Gophers come up golden

University of Minnesota teammates Austin Felix and Chris Burgan (left) show their emotions shortly after winning the 2014 FLW College Fishing National Championship on Lake Keowee.

SENECA, S.C. - Throughout the first two days of competition at the 2014 FLW College Fishing National Championship, the University of Louisiana-Monroe team of Brian Eaton and Nick LaDart dominated nearly all of the headlines. And rightfully so. As the defending national champions, all eyes were on ULM to see if the team could pull off back-to-back titles and equal the powerhouse run of the University of Florida - who captured national championship titles in 2009 and 2010. However, while ULM found itself atop the leadearboard on days one and two and seemed poised to sweep the most coveted trophy in all of college fishing two years running, a plucky little team from the University of Minnesota had other plans. Flying under the radar for a good portion of the tournament, U of MN teammates Austin Felix and Chris Burgan carefully plotted their strategy. After quickly analyzing the conditions - which were frigid, windy and downright nasty over the first two days of competition - Burgan and Felix opted to abandon their initial game plan and let the weather dictate their strategy. After the first day of tournament action, the U of MN team found itself in seventh. By the end of day two, the team had crept up the leaderboard into third place overall. Then, when the sun appeared and the conditions finally turned around on the final day of competition, the Golden Gophers pounced, hauling in a whopping 14-pound catch and easily cruising to victory by a margin of more than 3 pounds. Not surprisingly, the team couldn't have been happier with the results. "It's a dream come true," said Burgan, whose team walked away with a first-place prize package totaling $30,000, which included a brand new, fully rigged Ranger Z117, a tournament title as well as an automatic berth into the 2014 Forrest Wood Cup - the most lucrative and prestigious bass-fishing championship in the world. "When I stuck those two fish right in a row earlier today I thought, `If we could just catch a couple more, then we had a really good chance to put it all together.' To win is just unbelievable. My mom is probably going crazy right now." Amazingly enough, the Gophers trip to the national championship was almost over before it even began. "I've been diagnosed with long-term Lyme Disease and when we got here on Sunday morning I think my body really started wearing down," said Felix, of the long and grueling drive from the Land of 10,000 Lakes. "I had some new meds and had a horrible reaction Sunday night. I wound up going to the ER and had to get a bunch of steroids. I was just lucky that I had a patient partner (Burgan) because we wound up having to stay in the hotel room for two whole days while I recovered. Throw in the fact that we hadn't fished all winter and it's just amazing that we're here right now." However, it's just as clear that the University of Minnesota team earned every ounce. After realizing the weather wasn't going to be as conducive for largemouth fishing as they'd hoped over the first two days, the team decided to head to deeper waters and target spotted bass in hopes of landing a solid limit. The goal was to simply maintain their position near the top of the leaderboard and wait for the weather to shift before making their big move. And it worked to near perfection. "The day started off great today," said Burgan, whose team targeted its quarry throughout most of the tournament with a combination of Shaky Heads and Roller jigs in 30 to 40 feet of water, keying on main-lake humps and points. "We had three fish in the first hour. But then the bite turned off and that's when I really started freaking out." However, later in the day, as the sun warmed up Lake Keowee, the duo returned to their prime fishing area and found some more success. "We ran back to that same spot in the afternoon and stuck our two biggest fish," said Felix. "And that's when it really turned around for us." By the time final weigh-in had concluded, the team had amassed a healthy 37-pound, 8-ounce, three-day catch which was more than 3 pounds greater than their next closest competitor. And for their efforts, the team now gets an opportunity of a lifetime - a chance to compete in the 2014 Forrest Wood Cup. "To get a chance to fish against the fishermen I've looked up to my whole life is incredible," said Burgan, who will head to this year's Forrest Wood Cup as a co-angler. Burgan's partner was equally ecstatic to have an opportunity to fish in the 2014 Forrest Wood Cup. "It's one of those pipe-dream deals for me where you really get to test your mettle against the very best in this sport," said Felix, who will be competing in the Forrest Wood Cup as a pro with a chance to take home an additional $500,000 in prize money. Felix will also get to fish out of a fully rigged Ranger boat wrapped in Golden Gopher team colors. "I'm really excited. I don't know if we'll be ready or not, but we're going to give them hell." Felix, who has had to overcome so much just to get to this point, hopes that his national championship title is just one more stepping stone in both life and career. "This week was just a fantastic week. All the teams are awesome and it really is a great group of guys to compete against," he said. "My goal is to go pro one day. It might never become a reality, but this was a great first step." And nobody can argue with that. WVU snares runner-up position Sitting in fourth place heading into the finals, the West Virginia University team of Edward Rude III and Mathew Gibson managed to bring in the second-largest stringer on Saturday to jump up to the No. 2 position when all was said and done with a total, three-day catch of 34 pounds, 6 ounces. "It was tough out there. It was a grind all day," said Rude, whose team managed to parlay a final-day catch of 11 pounds, 1 ounce into a $5,000 second-place check. "Most of our spots didn't produce and we're scrambling around all day long. We wound up catching four of our fish in the last hour. And most of those fish came