The National Championship

About the author

Andrew Upshaw

Andrew Upshaw

Andrew Upshaw of Hemphill, Texas, teamed with Ryan Watkins to win the 2011 Mercury College B.A.S.S. National Championship for Stephen F. Austin, then edged Watkins for the first Bassmaster Classic berth from the collegiate series.

To win any tournament is huge. To win the right tournament is simply mind blowing.

That was the feeling Ryan Watkins and I had after the third day of the Mercury College B.A.S.S. National Championship. Ryan and I, much like all other college fishing teams, had a common goal; to win the title.

Just like in every other tournament we had fished in the past, we wanted to win. This tournament, however, we wanted to win even more.

This was the first time Ryan and I had fished the national championship together, but on the third day, we had the perfect game plan for Beaverfork Lake. We took a two-pronged approach, one was shallow water grass and the other deep water shell and rock.

What many people do not know is Ryan and I had the opportunity in the first few hours to have a huge bag. Within the first five minutes of competition I lost a fish in the 7- to 8-pound range on a Strike Pro Hunchback Wake Bait; the bait that ultimately did the most damage for us.

Only a few minutes later I landed a 3-pounder on the wake bait. About 30 minutes later I lost another fish over 6 pounds. Within the next few hours we began to catch the fish because they finally decided to fully commit to the Strike Pro Hunchback.

We caught our initial limit of about 13 pounds on that wake bait. For those of you that haven't thrown this bait, you need to try it. It may be the best search bait that I have personally ever used. About noon, our shallow bite died.

At that point we started looking in deep water. If we were going to cull, we knew we needed to go deeper. We started in about 16 to 17 feet looking at brush piles and a road bed that ran down the lake. The thermocline was about at 15 foot, so we decided to move just a little shallower.

We continued this until we got up to about 7 feet of water. There were a few spots that we had found the evening before that had a little bit different cover than the rest of the lake, so we figured we would focus on these irregular spots.

One was a shallow rock point and the other was a point that had a lot of shell on it. We figured out the shell spot the best and were able to cull our two smallest fish with a 10-inch worm and a Talon Football Jig. This was the main reason we won.

To me, Ryan and I broke down the lake the fastest and capitalized on the most active fish throughout the day. We started shallow and covered as much water as we could. When it got hot and our shallow bite died, we went deep and continued to catch fish.

We never stopped catching fish, and we never gave up. 

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