This fall I was able to do something I have wanted to do since I qualified for the Bassmaster Elite Series. As the first Elite Series angler to come through the college ranks, hosting a tournament for college anglers has been high on my list. With the booming popularity of high school fishing, I wanted to include those young anglers as well.
The 1st Annual Brandon Card College & High School Bass Open is now complete and the event was a huge success thanks to all of the sponsors who made this event possible and the 51 teams who came to fish.
The idea to host an event like this came about from my own days as a collegiate angler. When I was the president of the University of Kentucky Bass Team, the biggest challenge was the funding for our tournament travel expenses. We would do whatever we had to do to earn enough money to fish the events. From bagging groceries, mowing lawns or waiting tables, we did what we could so we could fish. With that in mind, I put this tournament together to give cash and prizes directly to the teams to help with tournament and tackle expenses.
The event was held on my home lake, Norris Lake in Tennessee, and it ended up being a great venue. The Campbell County Chamber of Commerce was a huge help (financially and logistically) in getting this event together. Two of my great sponsors, Suzuki Marine and Buff Inc., stepped up with financial support for the event, and in total, we gave out over $15,000 in cash and prizes. We paid out over $8,500 in cash as 50 percent of the teams took home cash payouts. The total payout was over 300 percent of the entries we received. We also had a great dinner during the registration that was provided by Coal Creek Smokehouse BBQ.
Besides the cash payouts, we had a huge raffle with prizes from Yo-Zuri, Fishsens Technology, Abu Garcia, Lowrance, Gary Yamamoto, Bob’s Machine Shop, Fish Head, Twin Cove Marine Sales, The Apple Barn and Boater’s Insurance Agency. There were some great items raffled off and many of the anglers mentioned to me that this was the best event they had ever fished. We also had some fun prizes for the teams who traveled the farthest as well as for the biggest bass weighed in. We had several teams who traveled quite a ways to fish, including the Kansas State University team who drove 13 hours.
The fishing itself was fairly tough due to the 1.5-hour fog delay and unseasonably warm conditions we have had in east Tennessee this fall. This didn’t discourage the anglers, and everyone had a great time fishing the lake where I first learned how to bass fish. When it was all said and done, the tried and true method of casting a finesse jig on deep, rocky banks was the ticket to success for both high school and college winners. When the going gets tough, the finesse jig gets going.
Hunter Fulcher and Andrew Day from my alma mater, Univerity of Kentucky, took the top honors in the college division. They won $2,500 plus two Abu Garcia Revo MGX reels and Fantasista Premier rods. Both Hunter and Andrew were stoked to take the title back to Lexington and said that this was their biggest payday so far. It’s great to see how much the UK Bass Team has grown in the last several years since I graduated.
The high school winners, Robert Powe and Colby Kerr, are from George Rogers Clark High School in Winchester, Ky. They took home $1,500 plus two Abu Garcia Revo MGX reels and Fantasista Premier rods for their win. Robert and Colby also claimed that this was their biggest payday ever and plan on investing the prize money in future bass tournaments and fishing gear.
This was the first of many events to come, as I plan on making this an annual event. I hope to continue to grow this event and do what we can to help support the younger bass anglers. They are the future of our sport, and this is one of the ways that I can give back. I have already done some preliminary planning for next year’s event for early Dec. 2017. Stay tuned!