UPCOMING EVENT: Walmart FLW Tour - 2016 - Lake Okeechobee

Meet the Cardinals

The SUNY Plattsburgh team of Chris Benninger (right) of Grand Island, N.Y., and Richard Lee of Port Kent, N.Y., finished the FLW College Fishing Norhern Conference Championship in second place.

(Editor's note: Leading up to the 2013 FLW College Fishing National Championship - slated for April 19-21 on Beaver Lake in Rodgers, Ark. - CollegeFishing.com will publish weekly, in-depth features stories of each of the 25 national championship team qualifiers. At stake in the tournament is a first-place prize package that includes $30,000 in cash, a brand new, Ranger Z-117 bass boat and an automatic berth in the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup.)

Name: Richard Lee (pictured on left)
Class: Senior
Major: Ecology and Biology
Hometown: Port Kent, N.Y.
Other interests: I coach men's college soccer, I played college soccer and baseball. I'm a big movie person and I just enjoy hanging out with my friends.lunteer fireman, college swimming, triathlons, hunting, skiing and boating.

Name: Christopher Benninger (pictured on right)
Class: Graduate student
Major: Elementary/Special Education grades B-6
Hometown: Grand Island, N.Y.
Other interests: I enjoy just about everything outdoors. I like to hunt, swim, play soccer, hike and spend time with friends and family.


Club Web site: http://psufishing.com/ or contact us on Facebook at Suny Plattsburgh bass fishing on Facebook

Q&A

CollegeFishing.com: How were you introduced to fishing?

Richard Lee: My father used to take me fishing all the time when I was younger, but I recently just took up the sport again about a year and a half ago. That's when I really got into fishing exclusively for bass.

Christopher Benninger: I was introduced to fishing through my dad when I was younger. I started off trout fishing in little streams and that lead into walleye fishing as well as the occasional bass-fishing trip. It was not until my first year at Plattsburgh State where I became hooked on bass fishing. As one of the original founding members of the club, I became a very passionate about the sport and rather knowledgeable. If it was not for one of my good friends Mitch Davis, who was the founding president of our club, I do not think I would be where I am today.

CollegeFishing.com: What style/method of fishing are you most comfortable with?

Richard Lee: I like to power fish, covering as much water as possible using a crankbait or a jerkbait, but I am really beginning to like structure fishing and drop-shotting. In my mind though, there is nothing better than the early spring or the fall when the smallmouth really crush a jerkbait.

Christopher Benninger: I am a die-hard drop-shot fisherman. I would fish deep for smallmouth any and every day if I could. But over the years, I have taken the time to work on other techniques like power fishing with spinnerbaits, crankbaits and jigs - where I have become very comfortable using them when needed.

CollegeFishing.com: What did it feel like to qualify for the 2013 FLW College Fishing National Championship? How do you plan to prepare for the big event?

Richard Lee: It felt amazing to qualify for the biggest tournament of my life. I've just about watched every FLW show to date and to be able to be on a stage of this magnitude feels amazing. Through watching how the pros perform out on the water, it makes me go out with an open mind - and just do research and look at previous tournaments to prepare myself for the national championship. And just like David Dudley always says, the biggest thing is to just have an open mind and don't ever count anything out.

Christopher Benninger: It was a dream come true. I had been trying to qualify for the regionals for the last four years and during my last year I finally made it. That was the most exciting thing I have ever experienced. However, once we made it down to Philpot Lake and pre-fished the first day, we couldn't catch a fish for the life of us. So on tournament day we decided to just go fishing - and hopefully try to figure something out. Boy did it pay off. We found a pattern that no one else was fishing. We pounded the shoreline throwing a weighted wacky hooked Senko and skipped it into the trees. I couldn't tell you how many hooks we lost, but it was well worth it. We were able to catch enough fish to put us into third place after day one.

We continued to do the same thing the second day, where we squeaked off another five-fish limit. That proved to be enough to keep us in third place and qualify for the National Championship. On day three we decided to change it up and fish deep. It was a much slower day, and we caught a few fish here and there but we had trouble initially getting our five-fish limit. So we decided to go back to our original pattern. Finally, we're able to pick up a couple more fish to get our limit. We then decided to move out to deeper water to try to upgrade with a bigger fish or two and it ended up paying off. We culled out a 12-inch largemouth and replaced it with a 16-inch largemouth, which was enough to keep us in the running. The experience was like no other. My teammate Rickey and I are so excited to go down and represent our school, our state and our region in the biggest college fishing event ever.

As for preparing for the National Championship, I have been and plan to continue to do all of the research I can about the lake and its fishery. I will not have the opportunity to pre-fish before the event because I will be student teaching in New York City and will not be able to take time off. However, I plan on contacting local tackle shops and fishing guides and will be asking as many questions as I can to help give myself an idea of where and how we will be fishing.

CollegeFishing.com: Tell us something interesting about yourself that most people wouldn't know.

Richard Lee: I fished on my first bass boat just this past spring. This summer was the first time I have ever fished in a tournament. I also work for the Lake Champlain Research Institute.

Christopher Benninger: I am a passionate steelhead fisherman. And when bass fishing season is "over," you can find me out in a stream fly fishing. I will be out there in the rain, snow and even when most of the stream is covered in ice.

Tags: gary-mortenson  road-to-the-championship 

/tips/2016-02-05-an-ill-wind-at-okeechobee-

An Ill Wind at Okeechobee?

