YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. — When the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Championship gets under way Aug. 1 on Chatuge Reservoir, Ga., the field of hopeful young anglers will include the first team from Mexico ever to qualify for the championship bass tournament.
In fact, Luis Manuel Navarro Arizpe and Mario Patino Ruz, students at the Monterrey Institute of Technology in Monterrey, Mexico, represent the first team from outside the United States to participate in the championship’s nine-year history.
The pair will battle against 67 other teams from colleges and universities across the United States in a three-day match to determine North America’s best college bass fishing team. The ultimate prize, which Navarro and Patino both have as their goals, is a chance to compete in the Super Bowl of Bass Fishing, the 2014 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Guntersville, Ala.
“I don't think there are enough words to explain how excited I am about the championship,” said Navarro, who was born in Del Rio, Texas, but lives in Acuña, Coahuila. “To fish against the best college anglers for a chance to fish on the world’s biggest stage in bass fishing, the Bassmaster Classic, is what I have been dreaming about since I was 13 years old. A chance to fish against my heroes, Kevin VanDam, Todd Faircloth, Edwin Evers, Skeet Reese and Takahiro Omori is unbelievable.”
Patino, who was introduced to bass fishing by his friend, Navarro, is similarly overwhelmed by the opportunity.
“I am waiting for someone to poke me in the eye and wake me up from this dream that I am living,” he said.
The Monterrey Tech team qualified for the national finals as one of the top teams in the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Central Conference Championship on Lake Amistad, Texas. To reach tournament headquarters at Young Harris College, local host of the event, they’ll have to travel nearly 1,400 miles one-way, towing Navarro’s father’s bass boat. Their parents and a few sponsors, including MyLake Fishing Tackle in Del Rio and St. Croix Rods, are helping underwrite the trip.
Should they finish among the Top 4 teams on Chatuge, their travels will take them even farther. To determine the College Series qualifier for the Bassmaster Classic, B.A.S.S. will split the top teams and have the eight student anglers fish individually in a three-day, single-elimination bracket competition.
That fish-off will take place at Muskegon, Mich., in conjunction with the 2013 Toyota All-Stars competition Sept. 27-29. Muskegon is almost 1,700 miles from their campus.
The Classic qualifier will get $5,000 cash from Carhartt, title sponsor of the College Series, and a Toyota Tacoma truck and Skeeter/Yamaha bass rig to use for the year.
Navarro’s father, a top tournament angler in Mexico, taught Luis to bass fish when the boy was 4 years old. He has competed as his father’s tournament partner since he was 13.
The Central Conference Championship was Patino’s first bass tournament, although he has fished for saltwater sportfish since he was a boy.
Both said bass fishing is catching on in Mexico, especially in the Monterrey area and the state of Coahuila. Navarro, who became a fan of the Bassmaster Elite Series after watching Ish Monroe win an Elite event on Lake Amistad on the Texas-Mexico border, founded the club a year ago.
While the young anglers have their sights set on winning the championship and, ultimately, qualifying for the Bassmaster Classic, they’re already well on their way to achieving a goal voiced by Navarro: “to put Mexico on the fishing world’s map.”
The anglers will launch at 6:30 a.m. ET from The Ridges Marina at 3499 U.S. 76, Hiawassee, GA 30582, and the weigh-ins will be held each day at 3 p.m. ET at Young Harris College located at 1 College St., Young Harris, GA 30582.
Bassmaster.com will provide extensive online coverage of the Carhartt College Series National Championship. Follow the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship on Facebook at www.facebook.com/collegebass and on Twitter using hashtag #collegebass. Original programming of the College Series and the championship will be aired on ESPNU at noon Eastern on Aug. 4, 11 and 18.