MADISON – With the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus just steps from Lake Mendota, the university has nationally recognized programs in rowing, sailing and limnology research. Add competitive fishing to that list.

Twin brothers Drew and Derek Frederixon of Holmen, Wis., recently reeled in fourth place and $3,000 at the FOX College Sports National Collegiate Championship in Lewisville, Texas.

They’re both part of the UW-Madison Fishing Team, a registered student organization that was ranked second nationally by the College Bass Anglers Association in its 2007 October ratings. The team currently has about 20 members.

The team will be in action again this weekend, at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 3, at Lakefarm Park on Lake Wabesa. The team competition, held in conjunction with local angler group Muskies Inc., will help determine internal rankings for which team members attend future national competitions.

In addition, Drew and fellow team member Jeff Buckingham may also be featured in ESPN coverage of the Under Armour College Bass National Championship in Little Rock, Ark. The competition will air at 5 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 2, on ESPN2. There, the team placed 13th out of 35 schools.

The Frederixons, both seniors majoring in mechanical engineering, were taught the sport by their dad at a young age. They have been fishing and improving their skills with each other ever since.

“The camera boats that were watching us described us as very efficient, because we know exactly what the other’s going to do,” says Derek Frederixon. “Plus, it helps that Drew is my twin brother – he’s always been my fishing partner.”  

The team has grown tremendously in size and success since it began in 1996, according to coach and UW-Madison alumnus Tim Hollfelder. “It’s nice to see guys from our area doing well,” says Hollfelder about UW-Madison’s team. “This will make all the difference in the world for being able to afford to send teams to all of these tournaments, most of which are in the southern U.S.”

“Half the southern teams we talk to don’t even think there are bass in Wisconsin,” adds Drew Frederixon.

Team members must fund their own expenses and drive themselves to the tournaments, along with their equipment and boat. But getting to the tournament is just the first step.

On the water, fishermen tend to have their own unique methods of catching fish, ranging from utilizing talent and skill, to researching the lake, to using unconventional lures. For instance, one way in which Drew Frederixon catches fish is to create homemade lures out of wood and an airbrush, a small tool used to spray paint and decorate the lures. Although he does not use these for most fishing tournaments because he likes to fish using plastics, the homemade lures have earned some impressive results.

“The first fish I caught on a homemade bait was a 42-inch muskie,” Drew Frederixon says. “Then one of my cousins threw another homemade bait that I made on his first cast, and he caught a 42-incher.”

There are also ways to find fish in a lake before a tournament, including looking at fishing reports, talking to local fisherman, “pre-fishing” on the lake and practicing. Team members are expected to practice on their own time.

But sometimes it takes more than fancy gadgets, and learning the best methods to catch fish – it comes down to talent. Drew just “knows how to catch fish,” says Hollfelder. “Some people just know how to do it better than other people. He definitely has a knack of finding fish more than anything else.”

Most national competitions only allow a few representatives to participate from each school. As a result, UW-Madison’s team keeps track of member involvement on a point system to decide who can attend the competitions. Members can earn points for how well they do at these tournaments, along with meeting attendance and the amount of money they earn from fundraising. Drew Frederixon and Buckingham both qualified for the ESPN competition after two preliminary fishing rounds.

When the fish are finally caught, they are measured by total weight. Awards are given out to the fisherman with the heaviest fish.

For more information on the UW-Madison fishing team visit
– Heather Gjerde,
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