Jarod Hughes has a dream.
So does Adam Gotangco.
This time, sharing a dream could forged a friendship that could last a lifetime. As far as college students go, it’s not unusual to make life-long friends from different areas of the state, even the country.
And, if you ask former college athletes, they talk about how, even years later, they consider former teammates family, as close as their brothers and sisters.
Hughes and Gotangco are LSU students. Hughes grew up in St. Amant. Gotangco is from Lafitte. They compete against teams from other colleges and universities. They wear purple and gold, but you won’t see them at Tiger Stadium, or the PMAC or Alex Box Stadium.
They fish for bass, and their next “field” will be waters of Lake Texoma near Denison, Texas, in the Cabela’s Collegiate Bass Texas Shootout, one of 12 regional and national tournaments on the Boat/U.S.-Cabela’s 2015 schedule. They leave Thursday, spend Friday and Saturday on Texoma, then compete against as many as 80 other teams next Sunday. Launch and weigh-in is set for Highport Marina.
Both students have dreams, and LSU has fueled them.
Hughes readily admits to fishing his entire life. His dad, Steven, is a fisherman, and the sophomore studying wildlife ecology said Steven and his mom, Marilyn, support his post-LSU target. He wants to be a professional bass fisherman.
“I want to use the college series as a gateway into the Bassmasters Classic, to a spot on the (B.A.S.S.) Elite Series,” Hughes said.
College anglers watched University of Louisiana at Monroe student Brett Preuett come through the Bassmaster College Series and earn a spot in February’s Classic. That feat also earned Preuett entry fees into a B.A.S.S. open circuit. Through Friday, Preuett was seventh in the 200-angler field in the Southern Open on the Alabama River. That was Pruettt’s “gateway” into living his professional bass-fishing career.
Anyone knowing about Lafitte, the fishing community just south of New Orleans, knows you don’t grow up there without being able to fish. Gotangco, an upper classman, talked about the resurgence of largemouth bass in the vast waters in the northern reaches of the Barataria Basin that lit the bass-fishing fire in his soul.
“Bayou Dupont is holding lots of bass now, and there are other places we catch bass, too,” Gotangco said. “I love it.”
These two students are members of the 16-man LSU Bass Fishing Team, and Hughes stressed the fact that his teammates are students first, fishermen second. The reason he and Gotangco are the only ones to wear LSU colors this week is because, he said, “there are finals coming up. Adam and I have done most of our work, and the other guys have work to do to get ready for the last couple of weeks of school. The pressures of school come first.”
Like all other LSU club sports, they have a faculty adviser, Craig Gautreaux, and a few dollars from the school: “Our adviser has to sign off on all our activities, including the days when we might have to miss classes to compete,” Hughes said.
The support from the LSU activities fund hardly pays the bills.
LSU is not alone. Teams from UL-Lafayette, ULM, Southeastern Louisiana, McNeese State, Louisiana Tech, Northwestern State and LSU-Shreveport have taken their turns at having success in college tournaments. All have a plan that returns any winnings into a team fund that helps with tournament travel expenses.
“As a team, we figure it takes about $10,000 a year for our tournaments. This trip for Adam and I will run about $500,” Hughes said. “We have a club account, and we get reimbursed to get a motel and get a little bit of gas money from the club.”
He said his parents help financially, but Hughes said he’s taken on the job of being the club’s fundraising coordinator.
“Right now, we’re trying to come up with a way to get donations from local businesses. We have a T-shirt sale going, and we’re all over the Internet,” he said, adding that Louisiana lure-makers Rat-L-Trap and Delta Lures, and Lafayette’s Superior Trolling Motor Repair and Duce Rods are major local sponsors along with national corporate sponsors like 13 Fishing and Humminbird. College anglers also receive discounts from places like Cabela’s and Tackle Warehouse.
“I go to (fishing) shows to meet people and try to get our own sponsors and to open new doors,” Hughes said.
And he asked that anyone wanting to help can go to the club’s website: lsufishing.com, or call him at (225) 362-0127.
A reminder to boaters and fishermen that extensive no-wake zones will continue in the Verret basin until water levels recede from a week of rain. The Assumption Parish Police Jury declared the zones for Belle River and Pierre Part Bay in the middle of last week, and advised that the order would not be lifted until the threat of floods subsided.
The LDWF also announced Thursday that the west side of Elmer’s Island will be closed beginning Monday in order to complete the Caminada Headland Beach and Dune Restoration Project that will begin May 1.
The announcement noted the Caminada headland is the 14-mile stretch of beach south and east of Port Fourchon and runs from Belle Pass east to Caminada Pass. The goal of the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority project is to “restore and protect shoreline” totaling 489 acres by using 5.4 million cubic yards of sand from Ship Shoal.
The public will continue to have access to the refuge, but visitors will need to yield to construction vehicles on the park’s access road.
The first phase of the project was completed Thursday and Friday when students from Grand Isle, Larose and Golden Meadow joined CCA, Shell Oil, Entergy, Martin Ecosystems and Lafourche Parish to build 8-by-25 foot squares totaling 6,000 square feet of wetland habitat, called “floating islands,” and place them in the water just north of La. 1. The students planted 400 plants including mangrove, seashore paspalum and smooth cord grass on each square, which were then placed end-to-end and anchored to the water bottom. Phase I project cost was $200,000.