UPCOMING EVENT: T-H Marine BFL - 2020 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir

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Final exam

Final exam
The final day of tournament competition at the 2011 FLW College Fishing National Championship is under way.

HARDIN, Ky. - After a grueling 12 months of competition that spanned parts of two calendar years, the top-five FLW College Fishing National Championship contenders have finally reached the day they've been dreaming of for quite some time. With everything on the line during today's competition - including a first-place purse of $100,000, automatic entry into the 2011 Forrest Wood Cup and recognition as the best collegiate fishing team in the nation - anglers departed Kenlake State Park Marina under an unbelievable amount of pressure.

In short, today's action will be a final exam like no other they have faced before.

With the University of Florida team of Jake Gipson and Matthew Wercinski clinging to a 1-pound, 11-ounce lead, the Gators have their sights set on making history once again, attempting to become the first team to pull off the unprecedented feat of winning back-to-back national championship titles.

However, while the Gators are fishing as well as any team in the nation, there are plenty of contenders who stand in their way - namely the second-place qualifying team of Zach Caudle and Joe Landry from LSU-Shreveport. And to be sure, they have no intention of ceding anything to their neighbors to the east.

"The bite can change up for any one of us today so any one of the teams in the finals can win the title," said Landry, whose team posted a two-day catch of 25 pounds, 9 ounces. "This lake has plenty of big fish in it and you can definitely catch 20 pounds if things go your way. We'll have the same gameplan today that we've had all week. We're basically targeting bass in 4 to 20 feet of water (that have been adhering to a) certain type of rock. If we can find some spots like that, we can definitely win the title. We've been one of the most consistent teams in this tournament and I think if we can catch 14 pounds, it's going to be a real nail-biter."

Landry's partner agreed.

"With this lake, you're really only one swing away at all times," said Caudle. "It's going to come down to who gets those big bites today - that's going to be the difference between winning a national championship and not winning."

Despite having to make up a 6-pound-plus deficit entering the final day of competition, fifth-place contenders Ben Dziwulski and Kevin Beverley of N.C. State believe they are in reach of a title as well - assuming a little luck comes their way.

"This lake is very capable of producing 20-pound stringers," said Beverley. "If we can just get the fish to the boat, we'll have a chance."

"We've lost a few fish over the past two days that really would have helped us," said Dziwulski. "But we're looking forward, not backward right now. "

Tourney format and event logistics

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.

College fishing fans cheer on their favorite teams shortly before final takeoff on Kentucky Lake.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.

Saturday's weigh-in 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 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

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.

Vital statistics:

Sunrise: 6:28 a.m.
Temperature at takeoff: 71 degrees
Expected high temperature: 87 degrees
Water temperature: 57-60 degrees
Wind: From the south-southwest at 10 mph with wind gusts to 20 mph
Humidity: 63 percent
Day's outlook: Chance of isolated thunderstorms

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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