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Two CCBC-Essex students have developed a school club to share their passion for fishing

Michael Duarte and Matthew Iman won a Fishing League Worldwide title. Now they want to help other CCBC students share in the fun.

Despite three days of practice and studying past tournaments at Smith Mountain Lake, Michael Duarte and Matthew Iman decided to gamble.

In their first fishing competition representing the Community College of Baltimore County, the two CCBC-Essex students knew they had to take a risk and explore new areas up the Roanoke River, hoping to find more populated spots if they wanted to place well.

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And that's what they did.

Duarte and Iman — to their surprise — caught five bass, totaling 17 pounds, 13 ounces, to win the Fishing League Worldwide Fishing Northern Conference opener in late April, setting the foundation for what they plan to grow into a CCBC-recognized club in the fall semester.

"There were big colleges like Virginia Tech and Penn State," Iman said, "and we came in as a community college and were able to win, so that was pretty cool."

The victory secured the duo a $2,000 scholarship and a trip to the 2018 FLW College Fishing National Championship, which they expect to attend next spring. By then, Duarte, 19, and Iman, 20, hope to have teammates from all of CCBC's campuses and enter multiple CCBC pairs in each meet.

Duarte's aunt, Trish Darr, is the director of testing and assessment centers at CCBC-Essex and has worked with them throughout the past year to contact the school's office of student life to start the process of earning funding and support.

They learned the school requires potential clubs to show a student-body interest, host meetings with a leader and formulate a mission statement. So, Duarte and Iman, entering their second and third years as business and nursing students at CCBC-Essex, respectively, worked on the paperwork throughout the school year.

"You have to do a constitution and ridiculous stuff," Iman said.

"That's what we had trouble with," Duarte added.

Plus, Darr said a new club has to prove it enhances student body life via social, recreational or academic means.

"There is no one like that here, which is also probably the case with most colleges," Darr said. "This is unique to the community colleges in Maryland overall."

Duarte estimated he has about 12 people interested in joining, about five or six of whom plan to participate in tournaments. He and Iman want to grow the club like their high school team at Sparrows Point, where the group had fishing tournaments and members without boats shared.

Michael Duarte (green shirt) and Matthew Iman of CCBC-Essex pose June 20 at Dundee Marina in Middle River.
Michael Duarte (green shirt) and Matthew Iman of CCBC-Essex pose June 20 at Dundee Marina in Middle River. (Callie Caplan / Baltimore Sun)

After receiving special permission from the athletic director to represent CCBC in the FLW tournament, Iman also hopes the school "shows off" their achievements to generate more interest and "to get more of a name" when they enter competitions against bigger teams.

But for now, they're competing in individual summer tournaments and practicing together about three times a week.

Recently at Dundee Creek Marina in Middle River, the two sat in a black Ranger bass boat before catching six large-mouth bass in a three-hour outing, when they reflected on their regional win that required those unscripted excursions throughout Smith Mountain Lake and the Roanoke River.

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They credited their relationship — they've been fishing together for about four years — for building trust and unspoken roles during their outings.

Early in the tournament, for example, Iman directed Duarte to "throw that popper" in a spot they hadn't practiced but where he had a good feeling.

Three casts later, using top-water bait, they hauled in a 6 1/2-pound bass, their biggest catch of the day.

"If one of us struggles," Duarte said, "the other's going to do good."

"We can kind of go off each other," Iman added. "We're both good decision makers."

twitter.com/CallieCaplan

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