Duke students add competitive fishing to their pursuits

Staff WriterApril 15, 2010 

— On the banks of the Eno River, Santosh Shanmuga and Drew Haerer targeted spawning white bass on Sunday.

They're Duke students who are trying to transform the Duke Bass Fishing Club, in its second year, from a loosely formed group into a team that competes against other schools in largemouth bass tournaments.

And in the meantime, there are always fish to be caught.

Haerer, a graduate student from Woodward, Pa., cast small in-line spinners into the shady pools of the narrow stream as he targeted pods of fish headed upstream, migrating from Falls Lake in search of spawning grounds.

"I saw one swim by that was loaded up with eggs," said Haerer, the club's vice president. "I've seen fry in the water, but I still have seen fish spawning this morning."

Said Haerer, "They're definitely in here. Some are just pickier than others."

At that moment, a small white bass nipped at a tiny floating crankbait before darting off.

Duke's club has about 30 members, but about eight are most active, said Shanmuga, the club president.

Shanmuga, a freshman biomedical engineering major from Ann Arbor, Mich., has wide-ranging fishing knowledge and experience. He has fished the trout streams of northern Michigan with a fly rod and has pursued sailfish in a kayak in the waters just in front of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

For collegiate bass-fishing tournaments, he and his fellow club members have one immediate need. Unlike N.C. State, North Carolina and East Carolina, which have established clubs with sponsors, the Duke club doesn't own a bass boat.


"As soon as we get a boat, we'll be able to compete just as well," Shanmuga said. "We have some good fishermen, too."

The club is looking for donations of money, or better, a boat. Shanmuga would like to find a used bass boat for about $6,000.

Once the club has a vessel, it will apply for funds from the university's student-affairs office to cover travel expenses for competitions.

"We want to fish," club member Jeremy Hockman. "It doesn't matter how we do it. We don't need fancy equipment."

And boat or no, the club has brought together fishermen of different stripes.

Hockman, a freshman studying mechanical engineering from Miami, is more of a saltwater fisherman, but he likes fishing too much to fish only when he can get to the coast.

Members go fishing frequently, from the freshwater lakes within a short drive of Duke's campus to the Outer Banks and Wilmington for inshore and offshore excursions.

"The club has expanded the range of my tackle box," Hockman said.

javier.serna@newsobserver.com or 919-836-4953

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