off of some docks." Unlike most teams who had hoped for some sun and warmer weather in the finals, the West Virginia team hoped for just the opposite. "I wish it would have been freezing and pouring down rain today because that's how we like to catch them," said Rude. "By the end of the day, we finally figured out what the fish wanted. I just wish we'd had a little bit more time. " The duo said it primarily employed an arsenal of jerkbaits, targeting shallow pockets and the back of coves to land the majority of their catch. "We also wound up junk fishing pretty much every day as well," said Rude. While the team didn't manage to walk away with the tournament title, the team said it was an invaluable experience nonetheless. "It was awesome," said Rude of being able to fish in the national championship. "It's a dream of mine just to be here. It really is a true blessing." ULM settles for third While the University of Louisiana-Monroe team of Brian Eaton and Nick LaDart were certainly disappointed that they didn't repeat as national champions, their 30-pound, 12-ounce total catch was still good enough to land them in third place overall - which is an incredible feat in and of itself. "It was really tough for us today," said Eaton. "We only got four fish in the boat the last two days and that really hurt us. We also had to really change things up today and go a lot slower." The team, which had been rolling along for the first two days of tournament action, ultimately ran out of quality fish when it counted most. "We were fishing the backs of creeks and creek ends," said Eaton. "We tried throwing A-rigs and single swim baits early, but we really weren't having much success. So we wound up switching to a Shaky Head for the rest of the day. Over the last 20 minutes we caught two fish, but we just ran out of a time. I really think that fish we didn't catch yesterday hurt us the most." In the end, ULM settled for third place overall as well as a nice check for $4,000. "Hopefully we'll be back again next year," said Eaton. Young Harris College grabs fourth place After experiencing a host of mechanical issues in yesterday's competition, it's somewhat amazing that the Young Harris College squad of Furman (Joe) Thompson and Grayson Payne made it to the finals in the first place. But the team persevered right through to the end, netting a three-day stringer weighing 30 pounds, 12 ounces to finish the national championship in fourth place. "The fishing was really a lot tougher today," said Payne. "The water levels were way up and we had to resort to Plan B and Plan C this afternoon. "Today we just went out there looking for quality fish and we we're only able to get four in the boat. We're trying to get at least one more 2-pounder and we probably could have culled, but we're swinging for the fences." The team said it targeted bass with a combination of jerkbaits, A-rigs and drop-shots, but just couldn't get the quality bites the team was hoping for. "We started off targeting docks but then the wind picked up and we started fishing the banks," Payne said. "We just let the wind (dictate) where we fished." Although the team didn't walk away the title, Payne and Thompson said they had no regrets. "It was a tough day. We swung for the fences but it just didn't work out," said Thompson. "But it's been a great trip." Payne echoed Thompson's sentiments. "It's been unbelievable," said Payne of the entire experience. "It was fantastic. And it's something I probably won't ever get a chance to do again in my life." For their efforts, the team finished with $3,000 in winnings. Chico State settles into fifth While the Chico State team of Nick Carrico and Andrew Loberg didn't get the national championship title they were hoping for, the team did make a little bit of history today, becoming the first West Coast team to finish the national championship in fifth place or higher. Previous to this year's event, no West Coast team had even qualified for the finals (CSU Monterey Bay landed in sixth place this afternoon - the first time in history that two teams for the Left Coast had qualified for the finals in national championship history). "It was definitely a lot slower today than the last two days," said Loberg. "We wound up with the same amount of bites, just not the same size. We eventually figured out some things later in the day but we just ran out of time." The team said that it targeted bass around islands and the backs of creeks, using a combination of A-rigs, drop-shots and Darter Heads equipped with various soft-plastic trailers. "The key was really finding the baitfish," Loberg said. "If you found the bait, you'd find the fish." All in all, the Chico State team said the experience of becoming the top qualifying team from the West Coast was an accomplishment in and of itself. "FLW really puts on a great event," said Loberg. "And it was a lot of fun to be here. It really was a great experience for us." For their efforts, the team won $2,000 in prize money as well as a place in the history books. Best of the rest Rounding out the top-10 team finalists: 6th: CSU-Monterey Bay (Matthew Diaz and Sebastian Resendiz) - 29-8 7th: Slippery Rock University (Benjamin Tawney and Tyler Branca) - 26-12 8th: Auburn University (Garrett Roberts and Timmy Ward) - 26-6 9th: University of Nebraska-Omaha (Ben Milliken and Ben Kroeger) - 25-9 10th: Eastern Kentucky (Ethan Snyder and Billy French) - 20-2 To view the complete standings, click here The 2014 FLW College Fishing National Championship is presented by Lowrance Insight Genesis College Cup.The 2014 FLW College Fishing National Championship is presented by Lowrance Insight Genesis College Cup. End notes For winning the 2014 FLW College Fishing National Championship, the University of Minnesota team won a brand new, fully rigged Ranger Z117 with a 90-horsepower engine and an entry into the 2014 Forrest Wood Cup. The Forrest Wood Cup, the world championship of bass fishing, hosted by the Capital City Lake Murray Country Regional Tourism Board, will be held Aug. 14-17 on Lake Murray in Columbia, S.C., and will offer the collegiate anglers the opportunity to compete for a top award of $500,000.

