BRANSON, Mo.– In May, Branson played host to Major League Fishing as part of the Bass Pro Tour.
But as the professionals waiting for the spotlight at the event’s post event show, the Drury Panthers were first on the stage.
Drury Bass Fishing Fr. Cole Breeden: “Fishing has always been my favorite thing to do,” said Drury Bass Fishing Freshman Cole Breeden. “I never would have thought when I was in junior high before high school fishing that I would end up here in college.”
High School and College Bass Fishing has exploded over the last few years.
“College bass fishing is growing like crazy,” said Drury Bass Fishing Head Coach Rick Emmitt. “There’s now over 300 schools involved across the country.”
And pros like fishing legend Kevin VanDam have taken notice.
“It’s a big deal,” VanDam said. “It’s great to see so much enthusiasm and just how polished these young anglers are.”
That respect of the college game earned four teams including Drury and Missouri State a chance to compete adjacent to the pros here on the Bass Pro Tour.
“I actually fished the first high school tournament ever in Missouri,” said Drury Bass Fishing Sophomore Cameron Smith. “To see it go from there all the way to where it is now and where I’m at now, it’s awesome.”
That journey of time has brought the Drury program from four fishers to double digits and from a newcomer to a top-25 ranking.
“Kind of what I look for is do you have competitive tournament experience,” said Emmitt. “It’s just like, if you like to fish it doesn’t necessarily mean you qualify to be on the fishing team. Just like if you like to play basketball, you’re not really qualified to be on the basketball team.”
And these Panthers will hope one day they will stand beside these professionals again, but rather as pros themselves.