FLW shatters record for largest collegiate fishing tournament
Published By OutdoorsFIRST Media Published February 28, 2017
The Tusculum College duo of Nick Hatfield of Jonesborough, Tennessee, and Corey Neece of Bristol, Tennessee, won the YETI FLW College Fishing Southeastern Conference event on Lake Guntersville Saturday with a five-bass limit weighing 22 pounds, 13 ounces, topping the largest field ever assembled for a collegiate bass fishing tournament - 248 teams. The victory earned the Tusculum College bass club a $2,000 club scholarship and the team will now advance to compete at the 2018 FLW College Fishing National Championship.
The new participation record eclipses the previous all-time mark of 214 teams set last season at the Bassmaster College Series Southern Regional at Lake Martin. The previous FLW record of 203 teams was set and later matched in 2016 at the FLW College Fishing Open on Kentucky Lake in April and the Southeastern Conference qualifier at Lake Chickamauga in September.
"We've fished several events together, but this is our first win as a team and for our club," said Hatfield, a senior majoring in business administration. "We've been working really hard and it is so awesome to see our hard work pay off."
"We went down to Guntersville to practice a couple of weekends before the tournament, and a few days before this event," said Neece, a junior majoring in environmental science. "We found some areas that were holding fish a few weeks ago, and were hoping that they would stay put.
"The day of the tournament the wind was blowing really badly and it washed out a lot of the areas that we knew the fish were in," Neece continued. "We couldn't even fish in some of the pockets - the eel grass was blown in and completely covering the pockets and the water was very muddy. We had a few pockets that were protected from the wind so that's where we decided to focus our time."
The duo said that they stayed in just two pockets, side-by-side in the mid-lake area. They estimated that they caught 20 to 30 keepers on two baits - a Sexy Shad-colored Strike King Red Eye Shad and a Royalty-colored Booyah One Knocker.
"We were sitting in 2 feet of water and fishing really, really shallow," Hatfield said. "Our trolling motor kept hitting the bottom and kicking up mud and we had to raise it up."
"The key was definitely how shallow we were fishing," Neece said. "The fish were in the very backs of the pockets getting ready to spawn. If you weren't fishing shallow enough, you weren't going to get a bite."
"We are absolutely stoked to qualify for the National Championship," Hatfield went on to say. "We've been fishing together and trying to qualify for a couple of years now, so to finally get in my senior year is really special. Hopefully it opens up a few more opportunities for our club and hopefully we can make something out of that tournament."
The top 10 teams that advanced to the 2018 College Fishing National Championship are:
1st: Tusculum College - Nick Hatfield, Jonesborough, Tennessee, and Corey Neece, Bristol, Tennessee, five bass, 22-13, $2,400 Club Scholarship
2nd: University of Georgia - Wesley Griner, Leesburg, Ga., and Nathan Ragsdale, Fayetteville, Ga., five bass, 22-10, $1,200 Club Scholarship
3rd: Bethel University - Cole Floyd, Leesburg, Ohio, and Carter McNeil, Abbeville, S.C., five bass, 19-12, $500 Club Scholarship
4th: Bethel University - Garrett Enders, Mifflinburg, Pa., and Cody Huff, Ava, Mo., five bass, 18-14, $500 Club Scholarship
5th: Snead State Community College - Brandon Matthews, Gadsden, Ala., and Nathan Doss, Cullman, Ala., four bass, 18-8, $500 Club Scholarship
6th: Lander University - Ben Stone, Donalds, S.C., and Collin Smith, Honea Path, S.C., five bass, 17-12
7th: Florida Gulf Coast - Beau Clymer and Hunter Bozeman, both of Ocala, Fla., five bass, 17-4
8th: Bryan College - Nathan Bell, Riceville, Tenn., and Cole Sands, Calhoun, Tenn., five bass, 17-4
9th: Bethel University - Brian Pahl, Wildwood, Mo., and John Coble Garrett, Union City, Tenn., five bass, 16-13
10th: University of North Alabama - Triston Crowder, Lawrenceburg, Tenn., and Lake Blasingame, Florence, Ala., five bass, 16-8
FLW also advances one additional team to the National Championship for every 10 teams over 100 that compete. A total of 248 teams participated in this event, so also advancing to the 2018 College Fishing National Championship are:
11th: University of North Alabama - Evan Bernas, El Paso, Texas, and Matthew Uptain, Harvest, Ala., five bass, 15-12
12th: Clemson University - Robert White, Greenville, S.C., and Derek Freeman, Anderson, S.C., five bass, 15-6
13th: Kennesaw State University - Logan Smith, Ball Ground, Ga., and Payton Morgan, Woodstock, Ga., four bass, 14-3
14th: Mississippi State University - Grant Hyche, Sterrett, Ala., and Hunter Hatcher, Starkville, Miss., five bass, 14-0
15th: University of Alabama - John Bryant, Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Ethan Flack, Cullman, Ala., five bass, 14-0
16th: Savannah College of Art and Design - Noah Pescitelli, Buford, Ga., and Sean Hall, North Augusta, Ga., five bass, 13-9
17th: University of Mississippi - Andrew Hulbert, Ridgeland, Miss., and Chandler South, Mantachie, Miss., five bass, 13-6
18th: Calhoun Community College - Dakota Guzman, Moulton, Ala., and Charles Rieser, Huntsville, Ala., five bass, 13-0
19th: Bryan College - Chandler Fogg and Conner Fogg, both of Kelso, Tenn., five bass, 12-14
20th: University of South Carolina - Tyler Smith, Dorchester, S.C., and Shawn Callahan, Cincinnati, Ohio, four bass, 12-8
21st: Faulkner University - Tyler Pennington, Chicota, Ala., and Brady Bowden, Hope Hull, Ala., five bass, 12-3
22nd: University of Tennessee - Logan Brewster, Maryville, Tenn., and Clay Walters, Charleston, Tenn., four bass, 12-0
23rd: Bethel University - Evan Owrey, Jackson, Tenn., and Kristopher Queen, Catawba, N.C., five bass, 11-10
24th: University of North Alabama - Nathan Martin, Tuscumbia, Ala., and Davis Whitten, Muscle Shoals, Ala., four bass, 11-5