Bassmaster College National Championship State Qualifier

November 17-18 2018 Sam Rayburn

Before we left on this trip my cousin Jack was playing a game with my mom and she won the game. He gave her a quarter for winning. She told him to keep it and save it. He looked at it and said, “It has a fish on it”. Jack insisted that my mom give it to me or Grant for good luck. She told him she would give it to the first son that she saw when she got home. It just happened to be me. I came home and she gave it to me to take on the fishing trip. Little did I know what a good luck charm, this fish quarter would be.

Day 1

When I left the house, I felt confident that we could win the tournament. Trey and I were really excited. This was going to be our first college tournament and we were representing Texas A&M Galveston. My brother, Grant was representing Texas A&M College Station. This is the first tournament that we would fish together in a school tournament since the Montgomery High School tournament in 2015. Grant and I had both practiced pre-fishing but the real competition was about to start.

It was Saturday morning and a crisp 48 degrees. Grant and John were #7 in the first flight and Trey and I were #42 in the last flight. There were 58 teams fishing and only 2 would qualify for a spot to go to the Bassmaster College Series National Championship in the summer of 2019. This was the first tournament that Outlaw Outdoors put on for teams to qualify for the National Championship. They will begin doing these tournaments 4 times a year since the students are not always able to travel to the other states since they are studying in college. Most of the tournaments are really far away in other states. The closest one from Texas is in Arkansas. This is a long way for us to travel when we are in school and have finals and projects that are due. It is also a long time on the road and you have to go a few days early to practice to be able to win. We knew there would be tough competition to try to make it into the top 2 of the tournament. Trey and I just had to do our best and focus on winning the tournament.

The tournament director called our number and we took off to our first spot up north. Trey had his rod next to him ready to go. You could hear the clanking from the blades of the Alabama Rig as the wind ripped over the boat. He noticed that the seat next to him was not buttoned down. He decided to button it down so it would not fly up and hit him. Trey turned around focusing on getting the seat strapped down and secured before we took off. When he got turned back around and we were running to our spot he noticed something seemed odd and then he realized he did not hear the blades spinning and that is when he discovered his rod was gone. It went overboard. Trey told me sometimes bad stuff has to happen before the good stuff. He said, “My day can only get better than this”. It was the only Alabama rig he had and he wanted to use it. Oh well it was gone now and he had to decide on a different bait. I would use my Alabama rig and he was forced to try something different. Trey decided to use a jerk bait, which caught the majority of the fish when we first started. I got the bigger bites on the Alabama rig.

We were fishing deep in the morning and by 8:45 a.m. Trey and I had two 3 pounders and three 2 ½ pounders. We were off to a good start. I even caught two fish on the Alabama rig at one time. That was two keepers that were about 3 pounds each. That was really awesome, but we knew we had to do better and catch bigger fish. Joe Beebee and his partner Chad Mrazek were fishing nearby and we knew they would have a big bag. He has been in several tournaments on this lake and has done very well. At 9:30 a.m. we decided to go down south to try to catch bigger fish. We fished shallow in the afternoon in the hydrilla when it warmed up. At this time, we upgraded all our fish except for one, catching a total of 15 fish. Trey caught both his 5 pounders on a chatter bait between noon and one. We fished Caney to see if we could upgrade looking for new water for the next day.

Joe Beebee weighed his fish in and the total bag weight was 18.89. Then Thor and Rudiger weighed in at 20.07 pounds. Then the Texas A&M teams came in. Grant and John came in with 12.06 and Shane Stafford and Grant Adams came in with 16.71 pounds. We knew we were close to 19 pounds because we had two 5 pounders and three 3 pounders. Trey put the bag on the scale and we were so excited when we saw the number 20.40. There were still a few boats coming in and we were just holding our breath that we would stay in first place. We ended up with the biggest bag of the day, but we still had day two to go. As you know things can change quickly so we had to fish as hard as the first day and stay focused to do our best.

Day 2

Today we went back to the same spot as the 1st day. We caught a bunch of fish, leaving the creek with 3 keepers in the boat. I had another fish, but it got hooked in the gill and it might not have made it later and it would have cost us some weight so I decided to take a chance and let him go. I hated having to do that because the fish today were smaller and harder to catch and that one was 3.25 pounds.

Then we went down south and fished a ton of new water. Didn’t catch anything that would help. We decided to go back to the creek where we were catching bigger ones on the prior day and ran new water and also hit some of the same water and caught a 4 pounder. We culled 3 fish on brand new water. My very last cast as well as the last minute of the tournament on the way out I caught a fish in the grass on a point with a chatter bait. It felt big. I think that was because he was swimming through the grass. We saw it jump and knew we had to put it in the boat. We were able to cull the smallest fish, threw the bigger one in the well, strapped down the rods and threw on our life jackets. Trey looked at the time and was worried we might get there late. Trey and I fished to the very last second. That is what you are supposed to do. We left the creek with 20 minutes till check in going 65 mph over decent size waves. It was a really rough ride but we were determined to give it our best shot till the last minute in hopes of doing well and staying focused. We got to the check in 4 minutes before our time was up. That is cutting it a little too close, but worth it this time.

