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FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

The rise of War Eagle Nation

The rise of War Eagle Nation
Auburn University teammates Matt (left) and Jordan Lee show off their first-place catch after the second day of competition at the 2012 FLW College Fishing National Championship.

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Although Auburn University has had their fair share of stellar finishes at the National Guard FLW College Fishing National Championship over the past two seasons, netting third-place finishes in both 2010 and 2011, the school has never been able to hoist the most important trophy in all of collegiate fishing.

But that could be about to change.

Bolstered by a healthy two-day catch of 32 pounds, 4 ounces, the latest incarnation of the Auburn University team - comprised of brothers Matt and Jordan Lee - has now grabbed the overall lead in this year's national championship with only one more day of competition remaining. Throw in the fact that the duo has forged a 31/2 -pound lead over their next closest rival and it's clear that this time, Auburn just might be able to claim the sport's top collegiate prize.

"We feel good. It's a lot better than being in second place," said Jordan Lee. "We couldn't feel better about our chances going into the last day. We had a good day today and hopefully we'll have another one tomorrow. We really want to win this thing."

Jordan's partner and brother agreed.

"It's awesome," said Matt Lee. "To have a 31/2-pound lead heading into the finals is exactly where we wanted to be."

While most of the top teams atop the leaderboard struggled to match their previous day's efforts - due in large part to the much shorter day of competition today - Auburn still managed to boat a stellar 15-pound, 12-ounce catch, the second largest sack of the day.

"It was still a really tough day for us," said Matt Lee. "Murray changed a lot and we had to adjust. I think we went three hours without one bite today but we also managed to catch three pretty quickly. Our goal was to stay in the hunt and did that. We put a lot of hard work into this, but the hardest part is making sure that you don't lose the tournament on the first two days. Now we don't have to worry about that anymore. We just have to go out there and catch them tomorrow."

However, the Auburn team is well aware that, on Lake Murray, a 31/2- pound lead is far from safe.

"It could be really tough out there tomorrow," cautioned Matt Lee. "There will be a lot of weekend boat traffic and I think there is a fishing derby as well. So anything can happen out there. But if we can catch 16 pounds in the finals, it's going to be tough for somebody to catch us. I think, even if it's tough, we can still scrap together about 15 pounds. But if we can get 16 pounds or more, I think we're going to be feeling pretty good about ourselves."

Patterson makes history

Ryan Patterson of Kansas State boated a tournament-best limit weighing 17-pound, 8-ounce in today's competition to leapfrog from 13th to second place overall with a total, two-day catch of 28 pounds, 14 ounces. Patterson became the first angler fishing solo to qualify for the finals of the FLW College Fishing National Championship.While Auburn's two-day catch was impressive, in many respects the feat paled in comparison to the one-man show put on by Kansas State's Ryan Patterson. Fishing by himself - a direct result of losing his brother and partner, Brandon Patterson to issues surrounding eligibility - Ryan Patterson put on a performance for the ages. Fishing solo, Patterson boated a tournament-best limit weighing 17-pound, 8-ounce in today's competition to leapfrog from 13th to second place overall with a total, two-day catch of 28 pounds, 14 ounces.

The feat was so remarkable that even front-running Auburn University teammates acknowledged the effort.

"If (Ryan) comes back with 18 or 19 pounds tomorrow and beasts us, then he totally deserves it," said Matt Lee. "His performance today was just unreal."

As for Patterson himself, he said it was just a function of being focused and putting in the hard work necessary to be successful.

"I just put my head down and fished my tail off for two days," said Patterson. "Coming into the tournament I just decided that I was going to fish a certain way and not worry about anything else. I made a lot of good decisions. I fished cleanly and worked hard. In the end, I just had an awesome day today. And that's all you can ask for. My goal was to make the top five and I did that. It really means a lot to me to get this done."

Patterson also made a bit of history - becoming the first and only college angler to qualify for the finals of the national championship fishing exclusively by himself.

"It's a big relief for me," he said. "It's really special. I really wanted to be able to fish for (the top prize of) $100,000. So it's great. I'm really excited to be the first person ever to do this. But tomorrow, I'm going to go out there and I'm going to fish to win."

Patterson, who only brought four fish to the scales in yesterday's competition, said an elusive big bass made all the difference in today's competition.

"I only had four fish yesterday and I missed a big one," he said. "But today I went back to the same spot and caught it. It was just an amazing day."

So what does the Lone Piscatorial Ranger think about his chances in tomorrow's final day of competition?

