Team Championship: Friends become foes

The best team in the nation was crowned Friday afternoon, but on Saturday the teams are split and all six anglers will go head to head for the final Classic slot.

Today the 2015 Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Champions were crowned. Louisiana’s Nick LeBrun and Randy Deaver are the best duo in bass fishing after weighing a 2-day total of 48-7. These guys were jacked! It was refreshing to see all three of the Top-3 teams so excited.

But, what is going to happen on the final day of competition will pit these anglers against each other to vie for the final Bassmaster Classic spot that’s the line for tomorrow. The format will be unique: Due to Day 2 being postponed, a four-day event turned into three, but with a two-day format jammed into one. In short, each of the six anglers will fish for four hours in the morning and weigh their best five fish, and immediately release them. Then they will return to the water to fish for an additional four hours and five more fish.

I’ve got to implement some personal insight here. I’ve grown up fishing team events, and my best friend is my bass-fishing partner. I’d very easily stand here and say that he’s the A-Team on our team and I’m the net man, but as I watched this event unfold, I was curious how the anglers would divide up their spots. Their answers were surprising, or maybe they aren’t considering how close each of these guys seem to be with their teammates.

The third place team comprised of Randy Deaver and Nick LeBrun will take turns on certain spots and share the water where they caught their 10 fish over the past two days of competition. When I asked how the discussion had gone, their answers were spot on.

“Look, we’re best friends,” said LeBrun. “And, we’ll still be best friends when this is over. That’s why we’ve come this far is because we’re friends first, bass-fishing teammates second–we just gel well together.”

“Sure, it’s a dream of each of ours to fish the Classic,” explained Deaver, the other half of the duo. “But, truth be told, I’d be just as excited if Nick goes as I would be if I do. We’re both just happy to have a shot at this thing!”

Dean Alexander and Tom Martens from Texas claimed second place during the team event. These two guys really seem to enjoy their time together on the water.

“Throughout the day Dean would look back at me with a grin and ask where I would be fishing tomorrow,” laughed Martens. “My response to that was ‘how will you be getting home?’ We make a great team, but truth be told, Dean is a better angler and he really deserves a shot at the Classic. But, I’m not just going to give it to him!”

“We will share the water, trade spots and make sure that each of us have an equal shot at winning,” Alexander said. ” We’ve worked hard to get here and I know each of us would be happy for the other if he makes it. We plan on fishing hard and going out to win. Our spots have the fish on them, but they’ve been pressured the last couple of days and how it shakes out tomorrow will be interesting.”

Risner and Eaton of Michigan were beyond words for much of our discussion.

“We just won a major event together, and that is something nobody can take away from us,” said Risner. “We both had a difficult year. Each of us lost our grandparents this past spring and we were very close to them. We kind of dedicated our season to them, and I’m certain that they were looking down on us while we fished together this year. It’s hard to explain the season.”

“Our seaosn is complete,” said Eaton. “I’m looking at tomorrow as a bonus day of fishing, and come what may. I know the Classic is on the table, and that would be amazing! But, each of us agree that both of us would be tremendously proud of the other if he makes it. We have the right fish on our spots and we’re planning to share all the water. It’s really a battle between the individual and the fish, I’m not going out there to beat Chris, rather beat the fish. Wherever that lands me, I’m 100-percent satisfied.”

It’s great to see quality freindships work togeher to achieve a goal, but it’s even better to see them support the other when they temporarily become foes. It will be a dramatic ending.