Brothers to compete in college fishing championships

Thomas Arens, left, and Billy Arens will represent Shenandoah University at the FLW College Fishing National Championship this week at Lake Murray in Columbia, S.C. Photo courtesy of Thomas Arens

Thomas Arens didn’t expect this much success to come so quickly after he started Shenandoah University’s Bass Fishing Club in March of last year.

Arens, a senior who played for SU’s baseball team early in his college career before a shoulder injury forced him to give up the sport, was simply looking for something to do with his free time last spring when a friend suggested he start a fishing club at Shenandoah.

Arens, an avid fisherman growing up in Purcellville, did some research and discovered that for the club to become eligible to compete in Fishing League Worldwide (FLW) events, it would only need to have six registered members. So he rounded up some of his SU baseball friends, including his younger brother Billy Arens, and the Hornets were set to begin competing.

First came an FLW tournament last July on the Chesapeake Bay, during which SU’s two-man team of Thomas Arens and Billy Arens placed in the top 10 to qualify for the FLW College Fishing Northern Conference Invitational on the Potomac River last October. The Arens brothers then turned in a ninth-place finish in the Northern Conference Invitational to qualify for the FLW College Fishing National Championship, which will be held Thursday through Saturday at Lake Murray in Columbia, South Carolina.

It’s been quite an experience for someone who was simply searching for a way to fill his free time.

Thomas Arens, left, and Billy Arens will represent Shenandoah University at the FLW College Fishing National Championship this week at Lake Murray in Columbia, S.C. Photo courtesy of Thomas Arens

“It was honestly, I don’t have baseball, I want something to do and so I thought let me just do this and it will be a fun time,” Thomas Arens said during a phone conversation Monday afternoon. “I’ve always fished since I was really young and I’ve always enjoyed being on the water but I never, ever expected to go from a district to a regional tournament all the way to nationals in one year.”

The Arens brothers will represent SU in the national tournament’s 50-team field, as anglers from various schools from all over the country will compete for the top spot and a $50,000 prize package. That package includes a brand-new Ranger Z117 bass fishing boat and paid entry into the 2015 Forrest Wood Cup, the world championship of bass fishing.

Thomas Arens said second through eighth places also award prize packages worth anywhere from $5,000 to $2,000.

Though technically a three-day event, the 50-team field will be whittled down following Friday’s action and only the top 10 teams will fish the final day of the event on Saturday. Teams that compete on Saturday are given FLW-sponsored bass boats to use (teams are required to provide their own boats for the first two days) and Arens said camera crews will be present with each team, as the final day of the tournament will be televised on NBC Sports at a later date.

Arens said each team will adhere to a five-fish limit per day (smaller fish may be swapped out for larger ones throughout the day) and each fish must be over 14 inches long in order to count toward a team’s weight total, per South Carolina’s fishing regulations.

“We’re thinking about 15 pounds a day will get us into the top 10,” Thomas Arens said. “And if we can catch 18 to 20 pounds a day we’ll have a shot to contend. We went there and we had pre-practice before the water went off limits. We felt pretty good about it. I think our chances are up there with any other school, to be honest.”

Thomas Arens said he is most interested in seeing how SU ranks on the lake against some of the larger universities from across the nation.

“It doesn’t matter where you go. If you’re good enough you can compete against them, and I’ve always thought that was really cool,” Arens said. “We’ll be going down against Clemson, Alabama’s going to be there, some of these major universities. We get to know at the end of the day how we stack up against all the big budget schools, so I think that’s pretty cool.”

When not competing in tournaments, Shenandoah University’s Bass Fishing Club – which Arens said has grown from six to over 16 members since its inception – conducts events in the local area. Arens said he’s currently working with the university to sponsor an event for kids at Jim Barnett Park in Winchester, which will serve to introduce young children to the sport of fishing.

To follow results from the FLW College Fishing National Championship, visit flwfishing.com.

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com