Dan Bucha, a Niles resident for 60 years, competes in and teaches a sport that is uncommon today
Published 10:57 pm Tuesday, August 17, 2004
By By ADAM FISHER / Niles Daily Star
Fishing is a simple sport, but one that Niles' Dan Bucha says can united people of different cultures and backgrounds.
Bucha teaches a casting and angling class at Notre Dame each spring in hopes that his students will take the sport with them where ever they may go after college.
Bucha, now 67, has been fishing since the age of 5. But not until 10 years ago did he turn his lifetime hobby into a competition.
Bucha now travels the country competing in casting accuracy tournaments. In these events, anglers cast plugs of various weights at targets in the water.
Each caster starts out with 100 points. Every time he misses the target points are deducted from his score, depending on how badly he missed.
A near miss subtracts less points than a miss that is far away from the target.
In Bucha's most recent event, the 96th American Casting Association National Tournament in Lexington, Ky., he finished second, taking the silver medal.
Bucha actually started competitive casting at the age of 12. In 1955, while a senior at Niles High School at the age of 17, he beat a professional caster and editor of Sports Afield magazine twice in a row in an accuracy competition.
Despite his skill at the sport, Bucha stopped competing after high school because his time was consumed by his job as an engineer at Bendix Corporation in South Bend, Ind., now Honeywell.
It was once he retired that he also began his teaching career. He started teaching a casting class at the YMCA in South Bend. He then moved on to teach the same class in the Brandywine adult education program, and now he's at Notre Dame.
His class teaches students the proper way to cast and fish. He said it is important for people to learn the right technique so many fishing accidents can be avoided.
While the sport may sound obscure, American Casting Association records show professional casting has been around for more than 120 years.
The ACA has a Hall of Fame and an International Casting Federation also exists.
The sport is also recognized by the International Olympic Committee. A casting competition was held in the 1932 Olympic games as a demonstration sport.
The sport reached its peak in popularity in the 1950s and '60s. In 1946, 656 anglers from the United States alone competed in the ACA National Tournament.
Since then, the sport has gradually slipped in popularity. At this year's National Tournament, about 100 anglers from the U.S. and Canada competed from the title.
Bucha blames the short attention span and instant gratification mentality of today's society for the falling off of competitive casting.
The advent of the spinning reel on fishing poles, which competitive casters do not use, took some skill out of the sport, Bucha said, which lessened the competitiveness.
One of the reasons Bucha keeps teaching his class every year is to help casting survive in a fast-paced world.
He said his course remains popular with students as well as faculty of Notre Dame and St. Mary's College, which is encouraging.
But, most of all, Bucha said he wants people to experience the joy he has gained from the sport he loves.