LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — As Omaha, Neb., is the epicenter for college baseball, Conway, Ark., will get the distinction of being the epicenter for collegiate angling July 28-29.
The 2012 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship is currently underway in Little Rock, with anglers from 57 colleges and universities battling it out to bring a National Championship title to their school. That event concludes Friday.
The cherry on top for many of the anglers, though, is the up-for-grabs berth into the World Championship of bass fishing, the 2013 Bassmaster Classic.
“Every angler sees a Classic berth as the pinnacle of our sport,’’ said Hank Weldon, tournament director for the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series.
This season, as last year, the top collegiate angler in the country receives an invitation to fish the Classic. That angler and that berth will be decided after two days of bracketed competition on Beaverfork Lake in Conway.
Up to this point, the location has remained a secret. On Friday evening, though, the Top 4 teams in the 57-team field will be introduced to the lake. After a quick look around the lake in tournament-ready boats provided by Triton and Skeeter, the anglers will compete in a bracket-style tournament that will match angler versus angler — teammate versus teammate — to whittle the field down to the one angler who will win the Classic berth.
“Beaverfork is an ideal lake for a championship of this sort,’’ said local angler Matt Lea of Conway, Ark. “It’s got a lot of variety to it, and it’s full of fish. But it’s also one of those places where you have to use your head if you want to catch them. Whoever comes out of this on top will have truly earned a Classic spot.”
By the time the anglers get to Beaverfork, they will have already competed a day on the Arkansas River, a day on Lake Maumelle and another round on a still-to-be-announced Mystery Lake.
All of that competition will be as teams representing their schools. At Beaverfork, teamwork goes out the window. The final eight anglers will be pitted mano-a-mano and fish in five-hour, head-to-head fish-offs beginning Saturday, July 28.
Round 1 is from 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. A weigh-in at 11:45 a.m. will eliminate four of the anglers. The remaining four will hit the water for Round 2, fishing from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., with a weigh-in at 6:15 p.m. that will cut the field to the two final anglers.
The two finalists will battle for the heaviest five-bass limit of bass from 6:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sunday, with the winner of that round moving on to the Bassmaster Classic, slated for Feb. 22-24 on Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees near Tulsa, Okla.
“With the format we have, the college teams will fish a number of different bodies of water,” said Jerry McKinnis, co-owner of B.A.S.S. “If they keep advancing, they keep going to new waters — new places where they don’t have any history. That makes it tough. It takes a good angler to handle that.
“Fishing in the Classic right alongside the big boys will be amazing for one of these college kids. It’s something they just can’t fathom until they have the chance to get on the water with the pros.”
The public is invited to attend the weigh-ins at Beaverfork.
All Carhartt Bassmaster College Series events will be broadcast on ESPNU. Click here for ESPNU air times and dates.
For updates this week and throughout the year, like our Facebook page at Facebook.com/CollegeBass.