Fishing college

Fishing College: The Journey of Qualifying for the Bassmaster Classic

I’ll tell you what. Fishing can be a whirlwind of a sport. I’m talking about going from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs in just a few short days. College fishing my freshman year at Bryan College was exactly that.

Up until the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Eastern Open on Cherokee Lake, and the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship on The Bemidji Chain of Lakes, my partner and I had, well… a horrible season. Little did we know, or even think for that matter, that we would soon be crowned National Champions. I also never imagined getting to fish the Bassmaster College Classic Bracket.

However, we made it and boy oh boy did it change my life forever.

College Fishing Highs and Lows

Leading up to the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Eastern Open on Cherokee Lake I was miserable. I’d had enough of college fishing and I was ready for a change. My one year of college fishing had been the worst year of tournament fishing in my life. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong, and I mean everything.

Lost fish, bad practices, boat trouble, and even an accidental rules infraction that resulted in us having to withdraw from a tournament. If it could go wrong, it did go wrong. I was ready to move on. I was going to take a few years off of school, get a job, and just fish some BFL tournaments locally. From there, hopefully move on the Bassmaster Opens or FLW Costa Series in a couple of years. I had made up my mind before the Cherokee tournament. I told myself to make the most of the remaining tournaments and then move on with my life.

The Bassmaster College Fishing Regional on Cherokee Lake

Going into the Cherokee tournament, both my partner and I had very high expectations. We expected to do well because Cherokee is one of my partners home lakes. We knew what to expect and there were no surprises. We were hoping that our bad luck might actually be behind us.

The fish very doing exactly what we knew they’d be doing, and we were excited for the tournament. The first day of the event started exactly how the rest of the year had gone. We caught a quick limit and then lost a few key fish that hurt us. We ended the day inside the Top 15 with 12 pounds and some change.

That had us inside the cut for a National Championship. Day 2 was the day our season changed. It was one of those days where everything just went right. I caught big bass of the event, a 4-8 Smallmouth. We also caught two giant largemouth that helped us big time. We ended day two with 15 and some change. The biggest bag of day two. That catapulted us into the top 5, qualified us for the National Championship, and put us into contention to win. However, day 3 didn’t go as planned and we caught a small limit that went 10-4 and we ended up in 9th place.

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Not the finished we wanted however, we accomplished our main goal and qualified for the National Championship.

The Bassmaster College Fishing National Championship

Fast forward a few months and it’s now July. I’ve gotten a full-time job in a warehouse working a midnight shift. Let me tell you what, I absolutely hated it. I was seriously regretting leaving school and the fishing team. I had burned that bridge, or so I had thought. I told myself day after day that the I wish I could go back for one more year. I knew the only way that was going to happen was if we won a National Championship and maybe even the Bracket. For the next six weeks I walked around the warehouse telling myself that we were going to win. I had no other choice.

I was ready to make the most of my last opportunity.

We arrive in Bemidji, Minnesota not knowing what to expect. The chain of lakes that we were put on had little to no information about bass. It was known for its walleye and northern pike fishing. We went in with no preconceived notions. The first day of practice rolls around and we had decided to check all the smaller lakes before heading out to the bigger lakes.

We started in a small lake named Lake Irving. In the first 30 minutes of practice we caught three, four-pound caliber fish. We didn’t think a whole lot of it. We figured we were on a really good fishery and that everybody was about to smash them. However, we proceeded to go the remainder of practice without a single bass bite.

By the time the tournament rolled around, and I guess you could say we had super high expectations. We knew we had a really good shot at doing well assuming everybody wasn’t sandbagging like usual. The first day of the tournament was an absolute grind. We had four bites all day long however they were four big ones. Our four weighed 16-6 giving us the lead after day 1.

The second went exactly like we wanted it to. We got our 5 fish limit by 10:30. We knew we had a bigger bag than the day before, so we decided to save our area and check in early. We beached the boat at the ramp and ordered a pizza. We ended up weighing 18-8. The biggest bag of the tournament and we grew our lead to over five pounds.

The final day rolls around and we were super nervous. We figured we were running out of fish and that the pressure was going to make things a lot tougher. We were right. We had 5 keeper bites the final day. That’s all we needed though. We weighed 15-3. Giving us the win by a 5-pound margin.

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At that point it was pure excitement and exhilaration. We had accomplished our goal and qualified for the bracket. Little did I know my life was about to change forever. Photo Credits: Ronnie Moore

Fishing the Bassmaster Classic College Bracket

Once we found out the location to the bracket, we headed that way. The bracket was on a small lake called Serpent Lake. Only a little over 1,000 acres. We knew very little about the lake and there was very little information about it… it was eerily similar to how we felt about Bemidji. We only had a 5-hour practice session which was tough. The short time we had was eventful, however. I discovered that the lake had smallmouth, and everybody was overlooking them.

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I knew I had a shot.

The first day rolls around I absolutely smashed them. I caught well over 70 fish and weighed 14-1. Giving me the win in my match that day by a wide margin. The second day was much of the same. However, my weight wasn’t quite as much as my first day. I caught 13-6 and beat my opponent by a little over a pound.

The last day was a day I will never forget. Not only was I in the finals, I had to go head to head against my partner and one of my very best friends. That was tough. Even though we wanted each other to do well. We both wanted to win. They final day went my way. You hear about guys all time talking about how things just went their way… well everything went my way on the final day. I caught my two biggest fish of the entire week. I also caught the biggest bag of the event which weighed 16-6.

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I had done it. I had qualified for The Bassmaster Classic.

Just a College Kid Fishing the Bassmaster Classic

The emotion I felt after finding out I had won is something I will never forget. I was overwhelmed with emotion. I didn’t know any other way to react other than crying. All my life all I’ve ever wanted to do is fish the Bassmaster Classic and knowing I had just qualified at 19 years old was probably the greatest feeling in the world.

Fishing in the Classic is something I’m never, ever going to forget. It was a total whirlwind of emotions. Accomplishing a lifelong dream, and getting to fish against all my heroes. Blasting off the first morning was probably the coolest and most emotional experience of my whole life. I’ll be completely honest I cried like a baby riding to my first spot that morning.

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I was completely overwhelmed with emotion.

It was something I’m never going to forget. I wish I had performed better in the tournament but I’ll get another chance sooner or later. The classic is a top tier tournament. The fans are what make it so special. It’s never going to make sense to me why I had fans there. I’m just a college kid from a tiny college that got the chance of a lifetime.

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I’ll never forget that week.

Now like I was saying in the beginning fishing is an absolute whirlwind of a sport. This year has been just that. The highest of highs and lowest of lows. This year has been one I’m never going to forget. Although I didn’t have the season I wanted, the memories I made will last a lifetime. I’m looking forward to the upcoming season. I can’t wait to see what’s in store.

 


This article was contributed by an ANGLR Expert

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Jacob Foutz

ABOUT Jacob

I am a collegiate angler from Bryan College. I am a 2017 Bassmaster Collegiate National Champion as well as the 2017 Bassmaster College Classic Bracket Champion. I'm also a 2018 Bassmaster Classic Qualifier.

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ANGLR Expert, Jacob Foutz

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