One bass, two bags of ice

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Alan McGuckin
Ben Seaman and Tyler Robinson

Ben Seaman and Tyler Robinson left what are arguably the two greatest summer bass fisheries in America, St. Lawrence River and Lake Champlain, to drive 26 hours to hot, humid and gorgeous Lake Tenkiller for a chance to compete against student anglers from 78 other universities at the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship presented by Bass Pro Shops.

And so far, after three brutally tough days of practice, they’ve only caught one keeper-sized bass from this Eastern Oklahoma fishery.

But don’t feel bad for them. This highly likeable team from Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y., floated in the pre-dawn darkness before the start of the first day of competition with two bags of ice to keep their livewell water nice and cool, and a boatload of laughs and great attitude. 

“Be honest with us, are we the best looking guys out here?” laughed Seaman, an engineering major.

“No really, we’re thrilled to be here. We love talking to all the other college anglers. They’re such great guys, and Carhartt has been so awesome,” he smiled. “They gave us free shirts and shorts at the banquet last night, and they do so much to organize a great event. We can’t wait to go home and tell people how well Carhartt, B.A.S.S. and all of the sponsors treated us.”                                                                                                                                

But before they make the 26-hour drive back home with Seaman’s dad, Murray, a recently retired engineer who gladly helps with everything from the long drive to packing their lunch, Ben and Tyler have to figure out Tenkiller’s super stingy summertime bass from water temperatures higher than they’ve ever seen.

“There’s no doubt the 90-degree water here has us mentally spun-out just a bit,” says Seaman. “This water is literally 22 degrees warmer than what we left behind at Champlain and the St. Lawrence. We’ve never seen water this warm in our lives. Plus, we’re used to fishing around big underwater boulders surrounded by milfoil, but there’s not any vegetation at all here on Tenkiller.”

The two are fishing fanatics who spend countless hours dropping Gajo soft plastics on the heads of super-sized St. Lawrence smallmouth with tremendous success, but here at Tenkiller, a 3/4-ounce Strike King structure jig generated their only bite in practice. 

“We’re going to start the day with the only thing we’ve had any success with so far – dragging that heavy jig in 25 feet of water,” says Seaman. 

They’ll also start the day by keeping plenty of ice handy to keep their livewell water cool with optimistic hopes of catching more than they have so far in practice. 

But, no matter what today or the rest of this National Championship brings forth for Seaman and Robinson at the weigh-in, they’ve already caught proper perspective and a winning attitude that will happily carry them 26 hours back home, and even further in life.