Columbia/Lake Murray, S.C., is gearing up to host the National Guard FLW College Fishing National Championship April 13-15 on Lake Murray. Twenty-five teams from across the country have competed in 20 qualifying events and five conference championship tournaments, and the top five teams from each conference now will compete for the title of national champion in this three-day nationally televised event.
“Columbia, S.C., and Lake Murray are great places to hold a national championship,” said National Guard pro Justin Lucas of Guntersville, Ala. “It’s a great college town paired with a great place to fish in such a beautiful part of the country.
“Fishing should be great,” Lucas went on to say. “I would be thinking sight fishing. It is going to play a huge part in this tournament. The fish will be spawning, so they are going to be shallow. The lake is full of blueback herring, so swimbaits will be a big factor as well. Main structures to look for are going to be long clay points and docks, and of course teams are going to want to fish the backs of pockets and coves.
“The biggest challenge for first-time competitors is just going to be the pressure of fishing in a national championship event,” Lucas continued. “Teams that are making their second and third appearances are going to be out for a little revenge. The University of Florida’s Jake Gipson and Matt Wercinski, two-time winners of the national championship, will not be here this year, so it is anybody’s championship to win. Teams to beat include Kennesaw State, Auburn, Stephen F. Austin, and don’t forget the Patterson brothers out of Kansas State. This really should be a great tournament.”
Chevy pro Anthony Gagliardi of Prosperity, S.C., said the warm winter has had an effect on the fish that should have a definite impact on the tournament.
“The warm winter caused the fish to move up a lot earlier than normal, and the fishing has been pretty good,” Gagliardi said. “It’s going to be wide open and guys will catch them using a lot of different techniques. It’s going to be a shallow-water tournament.”
Gagliardi said he expect anglers to need 17 to 20 pounds a day for a shot at the title.
Each team competing in the national championship will be sporting jerseys and fishing out of wrapped Ranger boats towed by Chevy trucks for the competition. The 25 teams competing are:
- Auburn University – Jordan Lee, Vinemont, Ala., and Matt Lee, Auburn, Ala.
- California Polytechnic – Scott Hellesen and Damian Bean, both of San Luis Obispo, Calif.
- Chico State – Bo Harkins, Chico, Calif., and Anthony Dayton, Walnut Creek, Calif.
- Chico State – Thomas White, Fountain Valley, Calif., and Frank Vogt, Chico, Calif.
- Christopher Newport – Ryan Ingalls, Fairfax, Va., and Derek Berhalter, Farnham, Va.
- Clemson University – Andy Wicker, Pomaria, S.C., and Harold Turner, Sumter, S.C.
- Fairmont State University – Wil Dieffenbauch, Hundred, W. Va., and Brent Dodrill, Fairmont, Va.
- Fresno State – Kong Moua and Christopher Delgado, both of Fresno, Calif.
- Georgia Southern – Wesley Maples, Rocky Face, Ga., and Jed Thigpen, Statesboro, Ga.
- Indiana University – Dustin Vaal, Bloomington, Ind., and Steven Bressler, Fremont, Ind.
- Kansas State University – Brandon and Ryan Patterson, both of Goddard, Kan.
- Kennesaw State University – Thomas Frink, Woodstock, Ga., and Justin Marlow, Kennesaw, Ga.
- Louisiana State University – Timothy Morris, Donaldsonville, La., and Richard Murdock, Lawrenceville, Ga.
- Northwestern University – Jimmy Morrow, Arlington Heights, Ill., and Matthew Kestufskie, Evanston, Ill.
- Ramapo College – Charles Danza, Ringwood, N.J., and Bob Rieder, West Milford, N.J.
- Ramapo College – Jeff Voss, Secaucus, N.J., and Joseph Zapf, Whippany, N.J.
- Sacramento State – Robert Matsuura, Sacramento, Calif., and Thomas Kanemoto, Elk Grove, Calif.
- Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville – Brad Lemasters, Maryville, Ill., and Justin Skinner, Taylorville, Ill.
- Stephen F. Austin – Andrew Upshaw, Hemphill, Texas, and Ryan Watkins, Rockport, Texas
- Texas A&M University – Kyle Bates, and Cody Collins, both of College Station, Texas
- Texas A&M University – Andrew Shafer, College Station, Texas, and Weston Brown, Bryan, Texas
- Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi – Jacob Heath and Kennedy Schwartzburg, both of Corpus Christi, Texas
- University of Georgia – Randy Tolbert, Jr., Rome, Ga., and Chase Simmemon, Alto, Ga.
- University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point – Ted Johnson and Jody Derks, both of Waupaca, Wis.
- Virginia Tech – Wyatt Blevins, Pulaski, Va., and Carson Rejzer, Hampton, Va.
“Our regional tourism office is very excited to bring the National Guard FLW College Fishing National Championship to Lake Murray and USC, the home of the two-time national champions of college baseball. The media exposure on NBC Sports Network, families, friends and college fishing participants from across the U.S. will generate tourism revenues and showcase this region,” said Duane Parrish, Director of South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.
Daily takeoffs for the national championship will be from Park Site No. 8 (North) located at 2101 N. Lake Drive in Columbia at 7 a.m. Weigh-ins will be at 5 p.m. Friday, 2:30 p.m. Saturday and *4 p.m. Sunday. All weigh-ins will be adjacent to the Carolina Baseball Stadium on the University of South Carolina campus located at the corner of Blossom and Williams streets in Columbia.
*Final weigh-in on Sunday will immediately follow the University of South Carolina baseball game and is subject to change.
FLW will be hosting the College Fishing Festival April 13 – 15, which runs from 4-7 p.m. Friday, 1-4 p.m. Saturday and 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Sunday, adjacent to the Carolina Baseball Stadium. Activities include a sports zone, tailgate games, climbing wall and Ranger boat simulator.
The national championship awards the top team with $50,000 cash, a Ranger 177TR with a 90-horsepower engine wrapped in school colors for their school’s bass club and $25,000 for the school they represent. FLW has awarded more than $3 million in prizes to more than 125 colleges and universities. College Fishing events are free to enter, boats and drivers are provided by FLW and all collegiate teams receive a travel allowance.
Four regular-season events were held in each conference – Central, Northern, Southeastern, Texas and Western. The top five teams in each qualifying event advanced to one of five televised three-day National Guard FLW College Fishing Conference Championships. The top five teams from each conference championship advanced to the national championship, and the winner of the national championship will qualify for the 2012 Forrest Wood Cup presented by Walmart. The Forrest Wood Cup, the world championship of bass fishing, will be held Aug. 9-12 on Lake Lanier in Duluth, Ga., and will offer the collegiate anglers the opportunity to compete for a top award of $600,000. The national champions also will receive use of a wrapped boat and Chevy truck for Forrest Wood Cup competition.
Coverage of the National Guard FLW College Fishing National Championship, hosted by the Capital City/Lake Murray Country RTB, will be broadcast in high-definition (HD) on NBC Sports Network. “FLW” will air May 27 from 1 to 2 p.m. ET. “FLW,” hosted by Jason Harper, is broadcast to more than 500 million households worldwide