The BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship tradition is to hold the Top 10 teams after Day One, until the end of the weigh-in.  The anglers have to keep quiet about their day on the water, their catches are bagged in solid bags to prevent anyone from sneaking a glimpse, and the ultimate victors are known to only one or two people, prior to the bags being dropped on the scales.

I had the pleasure of checking in the Top 10 as the arrived back to McFarland Park, providing the bags, and monitoring the fish as the rest of the field weighed their catches.  As a tournament angler and a tournament guy, I knew when I lifted the lids on the NC State livewells what was about to unfold.

Their “Seventeen-ish” pounds of fish they were reporting to the blog had grown A LOT!  With that said I knew anything was possible on a fishery such as Pickwick, so it wasn’t a lock, but NC State was certainly the team to beat.

I had the chance to visit with other teams in the Top 10 and jotted down as many notes and quotes as I could.  A Top 10 in the nation’s largest collegiate event ever held is something to be proud of, and shows these students can catch some fish.  I knew what I could glean from these guys would be some great insight.  Personally I was blown away be the depth of their knowledge on fish, electronics, and bait presentation.

Runner-up Team Captain, Joe Slagle, of Tennessee Tech University, “Our fish were so pressured at the start of Day 2, they didn’t bite at all.  Matt and I just kept telling ourselves that we could win this thing one bite and one fish at a time.  They finally started coming later in the day as some of the other teams surrendered and moved on from the area.”

Their bait choice, you ask?

Matt Clay added, “At one point we had sixteen different swimbaits tied on.  They are our confidence baits and we’ve been doing real well in college competition on single hook rigs.  We tossed a rig a few times, but the various single baits were the deal.”

Swimbaits played a small role in third place finish of the Auburn-Montgomery team, but their focus was more on the bottom.

Team Captain, and Club Founder, Jacob Nummy, “On the second day we got one good one early on a swimbait, the rest of the day, we worked the bottom with ¾ oz football jigs, and 10 inch worm/Trokar hook rigs.  It was a grind for us.  We started with three good spots, but really narrowed it down to one of them by the second day.”

Corey went on to add, “I want to thank our biggest sponsor, the Good Lord.  There was no doubt he was with us this week.  We had a good safe time and at every turn something fell into place for us, whether it was  the right move at the right time, or a key bite when we needed it most, Jacob and I weren’t alone in the boat this week.”

I probably didn’t do the conversation justice with the quote, but it left me feeling very fortunate to help these young men enjoy our sport of bass fishing.  It was one of many interactions over the course of the week that showed we had several fine young men competing in the event, true men of character.

On the topic of Auburn (and character), the team from Auburn, Alabama was also in the hunt for the title and I had the chance to speak with seventh place team, Eric Terrell and Jason Mitja.  The first thing that Captain Eric said, “We’ve got to give a shout out to the guys from Mississippi State.  We had found the same school and they got there first today, but invited us to come on in and do what we needed to do.  Jason and I owe them a big thanks, because we were down to one of our back up spots.  It ended up kicking out 30 keepers on Day 2 and was huge for us.  They didn’t have to do that, but we sure appreciate it that they did.”

Auburn ended up sacking their fish off a couple key areas, including the one mentioned in the quote, using Berkley Hollowbelly Swimbaits and Strike King 6XD crankbaits.  It sounded like the catches were split between these two baits throughout the event.

I did have the chance to talk with one team that used the Alabama Rig in their run at the title.  Parker Bacon and Taylor Bolton, of Tennessee Chattanooga, threw “the rig” quite a bit and it was responsible for a lot of fish for the duo.  According to Taylor, “We were on fish all day both days, we just weren’t getting the big culls that we needed.  We were culling up ounces when we needed to be culling up pounds, but it was still an awesome experience.”

Parker added, “We never made the trip to Lewisville, so this is our first BoatUS Collegiate Championship.  What a great event.  We’ll certainly be back next year.”

Both men are accounting majors and each has at least one year of eligibility remaining, so I bet we’ll be hearing more about these guys.  It was clear to me that they’re contenders, wherever they show up.

We’ll continue this series with Day Two Notes and Quotes – Part II this week, along with several other interesting stories from the 2012 BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship…stay tuned.

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