SFA team divided

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Beginning Sunday at 6 a.m., Stephen F. Austin’s Mercury College B.A.S.S. National Championship team will be a team divided.

For six hours, Andrew Upshaw and Ryan Watkins will go one-on-one to determine the first-ever Bassmaster Classic berth from the collegiate ranks. But they didn’t want to talk about that Saturday, with national championship trophies freshly in hand.

“I don’t care who wins,” Upshaw said. “We did what we wanted to do.”

Watkins echoed that thought, saying, “What we did here today will last a lot longer than the Bassmaster Classic.”

But, in what both admitted will be a sleepless night, their competitive spirits are likely to shift a bit.

Here’s the scenario for Sunday:

  • For the fourth day in a row they will move to another body of water.
  • This one will be a private reservoir, nicknamed for this event “Lake Classic,” located near Little Rock.
  • The hour glass-shaped reservoir will be divided in half.
  •  Upshaw will fish in one half and Watkins in the other for the first two hours, they’ll switch places for the next two hours, then can fish anywhere they will the last two hours.
  • Each will be in identically rigged Bass Pro Shops Z-9 Nitro boats, equipped with 250-horsepower Mercury motors.
  • The angler with the heaviest five-bass limit wins a berth in the Bassmater Classic.

Mercury College B.A.S.S. organizer Steve Bowman described the private reservoir as intensely managed for trophy bass. It has been stocked with the tiger bass strain, which is known for fast growth and fighting aggressively.

“It holds a number of 10-pound bass,” Bowman said. “But it’s also going to be the hottest day of the year, so there’s no guarantee that any of those big fish will be caught.”

Larry Upshaw, Andrew’s father, was at Saturday’s weigh-in when the Stephen F. Austin team earned the championship. He was a successful high school football coach in Texas for 27 years. When asked if Sunday’s matchup would be bigger than any football game he’d coached, Upshaw replied, “Oh, heck yes.”