I am a big Penn State sports fan. Have been for a long time. I won’t get started about the scandal that rocked this University. I think there is a lot of blame to go around. There is one group of people you can’t blame, though, and that group is the students of PSU. It doesn’t take looking far to read about the accomplishments of this student body. From academic honors to the Four Diamonds cancer fund raising efforts, Penn State students are amazing. Our interview today with Derek Horner of the Penn State bass fishing club represents another great example of this student body. Now, lets learn more about Derek and the Penn State bass fishing club.
What has it been like representing Penn State as a collegiate angler?
Representing Penn State as a collegiate angler was once considered a dream of mine. I grew up in State College and both of my parents are Alumni so I was a Nittany Lion at birth. I grew up knowing that I would someday come to this awesome University.
Being able to represent my school at various FLW and BASS college events has been a dream come true. I take pride in my University and feel that the passion our entire club holds has been pushing us both forward and upward as far as the fishing world is concerned. We have an awesome group of sponsors that allow us to compete and be successful on the collegiate trails. To sum it up, it truly is and has been a dream come true to have the privilege to fish for my school.
How did you first learn about Penn State bass fishing?
I first learned about the Penn State Bass Fishing club when I was a Sophomore in High School. I found their Facebook page and was immediately interested. I had just joined my first Pennsylvania Bass Federation Club, Tyrone Bassmasters, and I was interested in seeing how the collegiate tournaments set up. After doing fairly well in my federation club throughout my High School days, once I was accepted into Penn State, I immediately messaged the clubs Facebook page. The guys were incredibly helpful in giving me as much information as I wanted and I knew that I was going to join the club in my first semester, it was a no brainer to me.
What do you consider your favorite home waters?
My “home” bodies of water are Sayers Dam and Raystown Lake. They are both about 45 minutes outside of State College, but they are the closest lakes I have. I consider them both to be incredibly meaningful to me. Sayers is where I had my first ever tournament victory, and it just happened to be that it was only my second tournament in my life. Ever since, I have loved learning about that lake, it has a ton of different types of cover and structure which helps me tone all sorts of different fishing techniques.
Raystown on the other hand has much more of a love/hate relationship. That lake can be tough and brutal, but if you figure out the right pattern, it can be an absolute slug fest. I have had some incredible days on Raystown, so I’ll always know they are in there, even if I can’t find ’em.
What have been your favorite waters to fish as part of the club?
By far, my favorite body of water I have fished on with the club is Chautauqua Lake in New York. It has been my favorite body of water for a very long time, and I have been blessed to be able to fish collegiate tournaments up there every year I’ve been in the club.
My freshman year, my partner and I took 5th place up there and qualified for Conference Championships. It was my biggest accomplishment to date and it made that lake even more meaningful to me. This past summer I was blessed yet again to fish it in the FLW Northern Conference Event and my partner and I won. I love that lake because it has docks, and I just know how to pick apart docks.
Another lake that I have enjoyed while fishing with the Penn State Team is Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia. That lake is absolutely beautiful and is also a great fishery. I’ve traveled all over the North East with the Penn State Team, and have loved every single lake we have visited.
What is your most proud moment as a collegiate angler?
My biggest moment as a collegiate angler is easily my partner and I’s victory in the FLW Northern Conference Event on Chautauqua Lake July 23rd, 2016. It was such an awesome event. I am so proud of that victory because it proved to me that I can compete on a collegiate level.
All of the guys in the club kept telling me that I was going to win days before the tournament started because of how often I fish that lake. I have to give a shoutout to one of my best friends, Billy Washell, for allowing me to stay at his lake house and fish on my favorite lake all year.
When the event finally came, I had a good morning but then the bite died off. I ran around to my favorite spots but the fish just weren’t there. With about an hour left I made a game time decision to go back to my big fish docks and the fish were stacked in there. I filled out our limit and culled a few fish before it was time to weigh in. Once we took first and I saw that we were going to win, I was overwhelmed. It was the most surreal moment of my life.
What are three things about fishing that you have learned as part of the club?
The first big lesson I have learned while being apart of the Penn State Fishing Team is that the collegiate anglers care about one another. It’s all a big family, not just in my club, but in all clubs across the country. Anglers will help each other with boat breakdowns and various other problems a tournament angler can run into throughout the day.
The second lesson I l learned in this club is how to fish partner tournaments effectively. I hadn’t fished many partner tournaments prior to joining and since I have joined I have fished many different buddy tournaments. I love the style of buddy tournaments, I find that it makes the tournament even more enjoyable when you’re able to fish with your best friends.
The final lesson I learned while being a part of the club is that every single person in the club is my best friend. We all talk every single day, we joke around, and talk fishing all of the time. As the Tournament Team Captain, I have been blessed to be able to call many of the guys in the club my best friends, and my brothers. As I said earlier, the bass fishing world is one big family.
If someone is interested in joining a bass fishing club when they get to college, what advice do you have for them?
My advice for someone who is looking to join a bass club when they enter college is to go to social media. That’s the route I chose and it worked incredibly well. We have a ton of messages every August about people who are interested in joining the club.
If you want another route, go to the campus’s involvement fair. We have a table set up every semester to help grow our brand and try to get students to show some interest in our club. It works incredibly well, we have a record number of members every semester.
My final thoughts for those interested in joining a bass fishing club in college is to go for it. If you have even an ounce of interest, try it. You will not regret your decision.
Like I said, these Penn State students are impressive. I should state, before I come across too bias, that Penn State doesn’t stand alone in having fantastic students, especially since I work for a different Pennsylvania University. The Northeastern part of the US and Eastern Canada have so many great institutions of higher learning with young anglers in their classrooms.
So regardless of your favorite University, I think we can all agree that Derek is a great example of why the future of fishing is very bright!
Follow Derek on Instagram and Twitter.