The frigid waves of Kentucky Lake soaked three members of the Murray State Bass Anglers Club and stole three of their fishing rods on one windy evening in late January.
Even as the days seem to shorten and the temperatures drop to freezing, students still make their way down to the water’s edge to enjoy the local lakes in many different ways.
Justin Berger, president of the Murray State Bass Anglers Club, said their problems began when they decided to go into a bay to get out of the wind. The wind speed on the lake that day was as fast as 10 mph coming from the north, according to the Kentucky Lake website.
Berger said after fishing in the bay for a while, he, Jason Shaw and Mat Cardani decided to drive to another fishing spot to try their luck. He said as they drove away, the bow of their boat dipped into the water, causing a large wave to overtake their bass fishing boat and drench them.
“We all laughed after it happened,” he said. “One of the boys stripped down and changed into his rain gear, but we kept on fishing.”
Berger said navigating the 20 foot long Ranger v520 bass fishing boat takes a high skill level especially with so much wind. He said they lost about $300 worth of gear out on the lake.
“We went out there to have a good time and to practice for upcoming tournaments,” he said.
Shaw and Cardani said they asked Berger to help them develop their bass fishing skills and navigation skills because he is a senior member of the club.
“This is the perfect time of the year to work on things like that before we get into season,” Berger said.
Berger said the club uses Kentucky Lake year-round as their home lake to practice and compete in tournaments.
He said members of the club compete against each other eight times a year to rank their strongest performing members. These high-ranking fishermen then represent Murray State in the bass anglers national championship.
More than 300 collegiate teams participate nationally. Eastern Kentucky University, Western Kentucky University, University of Louisville and University of Kentucky are all in the same competitive division as Murray State.
Berger said Murray State’s close proximity to Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley has given the club an advantage over other teams.
“Our ability to easily access the lakes allows us to be one of the most competitive and most winning teams nationally,” he said.
Berger said Murray State’s location and Bass Anglers Club influenced him to enroll. The club has one of the highest membership rates on campus, topping out at more than 40 full-time Racers, casting their lines out on a regular basis.
Berger said fishing is a year-round sport and there are tournaments nearly every weekend. The Murray State Bass Anglers Club is the 2009 National Championship winner.
The bass anglers aren’t the only Murray State students out on the lakes this time of year.
Bryce Watson, president of the rowing team, said the team also primarily uses Kentucky Lake to practice. He said the team is active year-round and in the warmer months the rowing team hits the water almost every day.
“I don’t know if we would actually be able to row if we weren’t able to use the lakes in the state parks,” he said.
Bryce said the team averages 25 members, but fluctuates by semester. The Murray State rowing team is one of only two collegiate rowing teams in Kentucky.
The other belongs to the University of Louisville. He said in the fall participants train for the 5,000-meter race, which is a test of endurance and in the spring they train for the 2,000-meter race.
“The 2,000-meter race is more intense and fast-paced,” Watson said. “It’s more entertaining to watch.”
Berger and Watson agreed that the close proximity of the lakes to the University are an integral part of their activity.
“It would be an extreme detriment to our club if we were unable to use the local lakes,” Berger said. “It would have a huge impact on membership for us and we wouldn’t be able to compete at such a high level.”
Story by Mari-Alice Jasper, Assistant News Editor