Northland Pines senior Harmon Marien always had dreams of being able to call himself a college athlete.

Anyone who’s watched Marien skate for the Northland Pines Eagles, or do anything athletically as a student-athlete at Pines, wouldn’t argue.

“He’s never shied away from competitive sports, nor lacked confidence in them,” said his father, Dan.

Years back when “Harm” Marien learned of an opportunity to not just achieve his goal of being a collegiate athlete, but combine it with his love for fishing and use it as an avenue for a four-year college degree, the worlds aligned.

“Everything started to move its way toward fishing after my freshman year,” said Marien. “My sophomore year is when I put my dream into action as I started looking at the criteria, and talking with people about what I could do to separate myself and make it happen.”

Marien’s dream came full circle in Eagle River this week as Marien, already a decorated tournament fisherman on the prep level over the course of the last few summers, signed a letter of intent with McKendree University in Lebanon, Ill., where he’ll jump on his boat under head coach Jon Rinderer as a member of their college bass fishing team.

“He is an outstanding angler and is also extremely passionate about the sport,” Rinderer said of Marien. “He is a great student and a very versatile angler. Harmon’s many experiences under different types of water conditions have helped him to develop a wide variety of techniques and a great skill set.”

Rinderer said the transition from high school to collegiate bass fishing is a big jump, mainly due to the incredible amount of traveling teams do at the collegiate level.

“Number one, you must be dedicated and passionate about the sport,” said Rinderer. “And number two, it is imperative that you are also a great student. Harmon definitely fits the bill on both accounts.”

Marien admits that getting into the sport at the age of 12, he was a late bloomer of sorts. Up until the eighth grade he never really saw the potential in the sport, but after being introduced to the avenues which fishing could lead him down, he started targeting collegiate fishing programs by the time he was a sophomore.

“I started fishing any and every time I could,” he said. “And being a competitive guy I would create games for myself to keep that competitive nature sort of going.”

Through the course of high school level tournaments Marien crossed paths with a number of fishermen who shared the same goal.

One person in particular was friend and soon-to-be McKendree teammate Bailey Blazer, who at the time they met was also being recruited by Rinderer.

“He was someone who was able to sort of answer some questions for me,” said Marien. “After talking with Bailey, McKendree was soon one of the first teams on my radar. They were ranked the No. 1 team in the nation at the time so I thought to myself right then if I can get in here, this is my dream school.”

Marien said the distance to Lebanon, Ill., from Eagle River is only about nine hours, which makes it close enough to cure the homesickness, yet far enough away to chase his dreams. He’ll study business and marketing at the university, which he said if fishing works out, will be a good fit in and out of the boat.

“I want to be a professional fisherman so understanding how to market myself and be smart in the business world is key,” said Marien.

Tourneys at the college level are held year-round and will begin in August.

“We fish about three or four tourneys in the fall, one a month through the winter and then the spring is one every other weekend until summer,” said Marien. “The objective is to qualify in the fall for Nationals, which means I don’t have to fish as many tourneys through the rest of the winter and spring. Really, when it all boils down, the season is a race to qualify for Nationals.”

The first college bass fishing tournament happened back in 1992 between Purdue University and Indiana University. Alhough it’s taken a little while for the sport to catch on, anglers have seen a huge boost in activity over the past 10 years. According to Rinderer, that trend seems only to be continuing.

“I’ve watched the sport boom at the high school level and work its way into the college ranks,” said Rinderer. “A lot of college teams are club-organized and student-run groups. McKendree has started a unique program due to the kind of support that the University has given to this sport.

“We are able to offer a lot of things that other programs just do not offer. It is exciting for the students and exciting for me from a recruiting aspect. The support from the University has helped us build a very competitive program.”

Marien will set out for college in the fall with his own boat and truck. The program will take care of making sure there is fuel and lodging, and with that also help Marien out through fishing and academic scholarships to help pay for his four-year degree.

“I am extremely fortunate to have this opportunity,” said Marien. “I couldn’t have done it all without the support of my family, friends and coaches. My family especially. Looking back to before I could drive myself to the lake for tournaments, I wouldn’t be here right now if it wasn’t for my family.”

Rinderer said while he knows he’s getting a solid fisherman in Marien, he is just as excited about adding a quality person to his squad.

“His tremendous character, positive attitude, hard work ethic, and overall great nature make him a perfect fit for our program at McKendree,” he said. “We are so excited that Harmon will be coming to McKendree in the fall.”