The 2013 Cabela’s School of the Year Race is drawing to a close and it will go down to the wire. Although the program dates run July 1 – June 30, the last sanctioned event to take place is June 14-15, 2013. The final showdown is to take place in Florence, Alabama on Lake Pickwick, a body very familiar to collegiate anglers across the country.
Now known as the home of the BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship, Florence hosts a variety of bass tournaments, including this week’s Bassmaster Carhartt College Series Wild Card. The Wild Card is the last chance of 2013 for collegiate anglers to make the Bassmaster Carhartt College Series National Championship, as well as the last chance for anyone to dethrone current Cabela’s School of the Year leaders, the Murray State Racers.
The Racers currently sit atop a list of 210 active college fishing programs spread across the United States and Canada. This year they have amassed 810 points and maintain a 37 point lead over Georgetown College and the University of Louisiana Monroe, who are locked in a tie for second place with 773 points heading into the final event.
The recent NC State Battle on the Border tournament helped some teams from the east coast gather additional points, including the NC State Bass Pack, who currently occupies the seventh position, 107 points off the pace. The rest of the top 6 have remained unchanged since the BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship, but that all could change by the time the scales close on Saturday.
Mathematically, anyone in the top six has a good shot of closing the gap, and even the seventh place NC State Bass Pack “could” get it done, depending on the final Wild Card field size and their respective finishes. The Wild Card is expected to have “around” 50 teams competing; resulting in approximately 100 points are up for grabs. The top two finishing teams from each school represented in the Wild Card will earn their final Cabela’s School of the Year points of the season.
The Racers of Murray State have their work cut out for themselves. Due to summer schedules, they can only send one two-angler team to Florence for the last available points of the season. To challenge Murray State, both Georgetown College and the University of Louisiana Monroe (tied for second) are sending two boats to maximize their point totals. As if that isn’t enough pressure on Murray State, other teams are sending three boats so they can cull their lowest point totals. These other teams could certainly get it done as well.
The University of North Alabama, currently in fifth and considered the hometown favorites, are calling their anglers back to Florence from as far away as Florida in hopes of a big finish on their home lake. The sixth place Bethel Wildcats are also sending three teams, and they should certainly be feared anywhere on the Tennessee River this year. These red-hot anglers dominated in the ACA Collegiate Bass Fishing Open on Kentucky Lake and then backed that up with first and third place finishes on Pickwick less than one month ago in the BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship.
When asked in an earlier interview how it has all come together for the Racers, club president, Justin Graben commented, “I mean, it’s really about camaraderie. We hang out as a team, we’ve got guys that are roommates at school, and really we are all just good friends working together. We’ve got something special working and we’re all really enjoying ourselves.”
It won’t boil down to teamwork for the Racers in Florence this week. It’ll boil down to Ian Heskett and Andrew Mohlenbrock with the weight of their entire club on their shoulders, and two days on the water to protect their coveted lead. Should the Racers succeed in closing out the season on top, they will be the first collegiate team in the nation to hold the distinction of being both National Champions and the Cabela’s School of the Year.
According to Wade Middleton, Director of the ACA, “There are 16 hours of competition remaining and this is exactly what we had envisioned for the Cabela’s School of the Year Program when we started it. Tight races, point totals to close to call, and the best collegiate fishing programs in the country battling it out on the water. It won’t be settled until the scales close on Saturday and it is fishing… anything can happen. Now this is what college fishing is all about! ”
The current Top 10 includes:
- Murray State University (Murray, KY)
- Georgetown College (Georgetown, KY)
- University of Louisiana Monroe (Monroe, LA)
- Arkansas Tech University (Russellville, AR)
- University of North Alabama (Florence, AL)
- Bethel University (McKenzie, TN)
- North Carolina State (Raleigh, NC)
- Dallas Baptist (Dallas, TX)
- University of Arkansas (Fayetteville, AR)
- University of Tennessee Martin (Martin, TN)
Image courtesy Cabela's