers, Suchsland has declared a major in nature-based entrepreneurship. “Basically, outdoor business,” he said. “I love working with fishing-related stuff,” he said. He and a close friend have even devised a business plan around bass angling. “We make custom baits,” he said, referring to various types of lures.

Suchsland’s time in the Bass Anglers provided some inspiration for his business plan and a valuable support network. He has also contributed to the growth of the team, which consisted of five-to-10 consistent members when he joined. He boasts that the Husker Bass Angler T-shirt and access to the team’s discounts on select gear are draws for college students; however, travel time with friends is among the greatest perks for the now 25-to-30 consistent members.

Many of Suchland’s favorite stories about the Bass Anglers aren’t about fishing, but about the relationships he’s made on the road. He delights in meeting other collegiate fishermen in tournaments and on social media—splitting hotel rooms and costs, sleeping in trucks and boats, eating canned ravioli and hot dogs, generally roughing it, and most importantly, finding common ground in shared experiences. In a sense, collegiate bass fishing is the catalyst for a greater college experience and an excuse to participate in the cherished road trips many Americans think back on with nostalgia. There’s more to the Bass Anglers than travel, however.

Select Husker Bass Anglers, Suchsland included, represent the university. They do it professionally and competitively. Their skills should not be downplayed. Historically, they have competed in two major collegiate bass fishing circuits, Bass Masters and Major League Fishing. Suchsland said the tournament teams put in work on each body of water for days leading up to an event. “We hit spots and find patterns,” he said. “those (practice and preparation) days can be 12 to 14 hours on the boat.” he said. “We had two teams qualify for nationals this year.”

Unfortunately, the season did not reach an ideal end due to the pandemic. COVID-19 may have impeded the Husker Bass Anglers’ late-season travel plans in 2020, but it hasn’t stopped the team from fishing local waters. In fact, in spite of the virus, bass fishing is more popular than ever. 

“Fishing is one area that has really exploded,” Einspahr said, adding that fishing is kind of a naturally socially distanced activity. In fact, due to the effect the pandemic has had on the Bass Anglers, Einspahr said they’re not hurting for numbers. The unfortunate circumstances of 2020 demonstrated the resilience and adaptability of the Husker Bass Anglers. 

Visit the Husker Bass Anglers on their Facebook page for more information.

This article originally appeared in the May issue of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.