Ryan Watkins, Andrew Upshaw and Carey Sobczak show off with their championship rings. (Kati Van Dunk photo)
Yeah, he’s a little bitter. Who wouldn’t be?
Ryan Watkins was five minutes away from a Classic berth. Andrew Upshaw caught his fish late in their showdown to beat his Stephen F. Austin teammate, the guy with whom he had won the College B.A.S.S. National Championship the day before.
The question wasn’t even fully posed, that their fates could easily be flipflopped, that Watkins might be fishing on the Red River this week, when he answered.
“I think about it all the time. Mostly it’s the fact he beat me by 11 ounces,” Watkins said. “The thing that gets me is he caught both his fish in the last five minutes. How unlucky can I get, and how lucky can he get?”
“I’m bitter -- who wouldn’t want to be fishing in the Bassmaster Classic.”
Bittersweet was how Upshaw described the scenario of having to beat his teammate and best friend for the berth. College B.A.S.S. saw how emotional that situation was, actual how torturous, and changed the final day format.
While Upshaw is practicing on the river today, the two received a sweet moment together yesterday as SFA recognized their accomplishment.. While the Bass Club is barely mentioned on the school’s website, the champs received some red-carpet treatment with school bigwigs.
“I didn’t think it would be as big a deal as it was,” Watkins said of a ceremony in the Spirit Lounge of the student center. “It was a really professional, a really nice spot. There was probably 50 people there, the cheerleaders, the president of university.”
With speeches from the president, the head of campus recreation and the student body president, Watkins and Upshaw, along with Casey Sobczak, part of SFA’s 2005 champion team, received resolutions, basically written congratulations, and flashy championship rings.
“It was by no means something that was supposed to be done,” Watkins said. “Having that ring is something we can take with us, show our grandchildren.
“I think the biggest thing wasn’t just an accomplishment for me and Andrew. Hopefully, we can kind of start a trend -- other schools will follow our team’s trend and recognize the sport more.”
While his old teammate will be competing, Watkins is going to Classic and other events to assist B.A.S.S. He is hoping to make the most of his opportunity.
“I’m going to start working with Bassmaster, travel to Elite Series events. The connections I can make, you can’t put a value on that,” Watkins said. “That’s going to be a major step for me. I’m going to see an entire different side of fishing I haven’t been able to see.”
Watkins said he won’t give up his Classic dream as he will fish the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open series, trying to become the fortunate angler who caught the winning bass in final minutes of an event to qualify for the Classic.
SFA awarded some sweet rings to its College B.A.S.S. National Champions. (Kati Van Dunk photo)