The wind can be a bass fisherman’s best friend or worst enemy. On its best behavior, it creates a temporary current, positions baitfish and helps an angler move around more stealthily in shallow water. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-02-04-aquatic-plant-id

Aquatic Plant ID

Val Osinski, the owner of Gambler Lures and winner of the 2015 Costa FLW Series event on the lake, knows as much about the Big O as anyone and is an expert on finding and targeting bass in its various grasses. When we had the opportunity to ride along with him for a tour of the lake and to learn to identify some of the grasses, it was a no-brainer to accept. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-02-02-poche-services-set

Poche Services Set

Funeral services for Dylan Poche, the 18-year-old Bass Fishing League angler who was stabbed to death Saturday night, are scheduled for Thursday at 2 p.m. at Freedom Life Church in Natchitoches, La. Visitation will take place at Freedom Life beginning at 5 p.m. Wednesday. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-02-02-time-to-shine-for-setzer

Time to Shine for Setzer

With three years on Tour and a Co-angler of the Year (COY) award under his belt, Braxton Setzer believes now is his time to start casting from the front. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-02-01-ambassador

Ambassador

READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-29-glenn-browne-s-timeout-is-over-

Glenn Browne’s Timeout is Over

By his own admission, Glenn Browne isn’t the most organized guy. After the Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division opener on Lake Okeechobee, he spent hours returning stuff to its proper place and tossing out the usual flotsam and jetsam that accumulates in a bass boat during a tournament. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-28-flw-podcast-109-mike-surman

FLW Podcast 109 - Mike Surman

READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-28-john-cox-gives-himself-a-makeover

John Cox Gives Himself a Makeover

Last fall there was a rumor going around that John Cox was entering the electronics age and souping up his boat with sonar gear. Just to clear the air, the Florida pro reports that though he did flirt with the notion of incorporating an offshore strategy centered on depth finders into his act, he eventually abandoned the idea. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-27-austin-felix-is-ready-for-the-big-time

Austin Felix is Ready for the Big Time

Back in the spring of 2014, Austin Felix and his University of Minnesota teammate Chris Burgan were on the top of the FLW College Fishing world. With a win in the National Championship on Lake Keowee, Felix was headed to the Forrest Wood Cup as a pro. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-27-flw-canada-sets-tournament-sites-dates

FLW Canada Sets Tournament Sites, Dates

FLW Canada, one of four partners in FLW’s International Division of the Costa FLW Series, recently released its 2016 tournament schedule. The season includes three two-day regular-season qualifying events and a three-day championship. Anglers fish as two-person teams. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-26-jigging-spoons-for-winter-bass

Jigging Spoons for Winter Bass

Of course, the application of the spoon hinges on finding bass in the first place, which is the biggest challenge. Walmart FLW Tour pros Jason Johnson and Clark Reehm are experts at finding winter bass in their respective regions of the country and offer FLW readers some advice on where to look and how to get them to bite the spoon. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-24-how-bryan-thrift-got-to-be-so-good

How Bryan Thrift Got to be so Good

My No. 1 focus out here is to support my family and make a living. Whatever I have to do to make that happen, I’m going to make a valiant effort. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-22-high-school-fishing-makes-the-grade

High School Fishing Makes the Grade

Jacob Smith and Daniel Clark are typical teenagers, at least in everything except bass fishing. In that, they are above average, as the two juniors from Travelers Rest High School in South Carolina proved in the TBF/FLW High School Fishing Florida Open held Jan. 17 on Lake Okeechobee. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-22-flw-mexico-at-the-starting-gate

FLW Mexico at the Starting Gate

Our excitement is so great that we wanted to share this important news with all of you. Believe me, fishermen in Mexico are talking it up as if it were dock talk surrounding the Forrest Wood Cup. What really matters at the end of the line is knowing that FLW is showing its true devotion to promoting bass fishing and making it a truly international sport. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-22-making-the-case-for-haynes-as-aoy

Making the Case for Haynes as AOY

As many have noted, the Walmart FLW Tour schedule for this season looks a lot like it did in 2014. Back then, in his sophomore year on Tour, Randy Haynes had one of the strangest seasons you’ll ever see. He finished 104th at Okeechobee, 149th at Sam Rayburn (ouch) and cranked out top-30 finishes everywhere else. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-21-flw-podcast-108-jason-lambert

FLW Podcast 108 - Jason Lambert

READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-20-bfl-choo-choo-division-postponed

BFL Choo Choo Division Postponed

The FLW Bass Fishing League (BFL) Choo Choo Division tournament on Lake Guntersville originally scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 23 has been postponed due to impending inclement weather. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-20-tigerodz-aligns-with-auburn-team

TIGERODZ Aligns With Auburn Team

Custom fishing rod manufacturer TIGERODZ of Scottsboro, Ala., has signed an agreement to become the official rod brand for the Auburn University Bass Sports Club. Scott Dobbins, president of TIGERODZ, is an Auburn alum, and he says the pairing involved a natural progression of involvement. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-20-becoming-aware-of-your-angler-strengths

Becoming Aware of Your Angler Strengths

The ongoing sentiment among fishermen is that versatility is the key to becoming a successful professional angler. While I’m certain that statement holds some weight, I think there is an alternate perspective that is worth entertaining. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-18-pundits-picks-for-aoy

Pundits Picks for AOY

Winning the Angler of the Year title is a tremendous feat. It can solidify a budding career or affirm a veteran’s status among the best. It also comes with a hefty reward – $100,000 and early entry into the 2017 Forrest Wood Cup. READ MORE »