Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship week kicked-off Monday with the first official practice day and an evening full of chargrilled grub at Dayton Boat Dock. But the side serving featured talk of Lake Chickamauga’s giant largemouth already being caught by collegiate fishing’s best talents – including Oklahoma State’s Taylor Hamburger who had photo proof of a 9 pounder he dredged up.
“We idled for more than two hours this morning just looking for deep schools before I ever made a cast, and when I finally saw the kind of school I was looking for, I made my first cast and caught a 9 pounder,” says Hamburger, a 20-year-old from Tulsa Edison High School, now majoring in Construction Management Technology at Oklahoma State.
Oklahoma is primarily known for its shallow water bass fishing, but through the school of hard knocks, failures, and mostly persistence as a high school angler, Hamburger learned the deep-water sonar game on his own with no mentors. And apparently he’s learned it as well as Coach Mike Gundy knows the OSU Cowboy offense.
“The first two years I qualified for the high school championships on Pickwick, I knew I had to try to catch fish off ledges, but I didn’t do good at all, but on my third trip, things started to click, and now I seem to do really well at places like Pickwick and Guntersville where Tennessee River ledge fishing often dominates,” he says.
Hamburger says he can now tell which schools of bass are catchable fish, and which aren’t, but the biggest key is having the self-control and discipline to simply ride and stare at his sonar screens, rather than succumb to the natural desire of wanting to cast and catch.
“We’ve ridden for three solid days before, looking for fish without ever making a cast. The goal is to find them in practice and catch them in the tournament,” he makes clear.
In refreshing fashion, he also funds his fishing obsession on a college kid’s budget. So that limits the sonar technology he can afford. Hence, he does the best he can with what he can afford. And for Hamburger, that equates to two fairly small 7” Lowrance HDS Gen 3 units, versus the much larger and pricier 12 or 16” displays.
On day one of practice, two 7-inch screens equated to 9 pounds of Chickamauga largemouth on his first cast, and perhaps a strong sign of the meaty potential Hamburger has for a shot at big time success this week.