Aaron Belgard and Logan Laprarie dreamed of being college anglers together when they fished in the rivers, lakes and streams of Central Louisiana.
The pair realized that dream as members of the Northwestern State Bass Fishing Team, attending the collegiate national championships each of the past three years.
Laprarie and Belgard landed the largest fish of the 2017 Carhartt Bassmaster College National Championship in August on the Bemidji Chain of Lakes in Minnesota — the duo’s final collegiate tournament in the same boat.
The 6-pound, 6-ounce bass crushed the competition in terms of big bass, but the Demons couldn’t land enough fish as they finished 45th with a two-day weight of 9 pounds, 7 ounces to finish 45th in a 86-team field.
“We started off in the first spot for an hour-and-a-half, but we didn’t get any bites,” said Laprarie, an Effie native. “We ran to a back creek where we caught a decent fish in practice.
“In 10 minutes, a fish blew up on a topwater buzz shad. When we pulled it into the boat, we didn’t think it weighed that much. But it turned out to be the biggest fish in the tournament.”
Laprarie reeled the fish in, and Belgard said several other large bass got away in what could have put the pair in championship contention.
“The fish spit up a half-grown duck in the live well,” said Belgard, a Deville native. “We lost three or four others on the first day that would have put us pretty high.
“But that’s just part of fishing. It’s a pretty big deal just to make it to the national championships, and travelling across the country chasing fish for the last three years has been one of the best experiences of my life.”
Belgard and Lapraire have been best friends since middle school and fished together in organized events in high school.
“We had success growing up, and we dreamed about fishing together in college and fishing in national championships,” said Belgard, who graduated in Industrial Engineering Technology and is working at Beta Engineering in Pineville. “When we were choosing a college, we wouldn’t have gone anywhere that we knew didn’t have a fishing team.
“We knew NSU had one in the past, and I lucked up my first semester and heard someone talking about it. It’s taken off, and we’re established now.”
Club advisor Juddy Hamous said club members can fish in as many or as few tournaments as they want, offering flexibility to students who might have a difficult academic schedule.
“B.A.S.S., FLW and Collegiate Bass offer a lot of tournaments throughout the year, so it’s strictly up to the kids,” said Hamous, who said the club’s membership fluctuates between 12 and 25 anglers depending on the year. “The club has really grown the past few years, and we’re close to the best fishery in the United States in Toledo Bend.
“The NSU team has made their mark, and we’re becoming one of the better known clubs nationally.”
Interested students can find out about the NSU Bass Fishing Team by checking out the team’s Facebook or Twitter accounts or by visiting NSU’s intramurals website.
The pair learned valuable lessons growing up fishing on Toldeo Bend and Sam Rayburn Reservoir, the latter of which they fished in a regional tournament, advancing to nationals with an 18th-place finish.
“Aaron has been an awesome fishing partner, and we usually hunt together, too,” Laprarie said. “With him graduated, I’ll really miss that because we enjoyed that time so much.
“College fishing has been a great experience because being so far from home for tournaments, you’ll have other guys that will help you out. If you see somebody with a blow out, you can fall back on other fishermen because we know each other so well.”
The tandem fish between 10-15 tournaments per year with most requiring a few practice days before a 2-3 day event.
“It can be tough at times, but I planned ahead,” Belgard said. “I’d talk to professors ahead of time, find out what was going on, and most were pretty supportive about it.
“Doing homework in the hotel was common, and you’ve got to have good wifi when an assignment is due at 11:59 p.m. on a Thursday night. But I would tell others go for it, not to let anything hold you back. You have to keep your head focused on school because it’s the main reason you’re here, but you have to chase your dreams, too.”
To learn more about the team visit beademon.com/fishing.