Slippery Rock fishing team going to nationals

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For the first time, a team from Slippery Rock University will compete in the national championships of competitive college bass fishing.

Benjamin Tawney, a Slippery Rock senior, and Tyler Branca, a junior, placed ninth Sunday at the FLW College Fishing Northern Conference Invitational on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. The top-10 berth earned them a spot in next spring's FLW College Fishing National Championship.

"To me, it means a lot," said Mr. Tawney, 21, of Stoystown in Somerset County and president of the seven-person fishing club at Slippery Rock. "And to the club, it means a lot, kind of showing everybody that we're good at fishing, and we can compete with everybody."

Getting to nationals was not easy, Mr. Tawney said, since the fish were not biting in the Chesapeake this weekend as much as they usually are. Teams can submit five fish for their weight totals each day, but his team was only able to catch two bass over the two-day competition.

"It was a very rough tournament," Mr. Tawney said.

The Slippery Rock team competed against 44 others in the FLW's Northern Conference. A team from West Virginia University won the tournament and its $4,000 first-place award, catching eight bass weighing a total of 19 pounds and three ounces.

Mr. Tawney and Mr. Branca got to ninth place with two fish, weighing a total of seven pounds and two ounces.

Other Pittsburgh area teams didn't place high enough to move to the championships. Jonathan Coholich and Richard Smith of La Roche College narrowly missed the top 10, boating four fish weighing a total of five pounds, three ounces. Eric Bykowsky and Michael Terrick of Carnegie Mellon University placed 30th, with one fish weighing one pound, 12 ounces.

A date and location for the 2014 FLW College Fishing National Championship will be announced in the coming weeks. Slippery Rock will be one of 50 teams competing.

As for how his team will perform at the national competition, Mr. Tawney said it all depends on how he and Mr. Branca can adjust to fishing in southern waters, since the April championship will be likely be held in a warmer part of the country than here. The next step for the Slippery Rock pair, Mr. Tawney said, will be fund raising, so they can visit the waters and practice their strategy.

"Fishing is fishing," he said. "They'd call it catching if it was easy. It all depends on where it is and what we can find in practice."

Kaitlynn Riely: or 412-263-1707.

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