The FGCU Fishing Club may be an old-timer on campus, but the club is still a fresh catch. The club, which has been active for several years, changed its approach recently under the direction of president Wyler Gins.
“When I transferred to FGCU, I went to the first meeting, which had about 30 to 40 kids, and by the second, it was down to five,” Gins said. “It was just a bunch of bass fisherman, and I thought, ‘Weird,’ since we’ve got one of the best saltwater fishing spots in the country.”
Fishing Club’s purpose is “to give the students of Florida Gulf Coast University the ability to fish with other students who have a similar passion and to maintain an intercollegiate team.”
In the club’s second year under Gins, it has travelled all around the nation, most recently to Crescent Lake in North Florida where club members Hunter Bozeman and Beau Clymer competed in the FLW Southeastern Regional Qualifier, placing second out of the 117 boats, qualifying the team for the 2017 National Championship.
“I got in the club because I have always wanted to be a part of competitive college bass fishing, and as soon as I found out we had a club eligible to do that, I signed up,” Bozeman said. “I fished lots of local tournaments already, so I was really looking forward to that.”
The club currently has more than 100 active members, a sharp increase from the 30 to 40 that Gins initially walked into.
“We accept anyone into the club,” Gins said. “We don’t judge. Whether you’re an amateur or an expert, you’re welcome.”
The club’s growth may also be attributed to the more interactive club meetings now as opposed to the unofficial, mundane meetings of the past.
“We get in there, in an actual room,” Gins said. “We get on the projector, share stories and funny videos. We also bring in guest speakers for seminars.”
After placing first in the 2014 IFA College Saltwater Championship, the FGCU Fishing Club has a variety of sponsors, from Costa Del Mar to Guy Harvey, but the club’s funds come in large part from lunches it hosts in the spring and summer as well as t-shirt sales.
The club is no longer limited to just fishing. Gins has instilled a more diverse schedule each semester, including camping trips and longer fishing trips over breaks. Coming up, the club will travel to the Florida Keys for spring break; there are eight boats signed up for the trip so far.
Along with the third annual Fallen Eagle Redfish Classic coming up on Feb. 21 at Fish-Tale Marina, Fishing Club will also be hosting its annual Fishing Rodeo, sponsored by Bass Pro Shops and in partnership with the Special Needs Department of Lee County Parks and Recreation. Last year, the rodeo drew in 50 volunteers and 25 participants.
For those interested in joining the club, Gins suggests checking out one of the club’s weekly meetings, which alternate between Tuesdays and Wednesdays. To keep up with the schedule, check out FGCU Fishing Club on Facebook. For some photos of the club in action, find it on Instagram.