BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. – Only in our dreams will most of us have the chance to seek advice from the world’s leading expert in our field. But that dream came true for the new Gardner-Webb University student fishing club earlier this month, when FLW Professional Angler and hometown hero Bryan Thrift, the world’s top angler according to bassfan.com, stopped by campus for a visit.
“We wanted to host an event to introduce our new club to the greater University community,” said club Vice President Jacob Vandenbark, a senior from Fairfield, Ohio. “To have Bryan Thrift, a guy from nearby Shelby, N.C., and the number one angler in the world, come as our featured speaker—that was just incredible.”
Before a crowd of GWU fishing club members and other students, faculty, staff, and friends of the university, Thrift participated in an on-stage interview with Jeremy Fern, assistant vice president for graduate admissions at Gardner-Webb and staff sponsor for the fishing club. For more than an hour, Thrift graciously fielded question after question about his approach to fishing, his emotions upon securing the top world ranking, his signature technique, “skipping jigs,” his biggest tournament bloopers, and his thoughts on how the Gardner-Webb students can find success on and off the lake.
Like all great advice, Thrift’s message was pertinent to more than just fishing. “Always remember to fish with an open mind,” he said. “Never get stale in your approach. You never know when trying that different approach is going to unlock the key to being successful. And try not to get frustrated. This can be a difficult sport, but getting frustrated may ruin your next chance to do something great.”
Perhaps even more than his advice, it was Thrift’s presence, his accessibility, that made the deepest impression. “Bryan was just so generous,” Vandenbark said. “He promised he would help us in any way he can, sharing advice or insight about how to fish different lakes that he knows. I have no doubt I could call him anytime with questions. It’s just amazing to see someone who is that great at their sport, but who is such a genuinely good person.”
Started in January 2010 by only two students, the Gardner-Webb fishing club now has more than 20 active members and has fished tournaments all over the country. The club aspires to be competitive on the college fishing scene, and its ultimate vision is to enact Gardner-Webb’s core values of faith, service, and leadership by sharing its passion for fishing and fellowship with the local community.
“I am so thankful to Bryan for giving his time, as an FLW Professional Angler, to share his stories, strategies, and support with the GWU Fishing Club. He is a talented fisherman, a great spokesman for FLW, and a valuable member of our community,” said Fern. “We’ve got a lot of potential, a lot of great ideas, a lot of willpower and determination, and a lot of support,” added club President Lee Phipps, a senior from Charlotte, N.C. “We’re excited about the future of the fishing club, and having Bryan Thrift as one of our advocates is just awesome.”
Located in Boiling Springs, N.C., Gardner-Webb University seeks a higher ground in higher education – one that embraces faith and intellectual freedom, balances conviction with compassion, and inspires in students a love of learning, service, and leadership.