For Justin Gangel, fishing at the FLW College National Championship April 19-21 on Beaver Lake in Rogers, Ark. is akin to a dream come true.
“I remember in high school my first day as a freshman I had a teacher who had of us all fill out this little piece of paper as to where we saw ourselves in 10 years,” said the Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) senior environmental science major from San Diego. “As we were standing in line about to graduate four years later, he found us and gave the paper back. I had forgotten about it, but as a freshman in high school I put down that my goal was to be a professional bass fisherman.”
At the championship, boats will launch at 7 a.m. from Prairie Creek Park each of the three days of competition. The daily weigh-in daily will take place at 4 p.m. at the Wal-Mart in Rogers with each team’s top five fish each day being weighed and counted toward a final total to determine the winner.
Gangel feels that winning the national title alongside teammate Alex Cox would be a springboard to the professional career he has dreamed of.
“For this tournament, second place means nothing,” said Gangel. “It would be good for the school, but individually a first-place finish is basically a start to what I want to do for the rest of my life; what I’ve always wanted to do. So I have my full intention and heart set on winning. Yes, the money is nice and having another boat we can sell for the club is nice, but more important than any of that is just getting that opportunity to fish as a pro.
“This could be a steppingstone to a career in doing this for a living,” he added. “If we were to win this tournament, it qualifies us as no longer a college angler, and we qualify for the Forrest Wood Cup, which is what all of the best FLW pros compete for all year long. It’s like the Super Bowl of bass fishing and if you win this it’s like getting your foot in the door.”
Gangel and Cox, a senior kinesiology major from Long Beach, compete as a club sport team through the university’s Department of Club Sports and Recreation. They qualified for the national tournament by capturing the National Guard FLW College Fishing Western Conference Championship in September on Utah Lake in Provo. The duo had an official three-day total of 14 bass caught weighing in at 21 pounds, 8 ounces, good enough to take the competition by five-plus pounds. For their efforts they won a Ranger Z117 bass boat with a 90-horsepower Evinrude or Mercury outboard.
“Ever since we were first paired together we’ve done well,” said Gangel of teaming with Cox. “Obviously, the more we fish together the easier it is and the more we can kind of build off one another. We’re better able to interpret what each other wants to do without too much time being lost in between. I can kind of read his body language to know if we should change what we’re doing or go to a new spot and it works the same for him. We can read each other’s minds in a way that I think is very beneficial compared to teams that haven’t fished together that much. I think we’re just getting better and better.”
Prior to competing at the Western Conference championship, Gangel visited Utah Lake on his own to get some practice and get a feel for the lake. This time, both Gangel and Cox went to Arkansas over spring break to get some time in on Beaver Lake.
“We used our time to really understand the lake the best we can, so when we go back for the national tournament, hopefully we can get the same results we did in Utah,” said Gangel. “We’re hoping that whatever we come across during the tournament will be something we are familiar with.”
The winner of the national tournament will take home a Ranger Z117 equipped with a 90-horsepower Evinrude or Mercury outboard. The winning team also receives $3,000 cash and advances to the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup at Shreveport, La. The team member fishing as a pro in the cup will also receive use of a wrapped Ranger boat and Chevy tow vehicle.