Sand Rock’s Colley’s fishing ‘spark’ turns into fire, leads to Montevallo scholarship

Sand Rock senior angler Eli Colley signed a fishing scholarship with the University of Montevallo on Thursday. Sitting from left is Sand Rock fishing coach Josh Miller, Eli Colley, and Jimmie Colley (Eli’s father). Standing is Colley’s fishing teammates. Photo by Shannon Fagan.

By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director

SAND ROCK – What started out as just some fun recreation with his father Jimmie Colley has now turned into a college scholarship for Sand Rock’s Eli Colley.

The younger Colley signed with the Montevallo Falcons on Thursday. He is the second Wildcat angler to sign with Montevallo in the past three years. Brody Robison signed with the school back in 2021.

“It’s all glory to God. He blessed me to have the talent I do,” Eli said. “It’s a lot of hard work, but we put it in and that’s why I’m here.

“I started with dad and fished for a long time when I was younger. We started getting into bass fishing and it just started a spark that turned into a fire. I started in the sixth grade and I haven’t stopped since. This has always been my dream to make it to college. I finally did it.”

Sand Rock fishing coach Josh Miller has spent the past three years with Eli on the Wildcat fishing team. He knew Eli’s fishing skills could lead to something big for him.

“I could tell there was something there and that he would go on further,” Miller said. “I wasn’t sure what direction, whether he would go to college or if he would go to MLF (Major League Fishing) or the Toyota Series, but I’m super proud of Eli. I’ve been with him for three years fishing and I feel like he’s one of my own.”

Miller said Montevallo is one of the best fishing schools in the nation.

The Falcons are competing for a fourth consecutive Bass Pro Shops School of the Year title, which will be awarded following the Boat U.S. Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship tournament May 23-24 at Pickwick Lake in Florence, Alabama.

In March, anglers Easton Fothergill and Dalton Head made bass fishing history by competing against the top professional anglers in the world. Teammates Tyler Cory and Scott Sledge claimed the title at the Strike King Bassmaster College Classic presented by Bass Pro Shops.

Fothergill competed in the 2024 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Classic presented by Jockey Outdoors, while Head competed in the Bass Pro Shops REDCREST 2024 powered by OPTIMA Lithium.

Eli said he’s proud to be joining such a premier fishing program.

“I had a bunch of different schools I talked to and some who had looked at me. I didn’t know exactly which one (to choose) for a little while, but in the last two to three years I’ve had my eyes set on Montevallo. That was the one I wanted to go to,” Eli said.

But the Falcons’ elite fishing success isn’t the only thing that drew Eli to Montevallo.

“Me and my dad visited their campus.  I talked to their coaches. It’s just a beautiful place, and their academics are amazing. I’m from a small place, and Montevallo is not too big. They’ve got close 1-on-1 (interaction) with the professors. I think that’s really good for me, plus it’ll keep me close to home.”

Even though he’s excited to be joining the Falcon fishing program, Eli said it’s bittersweet for him to be leaving Sand Rock.

“I’m going to miss all of the guys on the fishing team, but I know I’ll see them one day,” he said. “They’ll get there one day. It takes a lot of time and dedication, but if they put the work in they’ll get there.”

“To have Eli sign with a program, I think it’s a huge inspiration for the other anglers to see there is potential in fishing,” Miller said.

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