Not to toot our own horns, but year two of the Bassmaster College Prospect Watch List may have gone even better than our first attempt.
Lots of interesting dynamics were at play in the 2023 Strike King College Bassmaster Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, but many of the teams Kyle Jessie (Bassmaster.com editor), Ronnie Moore (noted Jeff Gustafson doubter), Chase Sansom (former Bassmaster.com editor), 2022 College Classic Bracket champ Louis Monetti and I highlighted at the beginning of the season excelled in high pressure situations.
Twenty of the 25 teams we highlighted in the preseason list qualified for the Strike King Bassmaster College National Championship presented by Bass Pro Shops, with four of those teams notching Top 10s.
One of the teams on our preseason watch list, Lafe and Matt Messer, decided to fish the St. Croix Bassmaster Opens instead and Matt will be fishing the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic via his win at the Harris Chain Open.
Let’s take a look at some of the teams we chose who excelled and reflect on a couple who flew under the radar to begin the season before taking the spotlight by season’s end.
Who impressed this season? (Teams originally on the Prospect List)
Easton Fothergill/ Nick Dumke, University of Montevallo
These two Minnesota natives were incredibly impressive throughout the season, as a Team of the Year duo should be. Their worst finish of the year was a 29th at the Red River. They opened the season with a 17th at the Harris Chain of Lakes in January before adding a 16th at Cherokee Lake and a fifth at the James River.
Fothergill and Dumke then finished fifth at the National Championship at Pickwick Lake, becoming the first Team of the Year winner to make the final day cut at the prestigious event. Then, Fothergill won the College Classic Bracket at Milford Lake and will compete in the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic in March.
Tucker Smith/Hayden Marbut, Auburn University
Smith and Marbut finished ninth in Team of the Year and proved once again they are stone-cold killers in championship events. They won the 2023 National Championship, their second major championship win together.
Smith now has won three High School Championships, a Team of the Year title and a College National Championship, not to mention the Bass Pro Shops U.S. Open which awarded $1 million to he and partner Logan Parks.
Connor Jacob/Sam Smith, Auburn, Auburn University
The model of consistency in the College Series over the past couple of seasons, Jacob and Smith finished fifth in Team of the Year points with finishes of 26th, 20th, 41st and 33rd. Yet another standout Auburn team.
Who did we miss?
The Rest of the University of Montevallo teams
We highlighted several University of Montevallo teams in the preseason and already in this piece, but the depth the Montevallo program displayed in 2023 was impressive to say the least. The program accounted for two of the four regular season champions (Peyton Harris/Dalton Head at Cherokee and James Willoughby/Jacob Pfundt at James River) and the Wild Card champion (Jordan Pennington/Andrew Oswalt)
Meanwhile, Tyler Cory and Scott Sledge finished second in the Team of the Year standings and Brody Robison and Jack Alexander finished third at the National Championship to clinch a spot in the Bracket.
Look for this program to be competitive for the years to come.
Jake Thornbury/Morgan Miracle, Campbellsville University
Thornbury and Miracle quietly had a great season. The Campbellsville duo finished third in the Team of the Year standings with finishes of 18th at Harris Chain, 35th at Cherokee, 24th at James River and 19th at Red River.
For Miracle, it was her final season at Campbellsville while Thornbury will compete one more year.
Dylan Fogarty/Hunter Fillmore, Bethel University
While Matthew Cummings and Levi Mullins finished second at the National Championship and qualified for the Bracket, Fogarty and Fillmore had a standout regular season for Bethel by finishing fourth in Team of the Year.
They opened the season with a 19th at Harris Chain before their best tournament of the year, a sixth at Cherokee. They rounded out the season with a 32nd at James River and a 58th at Red River before capping off the year with a 34th at Pickwick.
Blake Bullock/John Mark Berry, Blue Mountain University
Blue Mountain University has had several strong teams over the years, and this year it was Blake Bullock and John Mark Berry. They opened their season by winning the Harris Chain event with 46-11.
They then finished ninth at the James River and then eighth at the Red River to finish sixth in the final standings. Had it not been for a 108th at Cherokee Lake, Bullock and Berry may very well have been crowned Team of the Year.