The goal of every student angler competing in the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship on Lake Bemidji, is to win the one berth being offered to the 2018 Bassmaster Classic. And Bethel University’s John Garrett knows exactly how that feels.
Garrett, a 21-year-old business management major, won the College Classic Bracket last year, and competed at the 2017 Bassmaster Classic five months ago on Lake Conroe near Houston.
However, prior to 1:00 p.m. during Day 1 of competition Thursday here on Lake Bemidji, things looked bleak for Garrett and partner Brian Pahl, before they finally caught 14 pounds late in the day, to keep chances very much alive for an appearance in the Bassmaster Classic.
As competition began Friday, they sit near the top of the leaderboard in 4th place.
“We’ve fished together for three years, and we don’t let our egos get in the way of each other. We have a lot of mutual respect for one another’s ideas. So with just one keeper in the livewell at lunchtime yesterday, we kept trying new patterns in the same area where we were struggling, and it paid off,” explains Pahl, a senior business management major at Bethel in West Tennessee.
Garrett knew fishing would be tough on Bemidji. Practice was super tough on the soft-spoken youngster known for his deep-water structure fishing abilities, but Bemidji is a shallow water game, where pitching soft plastics and topwater frogs often shine best this time of year.
“I feel a lot better going out today, than I did before the start of the tournament, but I’d still say it’s 50/50 on whether I can make it back to the Bassmaster Classic,” says Garrett in his typical humble fashion.
If he does win here, it will require beating his buddy Pahl in a rare bracket elimination format that eventually pits team anglers against one another for the final round of the event.
And as for the feelings a college kid can expect if he makes the Bassmaster Classic, well, the memories are still fresh for Garrett.
“Just being at the Classic is a big deal. Simply being in the presence of the best anglers in the world makes you better. And catching that first keeper on a tough Lake Conroe -- knowing I’d get to cross the stage at Minute Maid Park with a bass in my hands -- is still my greatest memory of the past year.”