Hilltopper Bass Club sees growth, national attention

Hasani Grayson

It may be hard to concentrate on fishing while being followed by a camera crew. 

But that’s exactly the problem the Hilltopper Bass Club had this past year.   

The club was founded five years ago by WKU graduate Adam Hock. Since then, it’s received national attention from competing in national collegiate fishing tournaments.

“Probably one of our best performances was at the (2010) Boat U.S. National Championship,” said club president and Kuttawa senior Andy Southard. “Dealing with the camera guys was kind of frustrating, but all in all it’s good for the club and good for the university.” 

Southard said that he and former president David Stevens finished third in the competition held in Lewisville in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. A camera crew followed them around for two days.

The duo caught 10 fish at the competition for a net weight of 30.60 pounds.

Southard, who grew up fishing on Lake Barkley, said he wasn’t quite used to the media attention.

But the club’s strong showing in the competition led to even more television exposure.

The Versus TV network featured the Hilltopper Bass Club during the Collegiate Bass Championships, where Southard estimated that the half-hour show spent about 15 minutes talking about WKU fishing. 

Now, the Hilltopper Bass Club is preparing for the regional tournament on Oct. 6-8 at Kinkaid Lake outside of Carbondale, Ill.

Southard and Beech Creek senior Cody Napier, the club’s vice president, will compete for WKU in the 20-team tournament. Footage of that will air on either Versus and Fox College Sports some time in December, Southard said.

After that, Southard said they have a few other local tournaments before the 2012 BoatUS National Championships, which will be held at Lake Pickwick in Florence, Ala., in May.

Napier said his personal goal is to be one of the anglers selected to go to nationals since the club can only send a certain amount. 

Southard said most schools get to send just one boat, which would be two anglers. But said he has a good reputation with BoatUS so he can likely coordinate up to three boats, which means six anglers for WKU.

On top of that, the club is still looking to expand. Napier said that’s also one of his main goals and he’s seen it.

“The past few years we’ve had the same five or 10 active members showing up,” he said. “So getting 25 people to show up at the first meeting was good.”

One of the challenges the club has had to deal with since its expansion has been the variance in skill level. 

Monticello senior Jacob Chaney said the club has some members who have never fished before and don’t know all the particulars just yet, such as what type of bait to use.

“We’ve got some people who don’t know how to cast a line yet,” Chaney said. “The bait type tries to simulate what they would be feeding on that time of year.” 

Napier said that means the more experienced members try to teach newcomers the tricks of the trade. 

“You don’t have to be the best tournament angler in the world,” Napier said. “They can just learn tactics from the club veterans.”