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Competition Drives Laufenberg and Stout

Competition Drives Laufenberg and Stout
Winona State's Cade Laufenberg and Wyatt Stout nailed 17 pounds, 8 ounces on day one to take 4th place. The top 10 after Friday get to fish in the championship round Saturday.

For Winona State University’s Cade Laufenberg and Wyatt Stout, the upcoming 2016 FLW College Fishing National Championship on South Carolina’s Lake Keowee will be a bittersweet experience.

On the one hand, it offers them the opportunity to add a crowning win to their already stellar careers as college anglers. On the other, however, it represents their last chance to hold up a champion’s trophy as a team because Laufenberg, age 24, has already graduated.

While fishing as the top team in Winona State’s formidable bass club (Laufenberg fished previously with other club members, dating back to 2011), the pair has won two FLW Conference Championship crowns, scored numerous top-five finishes and finished in 11th place at the 2015 National Championship.

The end of the partnership is near for Laufenberg and Stout, but the experiences they’ve had and friendships they’ve made have launched them both on fast tracks to success in the fishing world as well as life in general.

“For me, College Fishing has been about so much more than just the fishing,” Laufenberg says. “I’ve gotten opportunities to travel across the country, to see places and meet people that I otherwise wouldn’t have. I’ve made some lifelong friends, because the atmosphere is just as much about camaraderie as it is about competition.”

That’s not to say there was a lack of competition in the boat once the tournaments got underway.

“Though we’ve become really good friends with many anglers through the college angling programs, it all goes away once we’re on the water,” adds Stout, a junior biology major. “Every one of those teams has the same goals we do, and they’re out there working just as hard to beat us. Once we’re done weighing our fish, though, we just relax and have a great time with pretty much everyone we’ve met. That’s the one thing that I think makes College Fishing unique. In some other circuits I’ve fished, the anglers are much less welcoming off the water.”

Competition amongst the rival teams is one thing, but Laufenberg and Stout also fish against each other, whether it’s in local or club tournaments.

“It’s our competitive natures, I think, that have allowed us to be so successful as a team,” says Stout. “Whether we’re fishing a weeknight club event or the National Championship, Cade and I are always trying to beat each other, and that’s what drives us when we’re fishing. If I catch a bass, Cade is always trying to catch a bigger one, and we just go at it like that all day, while working to get the best limit we can.”

Although each is quick to credit the other’s skill at catching bass, another factor in their sustained success is that they have different strengths, which allows the Winona State Warrior team to be one of the most versatile in the 2016 championship. And it’s a reason for their successes through the years on vastly different bodies of water – the Mississippi River in Wisconsin, Carlyle Lake in Illinois and Kentucky Lake among them.

“We’re both river rats,” Laufenberg says, “but we definitely have different strengths. I’m a fast mover and a power fisherman. I prefer to cover as much water as possible while fishing. Wyatt, on the other hand, is super patient, and he’s deadly with a jig or slower presentation. Because of that, no matter where we are one of us is usually able to capitalize and put fish in the boat.”

Cade Laufenberg and Wyatt Stout of Winona State University jumped from 14th to first place to win the Central Conference Invitational on Kentucky Lake.

Looking ahead

Both Laufenberg and Stout are licking their chops about the upcoming championship and its ultimate prize – a trip to the 2016 Forrest Wood Cup.

“I think both of us look at this as an opportunity to join the other college anglers that have made names for themselves in the industry after college,” Stout says. “Making the Forrest Wood Cup would be a dream come true, and it would open doors for us in the industry that we otherwise wouldn’t have.”

At the FLW College Fishing National Championship, the entire field fishes the first two days, before being cut to the top 10 teams for day three. The championship is then decided by cumulative three-day weight.

On the day after the tournament, the two anglers of the winning team will square off against one another on an undisclosed lake in a single-day fish-off dubbed the “Battle of the Champions.” They’ll weigh their fish on the Walmart FLW Tour stage before the final Tour weigh-in at the Lake Hartwell event, and the winner will receive a berth in the Cup as a pro.

For Laufenberg, a bid for the Championship is the only thing driving him. It’s his last chance.

“I’ve really got all my chips riding on this,” he says. “I mowed grass and did odd jobs for neighbors to save enough for my first boat at age 12, and ever since I was 5 years old I’ve known that fishing competitively was my end goal. This is my best chance to date, so I’m not going to leave anything on the table.”

Whether they are crowned champions or not, Laufenberg and Stout are confident that their friendship will endure, and that they are better anglers from working – and competing – with each other, and as a result of their FLW College Fishing experience as a whole.

“It’s going to be weird next year not fishing with Wyatt,” Laufenberg adds, “but I’m sure we’ll be going head-to-head for many years to come in BFLs, Costa FLW Series events or, hopefully, the FLW Tour.”

Tags: cade-laufenberg  wyatt-stout  flw-college-fishing  college-fishing  national-championship  tj-maglio  pre-tournament  2016-03-17-lake-keowee 

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