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Harris Chain lands two Bassmaster championship events

Florida’s diverse Harris Chain of Lakes in Leesburg, Fla., will host two B.A.S.S. championship tournaments later this year.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Florida’s diverse Harris Chain of Lakes in Leesburg, Fla., will host two 2020 championship tournaments, B.A.S.S. officials announced today. College bass anglers eagerly anticipating the return of competition can now mark their calendars for the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Championship presented by Bass Pro Shops, which will be held Oct. 29-31. While a spot in the 2021 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic will be on the line at the Bassmaster Team Championship and Classic Fish-Off Dec. 9-12.

“On behalf of our great partners at Visit Lake and the City of Leesburg, we are so pleased to welcome the 2020 Carhartt Bassmaster College Team Championship and the 2020 Bassmaster Team Championship to Lake County,” said Jason Siegel, CEO & President of the Greater Orlando Sports Commission. “Our community is appreciative of the opportunity to host the College Championship for the first time and welcome back the Team Championship for the second time to the Harris Chain of Lakes. We look forward to providing a safe and enjoyable atmosphere and are confident that the anglers and their families will have a wonderful experience in Lake County this fall.”

The Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Championship will field as many as 130 teams of anglers representing colleges and universities across the nation. Qualifications are based on the teams’ finishes in four college tour stops being held throughout the country.

Only one College Series tournament was completed before events were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That January event on Toledo Bend saw Cody Huff and Dakota Pierce of powerhouse Bethel University go wire-to-wire to not only clinch the victory and earn more than $3,000 for the Bethel bass fishing team, but also secure their berth in the College Championship tournament. 

“We’re excited to work with these great partners to offer young anglers an incredible championship tournament experience,” said College Series Senior Manager Hank Weldon. “I am thrilled that we were able to get the regular season and championship rescheduled so that the majority of teams who registered for these tournaments can compete for a national title and chance to fish the Classic.”

The College Championship tournament will crown the national championship team as well as 2020 Bassmaster College Series Team of the Year. Additionally, anglers on the Top 4 teams will earn a chance to compete for a berth in the 2021 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic at November’s Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Classic Bracket Challenge on Alabama’s Lay Lake.

2019 College Bracket Challenge winner Huff, who fished against three of his Bethel teammates, not only earned a spot in the 50th Bassmaster Classic on Lake Guntersville, but made it to Championship Sunday before ultimately finishing 24th.

“Competing in the College Team Championship and winning the College Bracket Challenge turned a dream into a reality,” said Huff. “It seems like such a long shot to win, but it just takes six good days of fishing to be driving your dream truck and boat to the biggest tournament in bass fishing, the Bassmaster Classic.”

Also battling for a berth in the Bassmaster Classic will be the grassroots anglers competing at the Bassmaster Team Championship. The team portion of the event will be held Dec. 9-10 and will feature anglers from 30 states and several foreign countries. The winning duo will not only win a cash prize, but they’ll also lead the charge into the Classic Fish-Off which will take place Dec. 11-12. The Team Championship was last held at Harris Chain in 2018.

The top three teams through Day 2 — six anglers in all — will have their weights zeroed and then compete individually in the Fish-Off. The competitor with the heaviest two-day total of the group will nab the coveted spot in the Classic. Josh Busby, of Rogersville, Mo., won the 2019 Bassmaster Team Championship Classic Fish-Off on Lake Hartwell. Busby was so overcome with emotion at making his childhood dream a reality that the 36-year-old food scientist fell to his knees on stage and wept.

Emotions are sure to run high for both championship tournaments on Harris Chain, part of Lake County, Fla. This scenic area in the Oklawaha River basin north of Orlando features seven interconnected lakes — Big Harris, Little Harris, Eustis, Dora, Beauclair, Carlton and Griffin — dotted with eelgrass, lilypads, reeds and bulrushes.

“We are thrilled to host the 2020 Bassmaster College Championship and the Bassmaster Team Championship,” said Commissioner Tim Sullivan, Lake County Board of County Commissioners. “Lake County is the premier destination for visitors to experience ‘Real Florida. Real Close.’ and is home to the best bass fishing lakes in the southeastern United States.”

The bountiful bass fishing at this storied location is just one reason why B.A.S.S. has hosted 17 major tournaments at the fishery.

“Lake County is excited to continue our successful run of hosting top-tier fishing tournaments with both the 14th Annual Carhartt Bassmaster College Team Championship and the Bassmaster Team Championship,” said Brandon Matulka, Executive Director of the Lake County Agency for Economic Prosperity. “We strive to be a top destination for these events and welcome all the anglers, their families, tournament staff and sponsors to stay and enjoy everything our great community has to offer.”

The Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Championship presented by Bass Pro Shops and Bassmaster Team Championship and Classic Fish-Off are being hosted by GO Sports, Visit Lake and the City of Leesburg.