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NMSU bass fishing defies dry weather, makes waves in competitions

As dry as New Mexico can be, there is still a great interest in bass fishing, especially up north where lakes such as Conchas Lake allow bass fisherman to frequently experience the thrill of reeling in bass well over 5 pounds.

NMSU's Bass Fishing Team president and founder, Tanner Cooper, practices at the duck pond on campus. (NMSU photo by Angela Simental)

The Sportsman Fishing Club at NMSU was founded by Tanner Copper (bottom row, far left) in the fall of 2011and it is the only collegiate bass fishing team in the state.

For the NMSU bass fishing team, which has competed in the Collegiate Bassmasters Series, the challenge is faced with optimism and traveling through New Mexico in search of the best bass fishing waters.

Collegiate fishing teams became popular in 2005 with universities competing in bass fishing states such as Florida, Texas and California then achieving popularity in other states and getting the attention of sports channels such as ESPN.

Since 2012 the NMSU bass fishing team has made a presence in national competitions including the FLW Central Qualifier, Cabela?s BoatUS College Series and the FLW Central Invitational, among others.

In March 2013, the team competed in the BASS Southern Regional on Lake Amistad in Del Rio, Texas, placing 1st, 3rd, 9th and 14th. These four teams qualified for the BASS National Championship on Lake Chatuge in Georgia, both events were televised on ESPNU. The NMSU team was followed by a cameraman catching every bit of the action on a long fishing day.

Competition is difficult when other states have a geographic advantage and boast bigger lakes and more fish, but that does not discourage the NMSU team, which has proven that practice makes perfect.

?We often travel great distances for competitions, and we do as much research as possible using online sources,? said Tanner Cooper, president and founder of the fishing team. ?Our practice usually takes place at Elephant Butte Reservoir or occasionally at the NMSU Alumni Pond.?

Cooper, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering, founded the Sportsman Fishing Club at NMSU in the fall of 2011, the only collegiate bass fishing team in the state.

?My interest began in high school after watching fishing events. I focused my search for a university based on the presence of a bass fishing club. When I made the academic decision to attend NMSU, I made a resolution to create a club,? Cooper said.

Although Cooper is graduating in December, he said he feels confident team members will continue to steer the team in the direction of growth, ?spreading the passion for the sport? and participating in national competitions.

As pro-fishermen know, a team cannot survive without sponsors, and the community has taken great interest in supporting the bass fishing team.

?We have upwards of 20 team sponsors,? Cooper said. ?Our club could not sustain without the help of our sponsors. Their contributions allow our team to travel for competitions nearly without personal expense.?

As much as the community gives to the team, the team always looks for ways to reciprocate doing hours of community service.

?Our club takes great pride in our community service work and maintains high standards for community service projects,? he said.

They help at events in the Las Cruces area, benefitting organizations ranging from donation centers, churches and wounded veterans to the students of the Las Cruces public schools.

?Community service work helps our team to bond and grow, while contributing to a good cause,? Cooper added.

The NMSU bass fishing team has 14 members and any full-time student at the Las Cruces campus is welcome to join. Students interested can attend the club?s meetings and pay the annual fee. Only full-time students are eligible to compete at the national level.

?Fortunately, our club is full of personality,? Cooper said. ?We often spend numerous hours together traveling and on the water. It?s not common for college students to have the opportunity to bond in such a unique environment, compete with and against each other and travel the country.?

Summer will be an exciting time for the bass fishing team as they travel to compete in the BASS Western Regional on Clear Lake in Lakeport, Calif. May 15-16, followed by the FLW Central Qualifier on Grande Lake in Tulsa, Okla., in June, and finalizing the tour in July at the FLW Central Qualifier on Lake Dardanelle in Russellville, Ark.