Tags: headline-story  gary-mortenson 

/news/2015-04-26-arey-does-it-again

Arey Does it Again

Quaker State pro Matt Arey of Shelby, N.C., wowed the crowed in Rogers, Ark., today with an incredible 17-pound, 3-ounce five-bass limit to come from behind and win the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac on Beaver Lake. This is Arey’s second consecutive Beaver Lake FLW Tour victory. Arey’s final-day surge was enough to surpass two-time reigning Angler of the Year Andy Morgan, who led yesterday but weighed in only 9-08 today and fell to third. Arey’s four-day total was 55-06, earning the pro $125,000. READ MORE »

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Beaver Lake Day 4 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Beaver Lake presented by Rayovac. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-25-morgan-maintains-his-lead

Morgan Maintains His Lead

One of Andy Morgan’s fishing mottos is to make the best of what you have got “in front of you” to survive and fish another day. Beaver Lake doesn’t give much. So when an angler as resourceful as Morgan gets to a lake that doesn’t give out many resources, the two work well together. Instead of worrying about hitting it out of the park or putting immense pressure on himself to come up with a grand winning strategy, Morgan just scraps, scrapes and claws at the ground right in front of him, making the best of what he’s got. Morgan’s performance on day three of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac on Beaver Lake was a prime example of his “make the best of it” attitude. After burning up the spawning fish he had located in practice during the first two days of the tournament, he was forced to fish by the seat of his pants today – something he thoroughly enjoys. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-25-gordon-and-gagner-crowned-tbf-champs

