College Championship set for Kentucky’s Green River Lake

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Shaye Baker
The Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship presented by Bass Pro Shops heads to Green River Lake out of Campbellsville, Ky., July 28-30. Josh Bensema of Texas A&M University, a member of the 2015 championship team, will get the chance to defend the title

CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. — College anglers will be fishing for a chance to compete in the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro when they take on Green River Lake in Campbellsville, Ky., July 28-30, in the 2016 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship presented by Bass Pro Shops.

“Green River Lake is a horse of a different color,” said Lance Freeman of Murray State University in Kentucky. “It’s deep and clear with bluff walls, and there are 101 different ways to catch a bass here.”

Freeman, who will be competing in his third consecutive Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship, has extensive experience on Green River Lake. He’s competed in five tournaments on the lake and won four of them, and he fished on the tournament waters nearly every day in early summer.

“It’s feast or famine on Green River,” he said of the 8,200-acre lake. “You can catch 21 pounds there one day and only 11 the next. My prediction is it will take 8 pounds a day to make the Top 12 in the tournament, and 15 1/2 pounds a day to win it.”

The two-person team that manages to catch the winning weight will be awarded the 2016 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship trophy.

In addition, the winning team will advance to the 2016 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Classic Bracket with the second-, third- and fourth-place teams. The eight anglers will then go head-to-head, bracket-style, on Kentucky Lake, Aug. 4-6. The last competitor standing will earn a coveted spot in the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic on Texas’ Lake Conroe, March 24-26, 2017.

“That’s my dream,” Freeman said. “It doesn’t matter if you just started fishing or if you’ve been doing it for 50 years, you’re going to want to make it to the Classic.”

Josh Bensema of Texas A&M wants to qualify for the 2017 Classic more than most.

“I live on Lake Conroe,” said Bensema, who won the 2015 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship. “I would love the opportunity to fish my home lake for the Classic.”

Bensema is also driven by the fact that he narrowly missed the chance to fish the Classic last year. He was one of two finalists in the 2015 Classic Bracket, when Trevor Lo of the University of Minnesota edged him out on the final day.

“That loss gives me a lot of motivation,” Bensema said. He and one of his Texas A&M teammates pre-fished Green River Lake in late June in anticipation of the championship, and he said he knows they’ll have a lot of work to do to make the cut.

“I caught two good ones, 4 1/2-pounders,” he said. “Other than that, a lot of them were small.”

Freeman said that kind of experience is indicative of the summertime lull that Green River Lake goes through as the water warms up.

“It also gets a lot of pressure,” Freeman said, citing four to five tournaments a week that take place on the water.

“Anglers can’t be afraid to adjust out there,” Freeman continued. “It’s tough to pattern bass on Green River, and there are only small windows of opportunity to catch a bunch of fish. You could catch them on an island, a dock or a laydown, and you’re as likely to catch bass on a drop shot as on a 10-inch soft plastic worm. You just never know.”

No matter what the anglers catch bass on, the tournament is bound to be a good one to watch, said Hank Weldon, tournament director for the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series.

“We are so grateful to be having this tournament here in Campbellsville, Ky.,” said Alisha Nelson, executive director of Taylor County Tourist Commission. “This weeklong event will not only be bringing dollars into our community, but we also hope these anglers and their families will fall in love with our area and come back for future visits.”

“It’s going to be a great event,” Weldon said. “Campbellsville University is hosting the tournament, and everyone on the campus has been so welcoming and accommodating. Tommy Hall, the bass fishing coach at Campbellsville, has really been pushing bass fishing at the collegiate level, and the school even has its own bass fishing scholarship program. It’s an honor to be there.”

Competitors qualified for the championship through regional events. A total of 89 teams from 62 colleges throughout the United States will be competing.

All 89 teams will compete on Days 1 and 2. After the Day 2 weigh-in, the field will be cut to the Top 12 teams for the final day of competition.

Competitors will take off each day at 6:30 a.m. ET at Green River Marina, located at 2892 Lone Valley Road in Campbellsville. The weigh-ins will be held daily at 3:30 p.m. ET on Stapp Lawn on the Campbellsville University campus. A fan expo will open at 1:00 p.m. daily and continue through the weigh-in. All events are free and open to the public.

Weigh-ins will be streamed live at Bassmaster.com each day. Updates between now and the event will be posted at Bassmaster.com/College.

Colleges that will be represented are listed below by state:

Alabama: Auburn, Jacksonville State, Alabama, North Alabama, South Alabama, Faulkner, Wallace State Community College, Jefferson State Community College

Arizona: Northern Arizona

Arkansas: Arkansas, Arkansas Tech

California: Chico State, Humboldt State

Colorado: Colorado Mesa, Colorado State

Florida: Daytona State, University of Central Florida, Florida, Embry-Riddle Aeronatical

Georgia: Columbus State, West Georgia, Georgia College, North Georgia

Idaho: Idaho

Illinois: McKendree, Illinois State, Illinois

Kansas: Kansas State

Kentucky: Murray State

Louisiana: University of Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana Tech, Nicholls State, Northwestern State, LSU-Shreveport

Michigan: Schoolcraft

Minnesota: Bemidji State

Mississippi: Itawamba Community College, Mississippi State

North Carolina: Strayer, UNC-Charlotte, East Carolina, Western Carolina, NC State, Haywood Community College

Ohio: Ohio State

Oregon: Oregon, Oregon State

Pennsylvania: Penn State

South Carolina: Lander, South Carolina

Tennessee: Bethel, UT-Martin

Texas: Texas A&M, Lamar, Dallas Baptist, Texas Tech, Tarleton State, Texas State

Washington: Eastern Washington

Wisconsin: UW-Whitewater, UW-Stevens Point, UW-Platteville