LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Undeniable (adj.) — unquestioned as to quality, merit, etc.; clearly and indisputable excellent.
The following teams embodied the perseverance, dedication and passion that is a hallmark of the Under Armour College Bass National Championship. Check out their stories below and vote for who you think deserves the Under Armour Undeniable Performance Award.
1. Arizona State University
Mitch Kistner and Davis Hart knew it wouldn't be easy to travel all the way from Tempe, Ariz., to Little Rock. But they never imagined it could be this hard.
It started at the airport, where they were forced to leave four rods behind due to size restrictions. Two nearly-missed flights later they were exhausted and unsure there would even be a boat waiting for them when they arrived. They were in luck, but missed all of pre-fishing and went into the tournament blind.
Day One brought trolling motor issues, and Day Two handed them a burned out light, but they made it out on the water both days and weighed in two good fish on Friday. The plucky Sun Devils may have gone home from Little Rock empty-handed, but they determinedly overcame every obstacle they faced for a chance to compete in the championship.
2. St. Ambrose University
Anthony and Tim DeVolder may be brothers, but they viewed their fellow competitors at the championship as family.
These good Samaritans put their own title hopes on hold multiple times to help out fellow anglers in need, starting as early as the last day of practice when they towed in the broken down boat of the Oklahoma State team.
They were headed for the dock again on Thursday when they noticed the Texas Tech team sidelined and stopped to give them a lift to the weigh-in. No sooner had they resumed their trip back when their engine blew up and one of the North Carolina teams had to rescue them.
The hits didn't stop coming, as the engine couldn't be fixed that evening and forced them to fish Day Two with only a trolling motor to propel them. The team, which had traveled all the way from Iowa for its shot at the championship, still managed to weigh in fish both days and finish in the top 20.
3. Texas Tech University
Dustin Cotten and Beau Schott live in the Texas panhandle, so they're used to driving a ways to reach out-of-town destinations. But 12 hours was a lot, even for them.
Still, this was their version of the BCS title game and they weren't going to miss it. They left the dusty plains of Texas at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday night and arrived in Little Rock at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning, where they were greeted by a thick fog that kept them off the water and asleep in their truck until 10.
But things were looking up for the exhausted duo, as their practice went well and they felt confident heading into Day One. Their luck ran out at the end of the first day, however, when they ran into boat trouble and a St. Ambrose team facing hard times as well.
Day Two brought four lost keepers, a broken trolling motor and one small hole in their boat after high winds blew them into a tree stump. But the Red Raider duo refused to give up and fished hard both days to make their road trip well worth the while.
4. University of South Carolina-Upstate
Pete Sherbert found a great partner in Colin Coffman. If only he could have had the chance to fish with him.
A family emergency prevented Coffman from joining his teammate in Little Rock, but rather than tucking his tail and returning home, Sherbert decided he would take on the nation's best collegiate anglers single-handed.
Along the way he was forced to rely on the kindness of strangers to help him with everything from getting his boat in the water to plugging in his batteries and keeping his boat afloat.
But fish he did, and two solid bags totaling over 13 pounds, coupled with a dogged determination for his sport, put the solo angler in 11th place and impressed the crowd and fellow anglers alike.
5. Frostburg State University
Jack Wolf and Joseph Murphy embarked on their 18-hour road trip with the radio blaring, fishing rods in the back and their boat pulling behind them.
As they snaked their way through the northern mountains headed for Little Rock, they felt ready for whatever the Arkansas River could throw at them. They were not ready, however, for the trouble they encountered along the way.
Engine problems kicked in after only eight hours on the road, and it wasn't long before the power steering on their borrowed van was gone and the boys were on the side of the road. But the Bobcats weren't ready to give up, and after multiple assists from family members, two nights in roadside motels and more than a few cockroaches, the boys rolled into town minutes before the opening meeting was scheduled to begin.
With no practice but more than a few battle wounds, they remained determined to fish the tournament to the best of their ability. Day Two finally brought them the keepers they had been looking for, and a top-30 finish for the dedicated young anglers showed their passion for the sport.
6. University of Oklahoma
Chip Porsche' and Matt Pangrac arrived late Monday night pulling a boat most college kids would die for: a gleaming Triton with a 250 horsepower Mercury.
But by Wednesday afternoon that same Triton was in disrepair with the motor literally cracked in half after a run-in with a rock jetty at 35 mph.
But the Sooner duo refused to throw in the towel, swallowing their pride and calling in reinforcements in the form of Porche's dad. He arrived later that evening pulling an old Blue Wave boat behind him that had belonged to Chip's grandfather.
But the boys refused to dwell on the loss of their ace boat and instead focused on the most important thing — fishing. After leading Day One they turned in a solid Day Two and made the top five in second place, showing no signs of slowing down even without the 250 horsepower they left behind.