Hartwell, Ga. – Head Bryan College Fishing Coach, Mike Keen, said last week that battling to become the top-ranked team in the nation is tough, but the real difficulty is defending the No. 1 spot. Keen and the Lions had their game plan in place, aiming to be consistent with another top-10 finish, but the duo of Matt Brown (FR/Corbin, Ky.) and DJ Barber (SO/Birmingham, Ala.) surprised everyone when they took on Lake Hartwell over the weekend in the FLW YETI Southeastern College Fishing event.
"We took off at 7:30am and made about a 30-minute run up the Seneca River, so we went shallow on a lake that people normally go deep," said Brown. "We found the spot in practice, and the area paid off as the first cast I made was hit by a 6lber. For the next 40 minutes, we landed all of the fish that we ended up weighing in."
Barber explained, "It was like a repeat at Seminole where we placed fifth, because we caught all of our fish in the first 35-40 minutes their too. Matt and I knew we were sitting well as soon as he got his first bite."
Normally the win at a tournament is decided by a few ounces, but the five-bass limit of 18 pounds 14 ounces hauled in by Brown and Barber routed the trailing opponent by more than two pounds. Clemson University (S.C.) was the home team, but their best finish was only 16-8 to grab the second spot. Kennesaw State University (Ga.) (16-0), Bethel University (Tenn.) (15-12), and University of Georgia (15-4) rounded out the top-5.
The victory advanced the team to the 2018 FLW College Fishing National Championship and sent the Lions home with a $2,000 club scholarship.
"Hartwell is a highland reservoir," said Brown. "It's deep and clear, so it's a lot different than the lakes we normally fish. We even caught a bass about 50ft deep, but it was our strategy to go shallow and use our red squarebill crankbaits that helped us seal the deal. Once the pressure was taken off, we went deeper and tried spot fishing in an attempt to upgrade, but nothing bigger came our way."
Bryan added 176 points to their total in the running for Cabela's School of the Year and looks to take advantage of another opportunity to extend their lead this weekend, Mar. 24-26, in Russellville, Ark. where Bryan will compete in Cabela's Collegiate Bass Fishing Open on Lake Dardanelle. The combination of it being a Cabela's tournament, which is set up so where the top two teams from a school are counted, and the anticipation of a large field offers up a lot of School of the Year points.
"I've never been to Dardanelle," remarked Barber. "But many of the guys are well-versed at fishing Dardanelle. It looks like the conditions will be great while we are there, and we look to duplicate what we did last year when the team had a top-10 finish."
A feat that may have went unnoticed by many is how the Lion Anglers managed to accomplish something that they haven't done in all three years of their existence. For the first time, every boat caught a fish in the tournament. Also, to show the skill that runs deep in the team, the lowest boat for Bryan was 105 out of 176. Almost every team for the Lions outperformed over half of the fellow foes on the water.
"To say I'm proud of these guys is an understatement," said Coach Keen. "They have done everything we've asked them to do and more. I think there are two things that have caused this… their hard work and the Lord has blessed them. We went into it this past weekend knowing that we had to finish in the top-10 to hold onto the top spot in the running for School of the Year. Success at some point becomes a culture. We'd like for that to be our culture."
Bryan Angler, Nathan Bell (SR/Riceville, Tenn.), who is coming off a hot-streak with a 7th place finish at Cabela's Collegiate Big Bass Bash on Kentucky Lake and his partner, Cole Sands (SO/Calhoun, Tenn.), who helped their boat place 8th the week before last in a record-breaking YETI FLW event at Guntersville (Ala.) didn't disappoint with a 17th place finish at Hartwell. The Fogg brothers, Chandler and Connor, followed closely behind in 27th place.
The top 10 teams that advanced to the 2018 College Fishing National Championship are:
2. Clemson University – Robert White, Greenville, S.C., and Derek Freeman, Anderson, S.C., five bass, 16-8, $1,400 Club Scholarship
3. Kennesaw State University – Cody Smith, Gainesville, Ga., and Spencer Guthrie, Acworth, Ga., five bass, 16-0, $700 Club Scholarship
4. Bethel University – Alec Piekarski, Greenfield, Wis., and Kyler Chelminiak, Franklin, Wis., five bass, 15-12, $500 Club Scholarship
5. University of Georgia – Justin Sisavath, Duluth, Ga., and Jordan Parisian, Dallas, Texas, five bass, 15-4, $500 Club Scholarship
6. Western Carolina University – Jason Ashe, Cullowhee, N.C., and Alex Walsh, Robbinsville, N.C., five bass, 14-10
7. Lander University – Kevin Latham, Greenwood, S.C., and David Branham, Donalds, S.C., five bass, 14-9
8. University of North Georgia – Ty Johnston, Jefferson, Ga., and Tristan Thomas, Lula, Ga., five bass, 14-9
9. University of Tennessee – Bradley Devaney, Oliver Springs, Tenn., and Saxton Long, Pulaski, Tenn., five bass, 14-5
10. Jacksonville State University – Brandon Padilla, Roswell, Ga., and Chase Chastain, Anniston, Ala., five bass, 14-0
FLW also advances one additional team to the National Championship for every 10 teams over 100 that compete. A total of 176 teams participated in this event, so the following teams also advanced to the 2018 National Championship.
11. University of North Alabama – Austin Mize, Sheffield, Ala., and Parker Davis, Morris, Ala., five bass, 13-11
12. University of Georgia – Collin Chandler, Donalsonville, Ga., and Garrett Stone, Atlanta, Ga., five bass, 12-13
13. Georgia State University – Hayden Hillyer, Atlanta, Ga., and Christian Cook, Roswell, Ga., five bass, 12-11
14. Savannah College of Art & Design – Jaci Skipper, Taylor, Ala., and Ryleigh Tyson, Savannah, Ga., five bass, 12-8
15. Haywood Community College – Justin St. Onge and Ryan McLaughlin, both of Fairview, N.C., five bass, 12-4
16. Clemson University – Garrett Addis, Central, S.C., and Aaron Banquer-Glenn, Clemson, S.C., five bass, 12-1
This YETI FLW College Fishing Southeastern Conference at Lake Hartwell was the third and final regular-season qualifying tournament for Southeastern Conference anglers in 2017. The next YETI FLW College Fishing event is a Central Conference tournament scheduled for April 1 on the Lake of the Ozarks in Osage Beach, Missouri.
YETI FLW College Fishing teams compete in three regular-season qualifying tournaments in one of five conferences – Central, Northern, Southern, Southeastern and Western. The top ten teams from each division's three regular-season tournaments, along with an additional qualifier for every 10 teams over 100 that compete, along with the top 20 teams from the annual YETI FLW College Fishing Open will advance to the 2018 FLW College Fishing National Championship.
For the Bryan Fishing Team's complete schedule, click here.
To view the standings for School of the Year, click here.