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2011 FLW College Fishing National Championship under way

The opening takeoff at the 2011 FLW College Fishing National Championship is about to commence.

HARDIN, Ky. - After successfully navigating a grueling year-long schedule, which included 20 regular-season qualifying events and five regional championships, the top 25 collegiate angling teams in the country now face their toughest competitive challenge to date - winning the National Guard FLW College Fishing National Championship title. Under the backdrop of a beautiful sunrise, calm winds and warm temperatures, the championship field departed Kenlake State Park Marina shortly after 7 a.m., pondering their strategies for taming Kentucky Lake in an attempt to outduel some of the stiffest competition they've faced in their young fishing careers.

However, it won't be easy. With water levels fluctuating as much as 10 feet over the past two weeks, the bass haven't yet committed to any discernable staging pattern. And for the field, that makes finding quality bass that much more difficult.

"The fishing is really tough right now - not exactly what people were expecting or hoping for," said University of Florida angler Jake Gipson, who walked away with the National Guard FLW College National Championship title along with teammate Matt Wercinski in 2010. "Two weeks ago when the water levels were up, it was a lot of fun. But right now I'd say the water is down about 8 feet, and the fish are really moving around. These bass were ready to spawn until he water dropped. And they're still waiting. They're just really scattered at this point.

"I think, overall, the bite will pick up as the week goes on," Gipson continued. "But a few weeks ago people were saying that it was going to take 18 to 20 pounds a day to qualify for the finals, but I don't think it's going to be that way at all. Now I think it will be more like 20 pounds over two days to make it. You're still going to see some good bags here and there, but I think it's going to take less weight to advance than most of us had earlier thought."

As a result of the unevenness of the bite, Gipson said that he believed the field will have plenty of different fishing options throughout the week.

The 2011 FLW College Fishing National Championship field gets ready for the start of the day"We're going to be throwing our entire tackle box at them," he said. "Right now we have a bit of everything tied on. We're also going to be fishing mostly new water today, looking for areas where the bass are getting ready to stage. I think, over the next few days, the bass will be moving up in shallower water."

While other teams can only dream of winning a national championship, Gipson knows firsthand what that experience is like after winning the title last season. And, not surprisingly, he'd be more than happy to relive that moment one more time.

"We're really excited to be back," he said. "To win the first-ever championship was awesome. But this is the last go-around for us as a team, so it'd mean a lot to win back-to-back titles because that would mean that all of our hard work paid off."

Tourney format and event logistics

The top 25 teams at the 2011 FLW College Fishing National Championship acknowledge the crowd before takeoff.The entire FLW College Fishing National Championship field will compete for two days with the top-five college teams advancing to the third and final day of competition based on their overall accumulated weight. Teams are permitted to bring as many as five fish to the scales during each weigh-in. After the conclusion of Saturday's weigh-in, the tournament title will be awarded to the college team that has recorded the most combined weight over all three days of competition.

The national championship winning team will receive $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 - for a total prize package valued at $100,000.

However, a tournament trophy and a lucrative prize package aren't the only things at stake this week. The winning team in the National Guard FLW College Fishing National Championship will also qualify for the Forrest Wood Cup - one of the most prestigious bass-fishing championships in the nation which boasts a top prize of $600,000. The winning team member with the heaviest total weight in the National Guard FLW College Fishing National Championship will compete in the pro division and the other member of the winning team will compete in the co-angler division of the Forrest Wood Cup - scheduled to be held Aug. 11-14 on Lake Ouachita in Hot Springs, Ark.

Day-one takeoff at the 2011 FLW College Fishing National Championship begins.Daily takeoffs for the national championship will be at 7 a.m. at Kenlake State Park Marina located at 888 Kenlake Marina Lane in Hardin, Ky. Daily weigh-ins will commence at 4 p.m. and will be held at the CFSB Center on the campus of Murray State University, located at 1401 State Route 121 North in Murray, Ky.

FLW Outdoors also will be hosting the College Fishing Festival, which runs from 2 to 4 p.m. Thursday and Friday (April 7-8) and noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday (April 9) at the CFSB Center. Activities include a sports zone, tailgate games, climbing wall and Ranger boat simulator. Bucky Covington will perform a free live concert on Saturday, April 9 at 2:30 p.m. at the CFSB Center prior to the final weigh-in and crowning of the national champions.

Bass-fishing fans take note

UNC Charlotte fans cheer on their team.Want to watch the inaugural national championship weigh-in live but can't make it in person? Then tune into FLW Live on FLWOutdoors.com shortly before 4 p.m. Central time to watch live streaming video and audio of today's opening-round weigh in.

Thursday's conditions

Sunrise: 6:31 a.m.
Temperature at takeoff: 55 degrees
Expected high temperature: 75 degrees
Water temperature: 57-60 degrees
Wind: S at 5-10 mph
Humidity: 60 percent
Day's outlook: partly cloudy

Related links:

Live on-the-water coverage
Event schedule
Meet the 2011 FLW College Fishing National Championship teams
College Fishing Festival
National Guard FLW College Fishing rankings

Tags: gary-mortenson  morning-story  2011-04-07-national-championship 

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