At age four, Ron Mertz discovered his zeal for fishing. It was during fishing trips that he took with his father to his uncle’s cottage in Wisconsin that sparked his interest and formed special bonds. Now, in his memory, Ron’s wife Karen wants to engage students in the fishing experience by offering scholarships through the Ron Mertz Endowed Scholarship Fund and donations for the fishing team.
“You know, when someone close to you is battling cancer, and it’s clear things aren't going in the direction you all had hoped, you reflect on this wonderful person and all they did with their life,” says Karen. “Ron had such a passion for life, for fishing, for teaching and mentoring.”
And so the idea of a scholarship fund and donations for the Bobcat Bass Club Fishing Team were born.
“I just knew that he deserved some type of legacy that would continue on with all his wonderful attributes,” Karen states. “I told Ron about my idea, and he was so touched that it brought tears to his eyes.”
After Mertz passed, the response in donations from his family and friends was overwhelming.
“I can’t even begin to tell you what that meant to my daughter and myself,” says Karen. “The kindness and warmth we were shown throughout his battle was so phenomenal that enough funding came in to achieve exactly what Ron had hoped—both a perpetual Ron Mertz Endowed Scholarship for an individual on the team and annual funding for the team through the Ron Mertz Angler Fund.”
Georgia College students who are Bobcat Bass Club Fishing Team members and who have at least a 3.0 GPA qualify for this scholarship. They must also demonstrate a passion for the team. The scholarship funds support activities on the team.
Since the Georgia College Bass Fishing Team was founded in 2008, it gained national recognition and eventually became a club sport at the university. Georgia College is the only school in the University System of Georgia to have a fishing team scholarship.
Many times, Mertz would forgo sleep just so he could get up before dawn to spend his day on the water hoping to reel in the big catch.
“Freshwater fishing was definitely his favorite,” says Karen. “He mastered fly fishing, used light weight tackle for bream and crappie, muskie and walleye fishing in the north woods, plastics for largemouth in the south, trout on the Big Hole in Montana and so much more.”
Not only did Mertz catch and release fish, but he was best known for kissing the fish before freeing them back into the water. The first lesson he gave his six-month-old daughter was fishing and even included kissing the fish.
“The team is extremely fortunate to have the Mertz family’s support. We are looking forward to the first scholarship to be awarded in the fall,” says the Bobcat Bass Club Fishing Team Advisor.
Mertz was born and raised in Calumet City, Illinois. He graduated from Marquette University and worked in marketing with Union 76 Oil Company for 37 years before retiring in 2001.
Karen capitalizes on the positive aspects to someone who has a deep passion for a sport like fishing. She summarizes that it brings out determination, discipline, teaching, passion, teamwork, competition, relaxation, nature, curiosity, consistentency, persistence, patience, work, perseverance, courage and faith.
“There is no doubt that someone who has this common passion with Ron, is also someone who will stop and take a minute to really grasp who Ron was as a person,” mentions Karen. “And maybe, just maybe, choose a deeper, fuller, richer purpose to their own life because of it.”