When competitors from over 40 schools blast off for the Cabela’s Big Bass Bash on March 23, and 24, they’ll be angling for both individual bragging rights and for the pride of alma mater. They’ll ply the waters of Lake Lavon, near Allen, Texas, in the hopes of finding the green swimming gold for which Texas has become justifiably famous.

Those anglers and fans that can’t make the trip to Texas will be able to follow along online at www.collegiatebasschampionship.com, where a link to on the water updates will be posted. There will also be a continuous flow of information on the Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship Facebook page, www.facebook.com/collegiatebasschampionship.  Those sites will allow interested parties to feel like they’re in the midst of the action, although nothing quite replicates the hard-pulling Texas largemouths.

“The fish themselves down there are just meaner,” said Evan Smith, an Arkansas Tech sophomore. “They’re usually a lot bigger, too.” That’s quite a statement coming from Smith, who caught a 9-pounder in a tournament on Alabama’s Lake Guntersville last month, then topped it with a 9.34 this past weekend on Lake Atkins closer to home.

Despite his way with monster fish, Smith has yet to take home the first place trophy in a collegiate event and he’s eager to “take that one off (his) bucket list.” While individual honors are important and much-coveted, this tournament will also be a team effort. His Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys are currently ranked first in the Association of Collegiate Anglers (ACA) School of the Year race. While the qualifying tournaments require no entry fee, there is still a total of nearly $20,000 in prizes available to leading schools, so the team title will be fiercely contested.

“This is my first time on the lake,” said Smith, who has chased Texas bass on Lake Lewisville and the fabled Falcon Lake. “We help each other out and we’re going to work together to try to find some big ones on the beds.”

While the season is halfway over, the way the rankings are tabulated means that just about any school could come back from the middle of the pack, or even further, to claim the crown that Smith and his teammates will work furiously to defend. The race is wide open.

The ACA is a sanctioning body developed to facilitate growth, development and structure within competitive collegiate bass fishing. Part of the organization’s mission is not only to help participating teams cultivate their existing programs, but also to encourage new schools to participate.

Lake Lavon is over 1,700 miles from Cambridge, Massachusetts, hard on the shores of the Charles River, but a team from esteemed Harvard University has elected to make this event their initial foray into the world of competitive angling. Manny Cominsky and Jake Boy will make the long haul to wet their feet against quality competition.

“We expect this to be a real learning experience,” Cominsky said. “We’re going into it with a team mentality.” He expects that they’ll get a “mixed reaction” from the anglers from other schools who might expect a certain stereotype, but that eventually the shared love of fishing will overcome any perceived barriers.

The lake has suffered as a result of a regional drought, but recent rains have brought it back up nearly to its full pool size of 21,400 acres. It’s known to be a fantastic crappie fishery, but this being Texas the chance of a double digit bass is always in the back of the anglers’ minds. There is not much in the way of aquatic vegetation, but standing timber and other hard cover offers plenty of places for the desired largemouths to hide. Weigh-ins both days will be held at Collin Park Marina and Recreation area, which is also the launch site, and will be open to the public. On Sunday the Texas High School State Championship will compete on Lavon, giving the next generation of collegiate anglers a chance to show their stuff.

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