The second day was a lot tougher day to fish for us. We were nervous and I was praying. Trey and I wanted to win this tournament.

Here are the stories from my brother, Grant and his partner John, Kyle and Mason and Joe and Chad. These are all my friends that I have fished with since the beginning of high school.

Grant and John

We found a pattern but did not find many good fish in practice for the tournament. We just kinda knew what they should be doing with a typical fall pattern so we just decided to go where we were confident the first day of the tournament. We were boat #7 the first day of the tournament so we hauled down the lake to our first spot where we got a lot of bites the day before in practice. We fished for a little bit and caught a small non- keeper and I lost a 2-2 ½ pounder. That was disappointing, I couldn’t have done anything. The fish buried me in the grass and pulled off. We then headed to another spot in that creek where I had a lot of confidence in and Grant caught a 4 pounder right away. We eventually scrapped out a small limit and continued to fish.

Towards the end of the day Grant had a 3-4 pounder follow his bait to the boat only to shy away. Right after that I hooked up with a big fish. Fight it for a little hit and it pulls off. We fished till last last second. Literally. We made it to the check in with 2 seconds to spare. The mistake we made the first day was we continued to fish the same spots in a cycle, thinking they would reload. We should have kept fishing new water.

The next day we were one of the last boats. While we were sitting waiting for our boat number to be called we kept seeing fish jump behind us in that pocket 100 yards from the ramp. Instead of running to a spot, we started right at the ramp and caught 4 keepers. Next spot we went to I instantly hooked up with a 5 pounder. We just kept moving and fishing new water and it kept working out for us. We caught a lot of fish but found it hard to find fish over 3 pounds. Towards the end of the day I knew we needed another cull. Thankfully I got that bite just a couple of minutes before we had to go to check in. We culled up a pound. We only had time for 2 more casts after that. Ended up in 10th place missing a check by 4 ounces.

Kyle and Mason

Kyle and I had a really bad practice only having 3 bites so we tried something new on day 1 of the tournament and only had 5 keeper bites which had us sitting in 9th place going into day 2 with a weight of 13.82 lbs. Day 2 set up different for us and back fired so we had to change mid-morning. Then around 10 a.m. we had motor issues and had Brian Jones, Dale McQuerry and Daniel Davis come out to help us but 5 minutes later the boat broke down again so we finally got back to the ramp and went through the procedures to swap boats mid tournament. Thanks to Daniel Davis for letting us use his boat and getting us back on the water to fill our limit up to 10.78 lbs. and finish 15th place overall.

Joe and Chad

We were boat number 18, so on day 1 we were let out at around 6:35 a.m. We pulled up to our first spot that was the first area that we found in practice, the area was shallow grass point that came out on a side of a pocket that had a deep drain in it. As soon as we got to our spot, we sat in 6 foot at the end of the point and casted up shallow on it. It was every cast, we had our limit at 7:03 a.m. that day. We proceeded to cull every 5 minutes until it stopped around 7:45a.m. By that point we had the total weight for the day of 18.89 pounds and didn’t fill the rest of day. It was fast and furious throwing chatter baits, jerk baits, a- rigs and lipless crankbaits on the shallow point.

On day 2 we were let out a little later because they let out the boat numbers in reverse, we pulled up at the same spot we started at the first day and right off the bat, Chad caught 3 keepers. Just after those 3, the bite died completely. We fished around the area and caught small fish, we caught one more keeper after about an hour in the same area. We fished around the rest of the day and had culled a few more times, ounces each time. We changed it up and fished deep and shallow and tried everything we thought of, just couldn’t get any bigger bites and had a total of 11.92 pounds the second day which put us in 5th place overall.

In the end my brother, Grant and his partner John came in 10th place with 27.42 pounds, Mason and Kyle my friends from Montgomery High School Fishing Team came in 15th with 24.60, Joe and Chad came in with 30.81 in 5th place. Texas A & M team Shane and Grant came in 2nd place with 32.97 and Trey and I came in 1st place with 34.13. We were thrilled and so excited we were able to win not only 1st place but qualify to go to the Bassmaster College Series National Championship. We also won prize money, a Dawiwa Reel and a Belt Buckle that we are proudly wearing. It was an incredible day. The lucky quarter and the prayers paid off as well as fishing till the last minute. THROW IT OUT, POP IT IN, FISH ON !!!