(Editor’s note: Leading up to the 2013 FLW College Fishing National Championship – slated for April 19-21 on Beaver Lake in Rodgers, Ark. – CollegeFishing.com will publish weekly, in-depth features stories of each of the 25 national championship team qualifiers. At stake in the tournament is a first-place prize package that includes $30,000 in cash, a brand new, Ranger Z-117 bass boat and an automatic berth in the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup.)
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CollegeFishing.com: How were you introduced to fishing?
Alex Cox: My grandpa and older cousins would take me fishing as a young child. I started with trout, and then began to fish more in saltwater as I grew up in southern California. Once I was old enough to make money and buy my own tackle, I started to invest more time in the sport and eventually was introduced to competitive bass fishing.
Justin Gangel: I was raised in a family that has always fished. I have been on the water from before I can even remember. I was first introduced to fishing by my grandpa, who still fishes almost daily. I got the bug from him. I have countless stories and memories of fishing back in the Midwest where most of my family resides.
CollegeFishing.com: What style/method of fishing are you most comfortable with?
Alex Cox: Throwing the surface iron for barracuda, calicos, and yellowtail is by far my favorite method. When it comes to bass, flipping and swimbaits would have to be my most comfortable styles. Southern California is known for having a huge swimbait fishing population, in both fresh and saltwater. There's also no better feeling than flipping into a pocket, seeing your line jump, and setting the hook on a toad in any kind of vegetation. Flipping is a great technique that, in some places, can be successful year-round.
Justin Gangel: I am on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to preferred fishing styles as my two most comfortable ways to fish are with are super-finesse rigs and huge swimbaits. These styles represent the best one-two punch where I grew up fishing in Southern California. I have had quite a bit of experience fishing different bodies of water which require completely different skill sets, so I feel that I can adapt to whatever method is needed to catch good fish.
CollegeFishing.com: What did it feel like to qualify for the 2013 FLW College Fishing National Championship? How do you plan to prepare for the big event?
Alex Cox: It's been several months since we've qualified, and the feeling still hasn't settled in that we'll be on the biggest college fishing stage in the world. It's an amazing opportunity to compete among the top schools in the nation. In order to get ready for such an event, hours of research and practice will need to be completed so we can feel comfortable with how we’re going to attack the lake. Knowing the bass feeding patterns, topography, weather and forage for each lake is crucial if a team hopes to do well in a particular tournament. You can guarantee that each of these college teams will be studying all of these factors and more by the time of this tournament kicks off.
Justin Gangel: The feeling was nothing like I have ever experienced before. We knew we had a good shot at qualifying for Nationals, but to go and win the FLW College Fishing Western Regional Championship was something we could only dream of. We put in a lot of time and knowledge in an effort to understand the lake, and it really paid off for us. It's an amazing feeling knowing we can compete with the best.
In preparation for Beaver Lake, we will be traveling to the lake to get some firsthand experience to try and get to know what skills we will need for game day. We will also be doing a lot of research on the lake to get a feel for what the fish should be doing.
CollegeFishing.com: Tell us something interesting about yourself that most people wouldn’t know.
Alex Cox: I honestly used to hate anything to do with freshwater lakes. Growing up several miles from the Pacific Ocean, I was a saltwater guy my whole life. Even swimming in freshwater lakes used to creep me out. In the past few years, however, I found out how similar the fishing tactics between salt and freshwater bass were and became increasingly interested in the largemouth bass species. Since then, tournament bass fishing has become a part of my life and I'm grateful to FLW for introducing me to such an amazing sport.
Justin Gangel: On Dec. 31, 2010, I caught my personal best bass weighing in at 17 pounds, 7 ounces.