If football or even professional wrestling doesn’t work out for Kentucky’s Super Bowl commercial star Kash Daniel, he has another backup plan to keep the competitive juices flowing: bass fishing.
“It’s cool that I get to represent my state and my school in another way besides trying to run through somebody’s face,” the junior linebacker said Sunday at the University of Kentucky Bass Fishing Team booth at the Kentucky Sport, Boat & Recreation Show in the Lexington Convention Center.
Daniel announced on Twitter last month he’d be joining the UK Bass Fishing Team, a club that competes in regional and national tournaments. Sunday, he made his first public appearance with them.
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“With this being my last spring semester and I graduate in December after the season, so I won’t get an opportunity to do this again. I asked Coach Stoops if it was OK with him and he said ‘Absolutely. Go do you,’” Daniel said.
So, Daniel paid his dues and signed up for the club sport that will take him on Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley for Cabela’s Collegiate Big Bass Bash next month just before spring practice begins. After spring practice, he intends to fish every tournament he can.
“I’ve been competitive fishing ever since I can remember with my dad in local tournaments around my area,” said Daniel, who along with fellow UK player Landon Young, fished for an episode of “Kentucky Afield” back in 2017. “I started fishing by myself in local tournaments when I was about 14 or 15. Dad would drop me off and come back about 2 o’clock and see how I did.”
Daniel, who starred in high school at Paintsville, reached out to the club more than a year ago, but it wasn’t until this fall that the UK linebacker finally got the OK. Club president Austin Elswick knew of Daniel from his own days playing high school football and baseball for Shelby Valley High School, but those meetings were a little abrupt.
“I’ve gotten my helmet knocked off by him,” Elswick said, smiling.
The club has been around at least since 2009. Teams of two-to-a-boat compete in Collegiate Bass Fishing Series events and Fishing League Worldwide events for prizes, including cash, and advancement to a summer national championship. Typically the clubs sends anywhere from one to five two-man boats to a tournament, depending on how their class schedules and other commitments. There are at least 12 collegiate teams competing from Kentucky and hundreds nationwide.
Daniel has been very mindful of his NCAA amateur status when taking this on and has gotten the go ahead from UK. Daniel can win prizes just as any of the other team members do, but there might be limits on whether he can wear the same jersey due to sponsorship concerns. Those details are still being worked out.
Some prizes go to the club itself as does the sponsorship money to help pay for entry fees, lodging, equipment and other costs. As a club sport organized by UK students like UK’s hockey team, it is not part of UK Athletics and must support itself.
Coach Tommy Hall, who spent years leading Campbellsville University’s team, joined UK this past fall. When Daniel tweeted out he was joining the club, Hall said he thought his phone would never stop buzzing with calls and texts.
“It was a great shot in the arm, that’s for sure,” Hall said.
Hall and his wife, Karen, help with sponsorships, fundraising and mentoring. One of Hall’s former protege’s, Nick Ratliff of Elizabethtown, won last year’s Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Classic Bracket for Campbellsville and earned a spot in bass fishing’s Super Bowl, the Bassmaster Classic.
“Kash is doing a great job on staying on top of (eligibility issues), and making sure he gets nobody in trouble, especially the athletic department at the University of Kentucky, obviously,” Hall said.
Sunday, Daniel tried his hand at the fishing simulator at the boat show and helped one of the young anglers land a big one, as well. He also took part in a friendly flipping competition trying to land a lure gently in a cup about 10 feet away. He rallied from 3-0 down to easily win the first-to-10-in contest.
“It’s just something I like doing and I can still be competitive at it,” Daniel said of fishing. “In competitive fishing, you’re trying to win. You’re doing everything you can to win. It takes a set of skills. … You’ve got to know what the fish are doing, just like you’ve got to know what your opponent is going to be doing (on the football field). Are they going to be running the ball or passing the ball. You’ve got to know if the fish are going to be biting in the morning or the evening or if it’s going to be a crank bait or a jig bite.”
And Daniel is enjoying his new teammates, as well. He hasn’t missed any of their bi-weekly meetings.
“I get to meet new people with my same interests,” he said. “It’s really fun just to sit around and talk about how we all got into fishing and what it does for us and what we want to do with it on in the future. In building relationships there’s no such thing as building enough.”