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Off the hook: England parlays fishing skills into scholarship at Carson-Newman

Kevin Mays • Apr 27, 2020 at 4:15 PM

WISE — No matter how unlikely the possibility of a dream coming true is, it still can happen.

That’s the message from Aidan England.

The Carson-Newman sophomore is living out part of his dream by going to college on a fishing scholarship.

England is part of the Carson-Newman team that ranks No. 9 in the nation in the Collegiate Bass Fishing Series.

“It’s amazing,” England said. “I never would have imagined being able to do this.”

While collegiate fishing does not grab the attention of the ball and stick sports like football, basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, tennis, golf, lacrosse and others, it is nevertheless a fast-growing sport on campuses across the country.

“A lot of schools are adding fishing,” England said. “Several (NCAA Division I) schools have fishing programs. King University just added a fishing program.”

BUILDING THE DREAM

England’s love of fishing started when he was young.

“I’ve been fishing ever since I was 3 or 4 years old,” he said. “I probably started fishing before I could even remember it.”

The Wise native remembers spending time at his grandfather’s house in North Carolina during the summer.

“He loved bass fishing,” England said. “He would watch fishing shows on TV and I would watch it with him. He had a big pond and we would go out there and go bass fishing all the time.

“I just developed a love for it. It was just building a fire inside of me.”

England wanted to be fishing all the time whether he was at his grandfather’s pond or at home in Wise.

“Before I could drive, my mom would take me somewhere and I would fish off the bank and she would come back and pick me up,” England recalled.

Fishing was not the only sport England enjoyed.

He played baseball at Wise Central and hoped to get a college scholarship in that sport. But fishing kept calling him back to the water.

“Ultimately, the whole fishing thing has worked out better than baseball,” England noted.

The sport may be as natural as breathing to him, but it’s also been a lot of work.

“I put in a lot of time and study into it. It requires a lot of study about where to be and when to be there. It takes a lot of strategy,” England said.

In high school, England fished as often and attended as many tournaments as possible, such as the Bass Pro Shops Sevierville High School Tournament Series.

“It’s all about getting exposure,” said England, who parlayed that attention into a scholarship from Carson-Newman.

NOT AN EASY RIDE

To keep fishing on scholarship at the collegiate level, England has to maintain strong grades.

That’s a little tougher than it might seem because Carson-Newman participates in fishing tournaments around the calendar.

“We go to about one tournament a month,” England said.

A tournament encompasses three days of practice and three days of competition fishing.

“That’s a lot of (classroom) work that you have to do on your own,” England noted. “But you have to do it so you can keep fishing.”

In addition to providing him an opportunity for an education, the sport also is giving England the chance to travel, going to New York, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Georgia and even to Canada for tournaments.

“It’s just been awesome really,” he said. “It’s just been things I dreamed about, but it’s really happening.”

MOVING UP

England got on the collegiate fishing map in February when he and his partner, Braden Perry, finished second among a field of 256 boats at Smith Lake in Cullman, Ala.

The finish was the best of England’s young college career and the duo advanced to the Bassmaster College Classic in Birmingham, Alabama.

“It’s part of the Bassmaster Classic, which is the pro class,” England said. “It’s like the Super Bowl of bass fishing.”

The College Classic in Birmingham runs adjacent to the pro competition, which carries a $300,000 winning purse.

Only 14 boats are invited to compete collegiately in Birmingham.

“You don’t compete in the pro class, but you get to go on the same stage and weigh in on the same stage,” said England, who wouldn’t mind returning to Birmingham someday to compete as a pro in the Bassmaster Classic.

“I strive to be a professional angler,” he said. “That is my ultimate goal. I’m not there yet, but that’s where I want to get to.”

England knows it’s a dream for him to make the pro bass fishing circuit — but he also knows it’s possible.

“It takes a lot of hard work and determination, but that’s what I want to do,” he said.

For now, he continues to fish as much as possible and waits for the coronavirus pandemic to pass so he can get back on the collegiate tournament series.