It’s been a very good year for the McKendree University bass fishing team. As the college tournament season enters its homestretch, the Bearcats find themselves sitting in 2nd place nationally, out of 350 competing schools across the U.S.
This small Division 2 college located in Lebanon, IL with an enrollment of about 3,000 students competes against not only the biggest colleges in the nation (there are no separate divisions on the college fishing circuits)… but also against the perennial powerhouses of the college fishing world. Heavyweights like Murray State, University of North Alabama, Bethel University and University of Louisiana-Monroe have all found great success in the program since the Association of College Anglers started ten years ago.
Much like the Bassmaster Elite Series’ Angler of the Year (AOY) program, Cabela’s created the School of the Year (SOY) program to reward college teams for their consistency and overall performance throughout the season. McKendree University, in its 3rd year of competition, is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with on the college fishing circuits.
McKendree Coach Jon Rinderer says, “It has been my goal since this program began to be number one in the School of the Year Race. After finishing 20th in our first season, and 8th last year in only our second season, we felt like we could make a really strong run at the national championship this year.”
Rinderer views the current school ranking as an outstanding accomplishment. He recently said, “This has been a true team effort! At each tournament, someone new stepped up with a strong performance. Our guys are fishing with incredible confidence, and they’re paying attention to all the little details that it takes to be consistent. What an amazing season this has been so far. There are so many things that must go just right for a team to find themselves in this position.”
Parents, supporters and followers of the McKendree team are also enjoying the team’s success, as the team usually has a large following at tournament across the U.S. Rinderer was quick to point out, “The administration, faculty, athletic department, and all those that follow the program are filled with pride due to the success of our anglers since the program’s inception. We owe a huge ‘Thank You’ to McKendree University for starting the program and providing the funding to allow these anglers to travel and compete at this level.”
Rinderer knows his team has some unfinished business in the last part of the season. “Going down the stretch, we will be fishing an FLW event on Barkley, the Cabela’s/Boat US National Championship on Pickwick in Alabama, the Bassmaster/Carhartt on Clinton Lake in June, and the Bassmaster/Carhartt Wildcard on Lake Murray in Oklahoma. Our biggest challenge will be matching up with the southern teams on the ledges of Pickwick.”
While all the remaining tourneys will be crucial in earnings points for the SOY race, none will be as valuable as the championship on Pickwick, which holds double points for schools. It will be important to have two boats do well to keep that momentum going. With a close race atop the leaderboard, and a field of well over 200 boats, the SOY national champion will most likely be the team that excels at the most prestigious event of the year on the Cabela’s Collegiate Bass Fishing Series.
But for now, the team is soaking in the latest standings in the SOY race, and getting ready to host its own tournament on Vandalia Lake on April 30th. With more SOY points on the line in their own backyard tourney, the Bearcats could find themselves in an even higher spot this time next week!
Stay tuned as the last few weeks of the season unfold!