"I'm only 3 1/2 pounds behind and that's only one fish on this lake," he said. "So yeah, I'm fishing to win. And if I can pull this off tomorrow, it's definitely the start of something special. I really want to do this for a living. And you need to be able to fish by yourself if you want to be successful in this sport."

Clemson falls to third

Although the Clemson University team of Andy Wicker and Harold Turner weren't able to hold onto their day-one lead, the duo's 28-pound, 9-ounce catch still leaves them within striking distance of the title.

"I just wish we could have caught a few more big ones today. It was actually a pretty frustrating day for me today," said Wicker. "But we're definitely happy to have qualified for the top five. We're about 4 pounds behind so we're going to have to fish hard to catch (Auburn). We're going to have to keep running and gunning and hopefully, pull up on the right points at the right time."

Wicker said for their squad to be successful, the wind most likely will have to be blowing - and blowing hard.

"The wind is definitely key for us," said Wicker. "I'm actually hoping it blows 30 mph tomorrow. Today it only blew for about an hour. That and the shorter day really hurt us. But hopefully that wind blows tomorrow and we'll be able to catch them. Right now, we've been throwing everything we can at them. And we'll probably do the same thing in the finals."

Kennesaw maintains hold on fourth place

After day two of competition, the Kennesaw State University team of Thomas Frink and Justin Marlow found themselves in exactly the same position they started the day - back in fourth place. However, this time, the duo will have a little more ground to make up - almost 4 pounds - in order to have a shot at the title.

"I just felt like it was a little tougher out there today," said Frink, whose team boated a total, two-day weight of 28 pounds, 5 ounces. "We didn't get quite as many bites. And we're pretty worried coming back to weigh-in. I actually thought we didn't have a chance to make the cut. But then I started seeing that a lot of the other teams struggled out there as well today. I didn't want to get my hopes up. So now that we're in the finals, I'm pretty relieved."

The Kennesaw State team said that local boater traffic didn't exactly help their chances.

"We had a lot of pressure on our areas today," said Marlow. "When we got to our first point, we found three or four boats on it. And it was like that pretty much all day. So tonight, we're going to try and regroup a little bit and then go out there tomorrow and try to fish our best. But we're definitely hoping for a baby Jesus Christmas miracle."

Frink believes that it just might take less than a miracle to pull off the title.

"We're about (4 pounds) behind," said Frink. "And on this lake, it's definitely a doable deficit to make up."

Virginia Tech grabs final spot

Bolstered by a total catch of 27 pounds, 4 ounces, the Virginia Tech squad of Wyatt Blevins and Carson Rejzer finished the day claiming the fifth and last spot in the finals. And they couldn't have been more relieved.

"It was real close, but in the end we finally did it," said Rejzer. "It took me three years to finally get here. It's been a rough road, but we made it. It's very satisfying."

In 2010, the Virginia Tech squad missed the final championship cut by 11/2 pounds. Then in 2011, one bad day sunk their proverbial title hopes once again. But this time, even though they had to sweat out the results from a few teams at the end, they cruised into the finals by a healthy 4-pound margin.

So, now that they've finally qualified for the finals, do they think they have a shot at the title?

"We're going to do the same thing tomorrow," said Rejzer. "We're on some good fish but the shorter day killed us today. I think tomorrow, with the longer day and ability to fish our spots a lot harder, we definitely have a chance."

Rejzer's teammate agreed.

"Our better bites are coming later in the day, so the short day today was tough for us," he said. "We'll just have to fish hard and see what happens."

For a list of complete results, click here.

Tourney format and event logistics

A packed crowd was on hand to witness the day-two weigh-in at the 2012 National Guard FLW College Fishing National Championship.The top-five college teams have now advanced to the third and final day of competition based on their overall accumulated weight. After the conclusion of Sunday'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 this year's Forrest Wood Cup - one of the most prestigious bass-fishing championships in the nation. The 2012 Forrest Wood Cup will be held Aug. 9-12 on Lake Lanier in Duluth, Ga., and boasts a top prize of $500,000. The national champions also will receive use of a wrapped boat and Chevy truck for Forrest Wood Cup competition.

2012 National Guard FLW College Fishing National Championship action resumes at 7 a.m. Saturday morning from Park Site No. 8 (North), located at 2101 N. Lake Drive in Columbia, S.C.

Related links:

Event schedule
Meet the 2012 FLW College Fishing National Championship teams
FLW Tailgate Zone

Tags: gary-mortenson  headline-story  2012-04-13-lake-murray 

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