REDDING, Calif.—Simpson University celebrated its new bass fishing team with an introductory BBQ event on campus Oct. 19 that featured pro angler Jimmy Reese and drew community members and high school anglers.
More than 50 people attended the outdoor event, which included boats on display from Harrison’s Marine & RV and others, food from Logan’s Roadhouse, fishing demonstrations from team members, giveaway drawings, and more.
Rick Healy of Q97 radio emceed the event, which included welcomes from President Norman Hall and team coach Alex Thiemann, and remarks from Reese, whose son, Sheldon, is a member of Simpson’s inaugural team.
Three of the six bass fishing team members also spoke at the luncheon: Sheldon Reese from Ukiah, Taj White from Phoenix, Ariz., and Luke Blanchard from Vancouver, Wash.
“We knew that the North State had some of the most beautiful lakes in the nation,” Dr. Hall said. “We said, look folks, in the Midwest they’re tearing it up with bass fishing teams. There’s no reason we shouldn’t start one.”
Thiemann, who competed in the FLW College Fishing Series and created a fishing club at Leland High School in San Jose, was tasked with launching Simpson University’s bass fishing team in May and said he is excited by the team’s growth in just a few months.
“We’ve got these young men and women who are here to serve the Lord, serve their team and their community, as well as service their own development academically,” Thiemann said. “I’m contacted almost daily from people who are finding out about our program. I no longer have to tell people about us; they want to know who we are and are reaching out to us, which is awesome to see.”
Jimmy Reese shared the story of how he went from starting a float tube fishing club in Sonoma County to becoming a professional angler competing on the FLW Tour. His journey included a decision to stay on the West Coast for seven years while he and his wife raised their children. Reese is also a professional marketer, helping build company brands as he tours.
“Time on the water – you can’t replace it. The more time you have on the water is how you learn,” he said. “That’s what I did.”
Sheldon Reese shared of his meeting coach Thiemann at the High School Fishing National Championship at Pickwick Lake in Alabama in June.
“We talked about the school, and I decided to myself, I want to go here. I want this to be the next chapter of my life,” he said. “I came home, set up a meeting and toured the school. It’s a great place and a great community.”
White also qualified for the national championship in Alabama. He got a phone call on the way home saying he was eligible for a Simpson University scholarship.
“I’m proud to be on the bass fishing team and couldn’t be happier,” he said. “It’s been a long road so far, but this is my passion. It’s a lot more than fishing to me.”
Blanchard said he grew up fishing but is new to the tournament aspect of the sport. He was at a Bible school in England when he realized the state university he wanted to attend wasn’t the right fit for him. “I wanted a smaller community with Christian people around me,” he said. When he returned home, he talked to his parents and contacted Simpson University.
Jimmy Reese thanked those in attendance and said Simpson University has been a blessing to his family.
“Simpson University is giving support for some dreamers,” he said. “The future of our sport is very bright, and it’s because of people who are creating opportunities for the kids here.”
Learn more about the Simpson University bass fishing team at simpsonredhawks.com/bassfishing. Follow on Facebook at @SimpsonBassTeam and on Instagram @simpsonbass.
Photos by Chyna Xiong / Top, pro angler Jimmy Reese, left, with Simpson University Bass Fishing Team members Taj White and Sheldon Reese at an Oct. 19 BBQ event on campus.
Simpson University, founded in 1921, moved to Redding 30 years ago and will celebrate its centennial in 2021. In addition to offering 25 majors in its traditional undergraduate program, the university has graduated more than 4,000 North State adults from its ASPIRE degree-completion program, and nearly 3,000 from its School of Education. It has a No. 8-ranked School of Nursing, a seminary, and master’s programs in counseling psychology and organizational leadership. Simpson University is recognized nationally by Colleges of Distinction.
Simpson has launched new athletics programs in track and field, swimming and diving, women’s wrestling, and men’s volleyball, as well as a bass fishing team. The university is also working to better serve transfer students from community colleges through its commitment to Associate Degree for Transfer agreements, and it is offering new scholarships.