Prior to last night’s nationally televised college football game between Georgia Southern and South Alabama, opposing players pushed and shoved one another in a heated fracas prior to kickoff. You won’t see that sort of classlessness at the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship on Florida’s Harris Chain of Lakes.
Instead, you will see opposing student anglers fellowshipping under a gorgeous sunrise while family and friends stand nearby in the crisp autumn air to support them. And you’ll find no better example than highly accomplished Tanner Ward, an engineering student from Kent State in Ohio, whose sisters Laken and Olivia took off work to travel with mom, just to see Tanner compete.
Equally as impressive, his longtime fierce competitor Nolan Minor, a college angler from West Virginia, beached his boat next-door, just in time to photobomb Ward’s shoreline family portrait, and pay him a compliment after a successful Day 1.
“When you need to slow down and fish one area really thoroughly, Tanner is really tough to beat,” says Minor. “We actually met back in high school fishing at a championship on Kentucky Lake. I had seen his YouTube videos, so I started chatting him up while we were waiting to weigh in at that high school event, and we’ve been good friends ever since.”
Even though the pair's college campuses are three hours apart, Minor indeed knows Ward’s fishing strengths well. “We weighed in 17 pounds yesterday mostly by slowing down and milking one patch of hydrilla the size of a football field for all 17 pounds,” confirms Ward.
Tanner Ward and partner Rory Franks know that staying put in one area, and not running around, leaving fish to find fish, will be the biggest mental challenge they’ll face this week – especially now that a chilly weather front will add to the adversity bass tournaments inevitably offer.
But no matter where Ward lands on the leaderboard – two things are certain, he’s made a friend for life in Minor through fishing, and his sisters are definitely bass fishing fans after being here to experience the sport’s nearly unexplainable goodness this week in person.
From soul-moving autumn sunrises to fat limits of bass – this certainly won’t be the last shoreline family photo Team Ward ever takes.