“The first time I went fishing was with my mom,” he said. “I later got my dad into it, and it became a great opportunity to bond with my family.”
Ellington has been fishing recreationally for most of his life, but he can now do it competitively with the formalization of the UNC bass fishing team.
Ellington is the president of the team, which was approved for club team status in December and will begin its first official season during fall 2015. He has been pursuing the team’s official status for two years.
“My freshman year I wanted to take a new step and leave my mark on this school, which is hard because it’s a big university and I’m a small fish,” Ellington said.
Senior Steve Smith, the team’s vice president, joined the team this year and has been working with local sponsors to get equipment for competitions, including a team boat from Ranger Boats in Lexington.
“In the past, we’ve really been relying on members to provide their own boats, but with this partnership we can get a team boat that can be passed on and relied on,” Smith said.
The team is also partnering with Carolina Custom Rods in New Bern and Taylor Man’s Custom Lures in Reidsville, N.C.
“We want to keep it local and small for now,” Smith said. “We want to build an interest and investment with the community.”
As an organization, they competed in one competition last year, but they hope to compete in at least five in the coming year.
“This sport is turning into a national phenomenon,” Smith said. “We’ve got a team of dedicated guys who really want to build something great.”
They are set to use University Lake in Chapel Hill to practice, and they are finalizing an agreement with Orange County to use the lake during the off season, when it is typically closed to the public.
“We’ve also committed to keeping the lake healthy, so we’ll be cleaning the lake after practices and releasing all the fish we catch,” Ellington said. “We really care about the conservational aspect of the environments we’re training in.”
Sophomore Anderson Tran has been involved with the team since its inception and has been competing individually since he was in high school.
“When I first started doing tournaments at home it was scary, but now it’s just exciting to see everyone around me and see what everyone can do,” he said. “There’s always going to be someone with nicer equipment, but it’s not about that.”
The team members practice individually and log their hours to meet a minimum, but they come together for competitions.
“We’re all trying to learn and build a team together to get better,” Smith said. “We’re all in the same boat.”