Cabela's Collegiate Big Bass Bash presented by Berkley: Rounding out the Top 4
 

The 2017 Cabela’s Collegiate Bass Fishing Series started last weekend with the first of four major televised events on Kentucky Lake. We asked the second, third and fourth place overall winners a few questions on the event itself and about the Associate of Collegiate Anglers.

The second-place overall winner was Scott Ellis from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville with a 7.59-pound bass:

  • What was your overall impression of your experience at the event?

You have a chance to win great prizes, meet new people, and of course catch big fish. Its a nice change of pace from a traditional tournament format. I also really like the weigh-in sessions being every hour.  It’s more of a confidence booster knowing you're almost fishing 8 little tournaments in one, then if something’s not working out in this hour, a small change may very well work in the next.

  • What was your strategy going into the event?

Going into the event I had planned to fish a shallow roadbed and a long stretch of deeper bank, going into a spawning pocket; but when my partner and I arrived on tournament morning the water had been trashed from the wind and waves.  After several hours of trying to force our original game plan we decided to just "go fishing".  After a short map study, we picked out a small area with another roadbed just outside of a spawning bay.  All within that same hour we made the run and I boated the 7.59 and the 5.48. 

  • What did if feel like to hook that fish?  (Describe the bite, the fight, landing the fish)

When I hooked the 7.59 it was on a super long cast and initially the fish hit the bait so hard it knocked slack in my line, and I had to catch up to her. The fish continued to swim directly at me until it was half way in and I could feel good headshakes.  Then immediately it came straight to the surface and jumped. When we saw it we both knew it was a really big, potentially winning fish.  At the time, I remember not seeing the bait in its mouth and I was afraid it was going to get off. I played it down and let it pull drag below the boat until it got tired. When it finally came up beside the boat and I grabbed it, I saw the bait almost completely swallowed. There’s no better or nerve racking feeling that pulling a 7.59 giant out of the water with your hands because you left the net at home. 

  • Tell us about the rod, reel, line and bait used as well as what you keyed in on to catch that fish.

I was using an Abu Garcia Orra SX reel, in my opinion there’s not a better reel out there for the price. My rod was a 7'11" and I was using 20lb K9 fishing line that a local company that also offers a discount to college anglers. I was throwing a half-ounce swim bait head with a hollow body swim bait

  • What's ahead the rest of this fishing season?

I have a lot of school and a lot of tournaments. Multiple FLW Qualifiers, along with the FLW National Championship, hopefully the Cabela's Collegiate Bass Fishing Open on Lake Dardanelle and the Boat U.S. National Championship on Pickwick, and a Bassmaster Eastern Regional all before June. It’s a packed spring!

  • Anyone you want to thank?

First, I want to thank my parents because without them I couldn't do any of this. I’m extremely lucky to have the privilege to travel and fish because of their help.  I would also like to thank Anderson Marine in Old Hickory, Tennessee.  I recently blew up my motor and Ray Anderson personally made sure my boat was rebuilt in time for this tournament.  Anderson’s does honest work and specifically help college anglers out every chance they get. I would also like to thank all of The University of Tennessee Knoxville sponsors because they are another huge reason our team gets to travel and participate.  

 

Corey Neece from Tusculum College took home the overall third place with a 7.57-pound bass:

  • What was your overall impression of your experience at the event?

My overall impression of the experience that I had at this event was outstanding just like it has always been in the past. You guys put on great tournaments. 

  • What was your strategy going into the event?

My strategy going into this event was to get away from the main crowd of people fishing around Paris landing and go fish some areas that I know big fish get on way down south of Paris due to past experience. We found a couple schools of fish and that's what me focused on. 

  • What did if feel like to hook that fish?  (Describe the bite, the fight, landing the fish)

Setting the hook into a big fish is always a great feeling, the fish crushed my swim bait close to the boat, so it wasn't much of a fight before she was in the net. 

  • Tell us about the rod, reel, line and bait used as well as what you keyed in on to catch that fish.

I was using a Abu Garcia Revo sx with 15 lb Berkley Trilene 100% fluorocarbon with a Basstrix swim bait and a half ounce head. 

  • What's ahead the rest of this fishing season?

We have quite a few tournaments ahead to look forward to the rest of the season. I'm really looking forward to pick wick.

  • Anyone you want to thank?

Thanks to AERT, Affordable Roofing, Spar Industries, and Snapps Ferry Packing

 

Rounding out the overall top four was Hunter Hatcher from Mississippi State University with a 7.41- pound bass:

  • What was your overall impression of your experience at the event?

I've enjoyed the Big Bass Bash both years I've been able to participate. It's always enjoyable and this year I think that the tournament director's did a great job of altering the tournament format to allow for the event to still take place under inclement weather. The prizes, atmosphere, and opportunities for school of the year points make this a must fish event every year.

  • What was your strategy going into the event?

My fishing partner and I were unable to practice prior to the event so we decided to target some areas where I had caught some fish in the past on Kentucky Lake. The area we fished provided what we felt would be some high percentage areas given the water and weather conditions.

  • What did if feel like to hook that fish?  (Describe the bite, the fight, landing the fish)

The fish I brought to the scales bit on the end of a long cast across a point. I felt the rod load up and when I leaned in to the fish it felt heavy but the cold weather had most of the fish acting rather lethargic so I didn't really feel any head shakes or strong runs you associate with a big bass. Until it came to the surface and I saw it I honestly thought I might have hooked in to a big catfish based on the way it was rolling around on the end of the line. When it finally hit the net my partner and I started the celebration, as we knew the fish would do well overall.

  • Tell us about the rod, reel, line and bait used as well as what you keyed in on to catch that fish.

I was using a 7 foot Lew's IM6 Medium Heavy rod, a Lew's Laser MG bait cast reel in a 6.4:1 gear ratio, 12 lb. vicious fluorocarbon, and a Booyah One Knocker in Rayburn Red. We were keying on isolated cover all day, this fish was on the same. She was holding near an artificial stake bed on top of a point in the back of a creek. We know other people had fished the area earlier in the day so the unique knocking sound of the Booyah one knocker likely played a role in enticing the fish to bite.

  • What's ahead the rest of this fishing season?

I'm a graduate student studying Fisheries Management and I'll likely be busy with research throughout the rest of the Spring so this will likely be the last major tournament I'll fish until the Summer. Our team will be sending a few boats to Dardanelle and we hope they fair well. My boater and I would love the chance to fish the National Championship on Pickwick as we feel we could potentially put in a strong showing. We'll see how many boats we'll be eligible to send and hopefully we make the travel list. Our team here at State is in a good position for school of the year, but we still have a long road ahead of us, and a lot of work to do. 

  • Anyone you want to thank?

I'd like to thank God, the Mississippi State University Bass fishing team, all of our team sponsors for their support, my boater Grant Hyche, and of course my family.

 

Congrats to Scott, Corey, and Hunter for their great catches, and to all the other anglers who took home prizes at the Cabela’s Collegiate Big Bass Bash presented by Berkley.  We would like to thank all of our great partners that help us make this event possible. We are off to the next ACA event on Lake Dardanelle in Arkansas for the Cabela’s Collegiate Bass Fishing Open on March 24-26, 2017.