The Association of Collegiate Anglers kicked off the 2014 Cabela’s Collegiate Bass Fishing Series in style with over 260 college anglers from over 60 schools attending the Collegiate Bass Fishing Open at Lake Chickamauga near Dayton, TN. The famed fishery played host to one the most unique formats in college fishing for this event which features a combined weight format between two boats and four anglers from the same school. Each boat weighed in their heaviest three fish limits daily and then combined their weight with their other boat’s weights and the heaviest combined weight over two days is be used to crown the winner.

This event also featured nine of the top ten teams in the current Cabela’s School of the Year race, making it arguably the toughest field yet to date this season. Playing host to the event was Dayton, TN who rolled out the red carpet for the college anglers with a registration banquet and assistance at the event.

“When you combine the best collegiate anglers, the hottest big bass lake in the country in the most angler friendly host city in America, you can’t help but have a record breaking event.  We had over 100 volunteers show up to provide these anglers the same VIP treatment that we give our professional anglers and I believe they were able to see why Dayton is called the “new bass fishing capitol of the south,” said Dennis Tumlin, Executive Director of Rhea Economic Development and Tourism Council. “I can’t thank our volunteers and our city & county officials enough along with TWRA for creating a one of a kind angling environment here in Dayton.”

The college anglers did not disappoint nor did the lake, with numerous fish over 6 pounds hitting the scales and when the final weigh in wrapped up, it was Murray State’s Team of Justin Graben, Dan Schult, Justin Bergen, Cody Santel that won the event edging out Bethel University and Auburn University who finished in second and third, respectively.

The Murray State Team reported that they had a shortened practice due to classes at the school on Wednesday as well as a club meeting on Wednesday night, thus arriving at the lake late in the early morning hours on Thursday. They rested at the boat ramp for a few hours before hitting the waters on the final official practice day.

“We knew everyone would be throwing an umbrella rig and didn’t want to share water with those guys.  Shallow fishing is all four of our strengths and from our knowledge and experience on the river we knew there would be some good fish pushed shallow so we looked for that type of water,” stated Cody Santel of Murray State Bass Club. “Our three baits for the week were a jig, chatterbait, and a 2.5 squarebill.  The crankbait caught the majority of our fish, and accounted for the 6 and 7 pounder myself and Berger weighed in.  The key though to the chatterbait and crankbait bite was to reel as slowly as possible through the wood.”

“We have some awesome anglers on the team this season, and a lot of us have had some great finishes in the past but it feels good to finally seal the deal with a major win. Our club is as strong as it has ever been, and we have a bunch of new freshman this year who can really fish and I’m excited to see how this year will play out.  Murray State is definitely going to be a team to watch out for,” Santel went on to say.

The Murray State Team feels that this win will be a huge momentum builder for the rest of the Association of Collegiate Angler events as well as move them into contention for the Cabela’s School of the Year Race. All the team members wanted to thank all their families and sponsors and stated that without their help the team could never send as many teams to the event as we did.  We have some great sponsors that help us out, but a special thanks to Wood Forrest Bank, John at Fisherman’s Headquarters, Navionics, and Mr. Campisano.

Bethel University bass team took second.
Bethel University bass team took second.

The Bethel University bass team once again started out strong at a major collegiate event and have also moved into contention for a run at the Cabela’s School of the Year title. The Bethel Team of Cody Ross, Dewey Sims, Zach Parker and Matthew Roberts were in first place after day one before slipping a little bit on day two which caused them to fall to second. Bethel, last year’s BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship winners, reported using umbrella rigs on channel swings in the back of creeks as their primary tactic.

“We noticed in practice that if we fished parallel to the swings we would get better bites. We also figured out that if you threw the umbrella rig on fluorocarbon you would get more quality bites,” Cody Ross of the Bethel Bass Team.   The team went on to thank their parents for making it all possible as well as their sponsors Lews, Strike King, Car-Hart, Triton boats, and everyone else that supports the team. They are looking forward to the Cabela’s Big Bass Bash in April as Kentucky Lake has been on fire lately and that event should be a great one for all the anglers.

Rounding out the Top Ten Places:

  • 4th Virginia Tech
  • 5th North Carolina State University
  • 6th North Carolina State University
  • 7th Tennessee Tech University
  • 8th Bethel University
  • 9th University of Tennessee-Knoxville
  • 10th Southwestern Oklahoma State University

For full results click here and to see our photo gallery from the Collegiate Bass Fishing Open click here.

The event, which will be televised later this year as part of the national televised series, will highlight the entire schedule of the Association of Collegiate Anglers events. It will include the most prestigious, largest, and longest running event in college fishing, the BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship held on Lake Pickwick, as well as the Cabela’s Collegiate Big Bass Bash held on Kentucky Lake.

Images courtesy Association of Collegiate Anglers

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