Gordon and Gagner Crowned TBF Champs

Two more anglers qualified for the Forrest Wood Cup today by winning the 2015 The Bass Federation National Championship on Grand Lake in Grove, Okla. Shawn Gordon of Russellville, Ark., earned the TBF crown on the boater side by catching a three-day limit of 50 pounds, 2 ounces, capped by the largest limit caught today – 18 pounds, 10 ounces. Gordon earned $5,000 for his win, but more importantly, he’ll be competing against the best pros in the business in August at the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita. Gordon also won the TBF “Living The Dream” package, which includes paid entry into the 2016 Walmart FLW Tour, a travel stipend, and use of a wrapped truck and Ranger bass boat. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-25-top-5-patterns-from-beaver-lake-day-3

Top 5 Patterns from Beaver Lake Day 3

Andy Morgan didn’t light up the world on day three of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac on Beaver Lake, but he caught what he needed to maintain the lead and put a 1-pound, 9-ounce cushion between he and Matt Arey. Most of the rest of the top 20 scrambled today, abandoning their patterns and trying new options to try and make the final-day cut. Here’s how the top five got it done. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-25-beaver-lake-day-3-coverage

Beaver Lake Day 3 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Beaver Lake presented by Rayovac. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-24-make-way-for-morgan

Make Way for Morgan

“Hidden largemouths” is quickly becoming the buzz term at the Walmart FLW Tour event on Beaver Lake presented by Rayovac, as those atop the leaderboard are using the term to refer to spawning largemouths that are so well hidden that other competitors never found them. These hidden fish are covered by thick brush, hidden so deep that they were only found during the very rare windows of sunshine during practice or located off the beaten path. The latter are not in obvious pockets or places where one would expect to find beds, but rather out on the main bluff channels where few ever look. On day one, Jacob Wheeler caught hidden largemouths to take the lead. On day two, former Beaver Lake champion Andy Morgan caught hidden largemouths to take over the pole position going into the weekend. His catch of 15 pounds, 7 ounces today gives Morgan a two-day total of 28-09 to take the lead by just 11 ounces. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-24-top-5-patterns-from-beaver-lake-day-2

Top 5 Patterns from Beaver Lake Day 2

At halftime of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac, the top five reads like a who’s who of Beaver Lake. Leader Andy Morgan is a former Beaver Lake champion. Behind him, Darrel Robertson has been very close to winning here with a runner-up finish in 2005. In third is 2014 Beaver Lake champion Matt Arey. Bryan Thrift, in fourth, has never won on Beaver Lake, but has led here before. And finally, fifth-place pro Stetson Blaylock knows his way around this lake pretty well, too, with a couple of top 10s. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-24-heckman-heads-up-tbf-championship-field

Heckman Heads up TBF Championship Field

Some bass are still spawning in Grand Lake, and others are yet to make their way up to the shallows, but none of that interests Sam Heckman. Diligent commitment to his postspawn plan here Friday landed Heckman atop the boater field with 34 pounds, 3 ounces and locked up his Southwest Division win at the 2015 The Bass Federation National Championship. Saturday, the top boater from each of seven TBF divisions will vie for the TBF National Championship and the “Living the Dream” package that goes with it. The package includes paid entry in the 2016 Walmart FLW Tour as a pro, a Forrest Wood Cup berth and use of a custom-wrapped truck and Ranger boat on Tour for the year, as well as a travel stipend for each event. Seven non-boaters – one from each TBF division – also will fish in tomorrow’s final round for a chance at paid entry into a Rayovac FLW Series division of choice. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-24-beaver-lake-day-2-coverage

Beaver Lake Day 2 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Beaver Lake presented by Rayovac. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-23-wheeler-with-a-slim-lead

