Wednesday marked the final day of practice for the 89 teams who qualified for this year’s Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship. This left the top collegiate anglers in the country only a handful of hours to find enough fish in hopes of making a dream come true.
Even through the abundant smiles, jokes and laughter, tensions were high this morning on the shores of beautiful Green River Lake here in the hills of Campbellsville, Ky.
With the exception of gas station donuts or maybe a fast-food breakfast biscuit, that’s what all the anglers are fueled on...a dream.
A dream to be the last team standing of the 550-plus teams who competed in the different regional qualifiers throughout 2016. And from there, an even bigger dream of being the lone collegiate angler who out fishes them all in the Carhartt College Series Classic Bracket, and represents the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series in the 2017 Bassmaster Classic on Texas’s Lake Conroe.
Trying to pick a short list of “favorites” for this tournament would be somewhat easy. Maybe they are locals, or they have previous experience on Green River Lake, or perhaps they are simply veterans of the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series.
Attempting to put your finger on a small group of underdogs, however, is a much more difficult task. The reason, simply put, is because they are all underdogs.
Every angler who qualified for this tournament had to beat the odds, and some dang good fisherman, to get here. Making time for bass fishing while pinching pennies for new lures and going to class to higher their education along the way.
As a former Carhartt Bassmaster College competitor, this is the essence of college fishing to me. A myriad of young anglers from all walks of life coming together for the pure and simple love of bass fishing and the dream of taking their love of the sport to the next level.
And for now, all the anglers competing this week have an equally small chance of achieving that dream. Whether they are fishing out of a brand new Nitro or a beat up old jon boat, it doesn’t really make much difference. They all had to make sacrifices and overcome hurdles in several different forms to get to this point.
It wouldn’t be fair to try and pick out a single team or group of anglers to be considered the underdogs. Every team competing this week has already earned that title in my eyes, which is why I’ll be rooting for every last one of them.
Because whoever ultimately goes on to represent collegiate anglers in the 2017 Bassmaster Classic will undoubtedly be considered the underdog once again.
So I challenge you college anglers, own that title. Enjoy the moment to its fullest, but also take great pride in knowing you have already proven yourself in more ways than one. Now, it’s just you and the fish.