The Bass UniversityThe Bass University
A "Boxcar Diner" Type of Education
By Paul Strege
Since first joining a B.A.S.S. Federation club in 1994, I have attended well over a dozen seminars over the years. Those seminars have taken place in tackle shops, restaurant meeting rooms, and even in a community college, as was the case with the old Bassmaster University classes. In nearly every case, I walked away with a better understanding on the topics of discussion, but inevitably left wanting to learn more. While attending The Bass University this past weekend in Chicago, I discovered firsthand how co-founders Pete Gluszek and Mike Iaconelli take bass fishing study to the next level, and unlike previous seminars, I left with my typical early-winter education craving finally satisfied.
At first glance, The Bass University offers a diverse menu of session topics that will wet the palate of even the most discerning bass fishing connoisseur. The real value of the "meal", however, is realized when participating in hands-on session breakouts and question / answer roundtables. Don't be intimidated by this analogy, however. The Bass University is the opposite of a stuffy, over-priced, French restaurant. Liken it to a friendly, downtown boxcar diner filled to capacity on a busy Monday morning in a blue-collar neighborhood. The small-group format of session breakouts at the Chicago class allowed for anglers to ask direct questions of touring pros and obtain honest answers without commercial bias or influence. Discussions often initiated within each small group, too, between veterans and anglers new to the sport. The room was abuzz with activity, laughter, demonstrations, and PowerPoint and video presentations. Attendees passed around tackle boxes, tied knots, and pitched lures. How is it possible to not be interested in the course material when you inevitably become part of it?
The Bass University also offered unprecedented access to fishing's most talented professionals. Whether it was Mark Zona discussing Great Lakes smallmouth fishing, Greg Hackney talking about shallow water crankbaiting, Byron Velvick recounting his personal discovery of swimbait fishing, or Brent Ehrler sharing insight into finesse fishing rigs, Chicago attendees had multiple opportunities to delve further into the formal presentations. It's kind of like being able to ask the chef about the secret ingredients to his most popular soup.
Seasonal, site-specific, and other situational applications were common follow-up discussions between individual attendees and pros. While magazines and videos provide a satisfactory overview of the jig stroking technique, for example, there is no substitute for watching Ike slap the blank of a flipping stick, subsequently launching a half-ounce football jig through the air with enough velocity to knock down most airborne raptors. (For the record, it came oh-so-dangerously close to punching a hole through the wall-mounted fire alarm.)
While "Never Stop Learning" is the official motto of The Bass University, "Learning Through Camaraderie" might as well be. What I realized is that regardless of experience level, anglers attend The Bass University with learning as their primary objective. With this common goal already established, anglers naturally teach one another - young and old, professional and amateur - throughout the course of the weekend. Bass fishing newcomers often ask questions that many veterans take for granted. One high school sophomore questioned Brent Ehrler as to what type of drop shot weight he relies on. Expecting his answer to be an expensive, tungsten Japanese import, I was surprised to learn that he prefers common lead weights. (Without that bit of information, I may have continued to expand my already-too-large financial investment in tungsten for yet another year.) Like stepping into a boxcar diner, camaraderie is impossible to miss here.
While the benefits of camaraderie, access to the pros, and hands-on instruction may not appear on The Bass University syllabus, it won't take you long to realize that they certainly are the greatest - and most effective - in satisfying your bass fishing education appetite... Pete and Mike would not have it any other way.
The Bass University - Chicago
Class of 2010
The Bass University still has spots available for upcoming sessions. To obtain registration information as well as a detailed schedule, visit: TheBassUniversity.com.
Grow your fishing skills and improve your angling effectiveness.
Subscribe to the free weekly BassResource newsletter.