Just as we expected, it was an exciting 2022 Strike King Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shop season with five unique winners from the regular season and Wild Card events followed by exciting finishes at the College National Championship at Winyah Bay and the College Classic Bracket at Lake Greenwood.
At the beginning of the year, we — Kyle Jessie, Ronnie Moore, Nolan Minor and myself — compiled a list of teams that we expected to excel this season, and for the most part, those anglers met and exceeded those expectations this season. Check out the 2022 College Fishing prospect list, and if you missed any of the action, watch The Juice video series that covers the entire 2022 Bassmaster College Series season.
In fact, of the 22 teams we highlighted, three of them won events, 19 of them qualified for the National Championship and five of those teams made the final day cut of the Strike King Bassmaster College National Championship at Winyah Bay presented by Bass Pro Shops.
Through the four-event regular season, the Wild Card event at Logan Martin and the National Championship, these teams collected 21 Top 10s and four of those teams also finished in the Top 10 in the season-long Team of the Year race.
Let’s take a look at what we learned this season from teams that made the preseason prospect list, and even those that were not on the list.
Who impressed this season?
Of the 22 teams that made the preseason prospect list, a few teams had exceptional seasons with wins, Top 10 in Team of the Year standings and Bracket appearances. Here are a few of the teams that stood out in a big way in 2022.
Slanker and Swisher made the most of the one regular season event they competed in, finishing 21st at the Harris Chain to qualify for the National Championship. At Winyah Bay, they locked a Senko and a buzzbait in their hands and finished second to earn a spot in the College Classic Bracket.
Both anglers won their opening-round matchup in the Bracket, but both ran into the buzzsaw that was Louis Monetti, as Swisher fell in the semifinal round while Slanker advanced to the final, but he could not get the big bite needed to beat Monetti.
The Messer brothers started the season with a bang, catching two massive bags to win the first event of the season at the Harris Chain with 61-13. From there, the KCU duo notched a top 50 at Norman, finished seventh at Norfork and then finished the regular season with a 19th-place showing at Saginaw Bay. Lafe and Matt finished second in the Team of the Year standings, one point out of first.
Peck and Browning highlighted their season with a win at Norfork Lake. They added a 31st-place finish at the Harris Chain and a 36th-place finish at Lake Norman to finish ninth in the Team of the Year race, their only stumble coming at Saginaw Bay.
If you look up consistency in the College Series dictionary, a picture of this McKendree University duo would pop up. After finishing 49th at the Harris Chain, the duo stumbled a little at Norfork with a 106th-place finish but rebounded nicely with a 12th at Saginaw Bay to finish the season.
That led to a third-place finish at the National Championship and vaulted Christy and Shroeder to their second appearance in the College Classic Bracket. Don’t be surprised if either or both of these anglers find success in the Opens this coming season.
Who did we miss?
Alas, no one is perfect, and we unfortunately missed a few of the teams in our preseason list that had excellent 2022 seasons. The teams below did not make the preseason list and had outstanding seasons, notching wins, Top 10s and Team of the Year titles.
This is one we should have seen coming. Monetti had been so close to breaking through in the College Series as an individual the last few years, just needing a couple breaks that never materialized.
This year, everything came together with Fugaro joining the boat, who just started tournament fishing this year. The duo finished no worse than 16th in the four regular-season events and won the Team of the Year race before Monetti punched his ticket to the Classic via a College Classic Bracket victory at Lake Greenwood.
Thompson and Linder had come so close to winning in years prior and finally closed the deal this year on Saginaw Bay with 44-3 of smallmouth. Although 2022 wasn’t their best overall showing, the childhood fishing partners ended their college careers with four National Championship qualifications, their best finish coming in 2020 with a Top 10 at the Harris Chain.
Emmanuel College had a strong year overall in the College Series with Anderson and Guy leading the charge. After starting the season with a fourth-place showing at the Harris Chain, the duo followed up with a 33rd at Lake Norman, a 34th at Norfork and a sixth at Saginaw Bay to finish fourth in Team of the Year standings.
They ended the season with a fourth-place finish at Winyah Bay, just missing the Classic Bracket Cut.
The Auburn University team recovered from a 98th-place finish at the Harris Chain to finish in the top 10 in the Team of the Year standings. Smith and Jacob finished fourth at Lake Norman, 19th at Norfork, 14th at Saginaw and capped it off with a 10th-place finish at the National Championship at Winyah Bay.