Thousands of college anglers sought after a shot at the College National Championship and a possible 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic berth back in January when the season kicked off. Only 89 teams earned the right to put their name in the hat of possible contenders at Bemidji Lake this past week.
With Jake Lee and Jacob Foutz of Bryan College taking the title, there are only 3 days of college competition left in the 2017 season. The Top 4 teams from Bemidji Lake notched a slot in this year's 2017 College Classic Bracket and will battle for a Classic berth in a head-to-head format on Serpent Lake in the towns of Deerwood and Crosby, Minnesota from Monday August 14 through Wednesday the 16th.
Joining the National Champions are two teams from Bethel University as well as the second West Coast team to make the head-to-head format. Bethel has been a mainstay in college fishing since its inception and the school has graced the bracket three of the last four years. The Wildcat fishing team has three different 2nd place finishes in the National Championship. Zack Parker and Matthew Roberts took 2nd at Chatuge in 2014, John Garrett and Brian Pahl finished runner up in 2016 at Green River Lake and this year Cole Floyd and Carter McNeil came up a little short at Bemidji Lake this year.
The Chico State team of Chad Sweitzer and Tyler Firebaugh of Chico State finished 3rd at Bemidji Lake to punch their ticket to the individual format. They won the Western Regional earlier this year at Lake Shasta in California. The only other West Coast school to make the College Classic Bracket was in 2013 when Nick Barr and Jarred Walker did so from Eastern Washington University.
The format pits two anglers head-to-head for two different four hour periods. Anglers will fish from 7 a.m. CT to 11 a.m. CT and will come back to the takeoff ramp to see how they fared against their opponent. After an hour break, anglers will fish again from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. hoping to extend their lead or make up a deficit. The goal is the best possible 5-bass limit, which means the last four-hour session could mean picking up slack and filling a limit or trying to make important culls to increase weight. Strategy could play a factor for an angler that may get a big lead in their respective matchup.
Serpent Lake is just over 1,000 acres and should be plenty of room for 8 anglers to compete.
Day 1 of the College Classic bracket will see a cut from 8 anglers competing in 4 matchups down to just 4 anglers who will square off in the semi-finals. After Day 2 of competition we will have the final matchup, the semi-finals will eliminate two anglers and the final head-to-head pairing will conclude on Wednesday.
This year Bethel has two teams in the bracket and there is a possibility of an all-Bethel semi-final round if they all win their respective first round matchups.
Each angler will be accompanied either by a B.A.S.S. tournament official as their marshal or an ESPNU cameraman that will double as their judge.
The final team to sneak into the bracket by two ounces was John Garrett and Brian Pahl. They join impressive company as the 4th and 5th anglers to have multiple College Classic Bracket appearances. Jordan Lee of Auburn did so in 2012 and 2013, teammates Jake Whitaker and Andrew Helms of UNC Charlotte were the first teammates to go back-to-back in 2014 and 2015, and last year Garrett and Pahl did so. Garrett ended up victorious in the bracket and is trying to be the first ever two-time College representative.