Wheeler with a Slim Lead

Jacob Wheeler has a plan to win the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac on Beaver Lake this week. That plan involves primarily the largemouth species, a target weight of 14 pounds per day and a lot of fish management. Today, Wheeler surpassed his target by nearly 2 pounds with a 15-pound, 14-ounce catch that puts him in the driver’s seat at Beaver Lake, in the lead by just a scant 5 ounces over second-place pro Bryan Thrift. “Largemouths are the way to win here at Beaver Lake,” Wheeler says. “They are the fish to go the distance here, and that’s what I’m focusing on.” READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-23-top-5-patterns-from-beaver-lake-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from Beaver Lake Day 1

Though there were plenty of fish caught off beds at Beaver Lake on day one of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac, the top five is rounded out by a group of anglers who relied on sight-fishing very little. Opinions on where exactly bass are in the spawning cycle at Beaver Lake vary greatly from angler to angler, but a few common denominators did come to light on day one. For starters, most agree that one major spawning cycle has already occurred. Plenty of empty beds and a lot of gaunt, postspawn fish at the scale were evidence of that. Second, there are still some bass (of all species) trying to spawn, but the ones left on beds are extremely wary. Finally, the order of difficulty to catch each species ranks as follows: smallmouth bass – extremely easy; spotted bass – not as easy; largemouth bass – extremely difficult. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-23-griffith-grabs-tbf-lead-

Griffith Grabs TBF Lead

By midday, the prospects were unclear for Jon “Scooter” Griffith here in The Bass Federation National Championship on Grand Lake, but in a roundabout way it provided just the clarity he needed to dial in a pattern that helped him take the day-one lead with an 18-pound, 13-ounce limit. Griffith began his day by sight-fishing the clear water down by the Pensacola Dam. This opening move, he says, gave him some early comfort, as it matched the transparent water he’s used to fishing near his home in Mesa, Ariz. Targeting windblown points, Griffith got his early bites with reaction baits in about 4 to 8 feet of water. Unfortunately, the plan turned out to be less productive than he had expected. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-23-beaver-lake-day-1-coverage

Beaver Lake Day 1 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Beaver Lake presented by Rayovac. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-23-tbf-championship-tips-off

TBF Championship Tips Off

The spawn is on at Grand Lake, but that’s not the only game in town. As the 2015 The Bass Federation National Championship plays out for the next three days, anglers will find this northern Oklahoma impoundment abounding with lots of fishing options. Brian Maloney, the 2012 Walmart Bass Fishing League All-American champion, says he was impressed with what he found in practice. “The quality of fish on Grand is just amazing,” notes the Missouri angler. “This lake continues to put out 3- and 4-pounders, and right now there’s a variety of things we can do. “There are guys sight-fishing for spawning fish, and we’re probably looking at another wave or two of fish coming in soon. I’m sure the full moon coming up in another week or so will move them in.” Adding that the lake currently has fish in all prespawn, spawning and postspawn stages, Maloney thinks that TBF contenders will be greeted by a mix of water conditions typical for Grand this time of year. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-20-top-10-baits-from-lake-murray

Top 10 Baits from Lake Murray

Competitors in the FLW College Fishing National Championship mostly targeted bass feeding on spawning blueback herring on shallow points and main-lake pockets. Across the board, herring-imitating baits such as soft jerkbaits, swimbaits, topwaters, wake baits and umbrella rigs dominated the event. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-20-jig-bite-carries-holmes-on-wateree

Jig Bite Carries Holmes on Wateree

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/news/2015-04-20-bryan-slows-down-for-chickamauga-win

Bryan Slows Down for Chickamauga Win

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/news/2015-04-20-morfis-dominates-with-34-pound-limit

Morfis Dominates With 34-Pound Limit

OKEECHOBEE, Fla. – Joshua Morfis of Cape Coral, Florida, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 34 pounds, 14 ounces Saturday to win the fourth Walmart Bass Fishing League Gator Division tournament of 2015 on Lake Okeechobee. For his victory, Morfis earned $6,336. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-20-salzman-cracks-31-pounds-on-guntersville

Salzman Cracks 31 Pounds on Guntersville

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