Bassers give school national recognition

Aaron Connor, a senior from Murphysboro studying human nutrition and dietetics, fishes Sunday during the fifth-annual Saluki Bassers Veterans Appreciation Fishing Tournament at Lake of Egypt in Marion. Connor, a veteran of the U.S. Army and member of the Saluki Bassers, was one of several student veterans who participated in the tournament. He said it was great to be back on the water again. I love it, Connor said. I spent 10 months overseas and the closest thing I got to water was a dam. The Saluki Bassers meet every week at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Campus Lake boat docks. LEWIS MARIEN • DAILY EGYPTIAN

Aaron Connor, a senior from Murphysboro studying human nutrition and dietetics, fishes Sunday during the fifth-annual Saluki Bassers Veterans Appreciation Fishing Tournament at Lake of Egypt in Marion. Connor, a veteran of the U.S. Army and member of the Saluki Bassers, was one of several student veterans who participated in the tournament. He said it was great to be back on the water again. “I love it,” Connor said. “I spent 10 months overseas and the closest thing I got to water was a dam.” The Saluki Bassers meet every week at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Campus Lake boat docks. LEWIS MARIEN • DAILY EGYPTIAN

By Tyler Davis

Not many sport clubs can say they have a professional athlete who once competed for their team, but SIU’s Saluki Bassers, the school’s bass fishing team, holds that distinction.

The club debuted in 2004, and has won tens of thousands of dollars from numerous fishing tournaments and appeared on ESPN and other national television outlets. Shane Bennett, director of sport clubs and intramurals, said the club has given the university “fishing school” identity because of the recognition the club gets in national tournaments.

“When they’re fishing for that kind of money, they’re usually on TV,” Bennett said. “That’s outstanding publicity for our institution. SIU, and southern Illinois in general, is seen as a big fishing area.”

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Bennett said the university has hosted some regional tournaments that aired locally and thinks the club is a huge asset to the sport club program.

Club President Dominick DiNovo has been a Basser for four years. He has been to multiple national fishing championships and competed on live television.

DiNovo, a senior from Oak Lawn studying marketing, said the team fishes locally but also goes to other states such as Alabama, Tennessee and Missouri.

“We usually fish on lakes like Lake of Egypt, Crab Orchard and Kinkaid but we travel too; me and my partner are in Tennessee now,” DiNovo said April 4. “We have a point system that we compete in for an Angler of the Year title; one person on the boater side and the co-angler side.”

DiNovo won the club’s Co-Angler of the Year award in 2013 while fishing with the club’s Boater of the Year, Stephen Crawley. Crawley graduated from SIU in August 2013 and now fishes in professional events.

Crawley said becoming a full-time professional fisherman is usually a long process, but he intends to do just that and bass fish for a living. Crawley said he has competed in three events this season where he fished alongside professionals. He said there are a number of differences between his co-angler status and that of a professional.

“I currently fish the Wal-Mart FLW Tour as a co-angler,” Crawley said. “A pro brings a boat and controls the areas you fish and a co-angler gets paired with a pro. Co-anglers versus co-anglers and pros versus pros, one of each in a boat, and the weight of fish we catch are separate.”

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Crawley said learning from the professional anglers helps him refine his skills, but he still owes the Bassers for much of his early experience in competitive fishing.

“First off, southern Illinois is a great place to learn to fish,” Crawley said. “Crab Orchard, Lake of Egypt and Lake Kinkaid are all very different, which allows you to become a versatile angler. You learn the ins and outs of fishing local tournaments with the club.”

For DiNovo, the club also provided some insight into his future. He said as a marketing major he envisions himself in numerous parts of the fishing industry trying to grow the sport. He said marketing opportunities range from selling boats to lures to tackle boxes.

DiNovo said his true dream would be to use his marketing degree to market himself to sponsors and turn pro. Professional fishing is an expensive sport with licensing, boating and entry fee costs. His goal would be to use what he learned at SIU to find a sponsor to help with those costs.

“Ideally I would love it to be able to market myself to sponsors,” DiNovo said. “I would like to be able to use what I’ve learned in school and if that doesn’t work, I would love to work for a company in the fishing industry.”

Not every Basser has professional aspirations. Nick Williams, a sophomore from Crete studying civil engineering, said he enjoys the club just because he likes fishing.

“I like the competitions but it’s more just about the sport,” Williams said. “I’ve always liked fishing and the guys are pretty cool so it’s just a good time.”

DiNovo said the team has about 20 members, which fits perfectly with the number of competitions they compete in. He said the team is always open to more members, however some would be left out of competitions.

The team meets at 6 p.m. every Wednesday on the boat docks of Campus Lake. They also fish regularly in the Carbondale area.

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