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Trio of K-State Teams Eyes Title

Trio of K-State Teams Eyes Title
The Kansas State Wildcats bass club qualified three teams for the 2016 FLW College Fishing National Championship. The anglers include (top, L-R) Quinn Fowler, Kyle Alsop and Dylan McKee and (bottom, L-R) Taylor Bivins, Lance Maldonado and Ethan Dhuyvetter.

It’s not what they have; it’s what they don’t have.

No doubt, the three teams representing Kansas State University at the FLW College Fishing National Championship on South Carolina’s Lake Keowee March 17-19 are pretty lean on opportunities to get good at what got them to the show. But that limitation has actually become an asset.

Just ask Lance Maldonado of Chapman, Kan., who graduated last spring and will conclude his College Fishing career on Keowee.

“Kansas lakes make you fish harder and understand the fish a little better because there aren’t very many of them,” Maldonado says. “You have to go out every day and figure out what they’re doing, not just pick a random spot and go catch a fish.”

Maldonado says that premise unites the K-State anglers and perpetuates a mutually beneficial drive.

“We coordinate well with each other, but we’re highly competitive,” he says. “Fishing against each other makes us better and better. Steel sharpens steel.”

Maldonado’s partner, Ethan Dhuyvetter, also graduated in 2015. He agrees it’s the slim pickings that helped produce such a strong group of anglers.

“We have to deal with a lot of adversity when it comes to fishing,” Dhuyvetter explains. “We don’t always have a great lake to fish, but we have to figure out where that limited population of fish lives.

“They’re really not easy to find nor easy to catch, so we have to get out there and grind. So I think work ethic comes into play,” he adds. “You may have an easier time catching fish somewhere like Alabama, but you spend a lot more time looking in Kansas than you do catching.”

Joining Maldonado and Dhuyvetter at the National Championship on Keowee are teammates Kyle Alsop and Taylor Bivins, and Quinn Fowler and Dylan McKee. The six Kansans combined to tie with Tennessee’s Bethel University for the most teams qualified for the 2016 National Championship.

Ethan Dhuyvetter (left) and Lance Maldonado have had successful FLW College Fishing careers that include several top-10 finishes each, plus a prior National Championship appearance for Maldonado. They'll lead a trio of K-State Wildcat teams this week at Lake Keowee.

Funded Fishing

Now this is hardly Kansas State’s first rodeo, and evidence of it piscatorial pedigree has provided an economic cushion that has proven helpful to the program’s development.

Spring 2012 saw Wildcat angler Ryan Patterson single-handedly win the National Championship on Lake Murray after his teammate and brother, Brandon, transferred from K-State. Ryan’s victory earned $50,000 cash, a Ranger 177TR with a 90-hp engine for his school’s bass club and $25,000 for Kansas State University.

“When we got the funding from FLW after Ryan won, that helped our club tremendously,” Maldonado says. “We’ve been able to go fish and not worry about paying out of pocket. It’s a lot easier to fish when you’re doing it for free. You have no worries but school and fishing.”

K-State anglers Quinn Fowler (left) and Dylan McKee will compete in their first FLW College Fishing National Championship this week.

Why They’re Good

Notwithstanding the developmental value of learning to maximize meager opportunities, Maldonado says the club’s home waters – mostly shallow fisheries; some with grass – offer other learning opportunities that help them develop their skills. For starters, they face a range of clarities.

“You can travel 10 miles and fish a lake with 2 feet of visibility and then travel another 50 miles and fish a lake with 10 feet of visibility,” he says. “I guess that helps with the versatility.”

Maldonado is also fond of Milford Lake, the state’s largest. Devoid of grass and lean on wood, this rocky reservoir holds largemouth and smallmouth bass with seasonal prevalence in spring and summer, respectively. Learning to focus on both – at the appropriate times – sets them up for success when they encounter either species on the road.

Of course, it’s not only bass that help them hone their skills.

“We do a lot of multi-species fishing with crappie, walleyes, stripers and hybrids [striped and white bass],” says Dhuyvetter. “You learn more about lure action and presentations when you have several different species. It all relates back to bass fishing.”

Beyond the fish and lakes, Kansas lakes practically guarantee angling company — another point of awareness for those aspiring to fish the often-crowded waters of major national fisheries.

“You always have pressure around you, and the lake’s always getting beaten up,” Maldonado says. “You have to make little tweaks to your fishing to get that competitive advantage.”

Complementing their home-state experience, several K-State anglers will also fish local tournaments on Missouri powerhouses such as Lake of the Ozarks, Truman and Table Rock.

“I think that fishing those lakes over the summer helps us learn how to break down a big lake and figure them out,” Maldonado explains. “It can be overwhelming going to a new body of water. There’s so much to it that you don’t know where to start.”

Rounding out the K-State squad are Taylor Bivins (right) and Kyle Alsop, both first-time National Championship qualifiers.

Outlook and Expectations

Maldonado says he’s expecting to see Keowee’s water temperature reaching into spawning range. If not throughout the entire lake, he’s expecting the warm-water outfall from Duke Energy’s Oconee Nuclear Station to stimulate some spawning movement.

Based on his lake study, Maldonado says he’ll first look at long tapering points at the mouths of feeder creeks in 15 to 40 feet.

“I hear there’s not much brush in that lake, so if we pull up to our first spot and we find some brush and catch a 3-pound spotted bass right away, we’ll probably be idling around a lot,” he says. “The ideal game plan would be to get a limit of spots fairly quickly and then go largemouth fishing the rest of the day.”

Perhaps fueled by the not-so-distant memory of Patterson’s triumph, along with the numerical benefit of qualifying three teams to the championship, Maldonado’s allowing himself to indulge some hopeful thoughts of a second national title for Kansas State.

“It would mean the world. It would be great recognition because we have three teams qualified,” Maldonado says. “It will definitely make a statement that we’re one of the top schools in the nation for fishing.

“Not many people think of Kansas as a place to develop good fishermen,” he adds. “We don’t have much for lakes, and no major tournament events come here. We don’t have the best practice waters, but we’re still producing good fishermen.”

Dhuyvetter adds this: “We know what it feels like as a school and as a team; and after we tasted it, all we could think about was getting it again. We all dream about being that top dog.”

Tags: kansas-state  lance-maldonado  ethan-dhuyvetter  kyle-alsop  taylor-bivins  quinn-fowler  dylan-mckee  david-a-brown  pre-tournament  2016-03-17-lake-keowee 

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