STEVENS POINT, Wis.— On a tough final day, Josh Bensema and Matthew McArdle of Texas A&M University used two fish for 3 pounds, 10 ounces to claim the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship presented by Bass Pro Shops.
The Day 1 leaders overcame a 6-ounce deficit and a 50-minute delay on Saturday morning to top the rest of the field and take home the biggest prize in college fishing.
“I still feel like I’m dreaming,” Bensema said. “I’m sure it will hit me soon, but I’m trying to keep it in the back of my mind for right now because I need to keep my focus aimed at the bracket.
When we caught a keeper right away we were very confident,” Bensema said. “To go almost the rest of the day with no fish was tough, but catching that smallmouth with five minutes to go was important. Matt looked at me and said ‘I think you just caught the winning fish.’ It turns out I did.”
Over the course of the National Championship, Bensema and McArdle caught eight fish for a three-day total of 18 pounds, 4 ounces. The majority of their fish came on a topwater frog, with some keepers coming on a jig as well. They had a significant morning bite that helped them on Thursday, but on Saturday the Texas duo almost missed their window of opportunity. All of Texas A&M’s fish for the tournament were largemouth.
The rocky start to their morning began with their boat insurance. The insurance card for Bensema’s brand new boat didn’t have the numerical amount of insurance listed, and in order to take off, B.A.S.S. tournament officials have to see it. After trying to call an insurance agent on Saturday morning at 6 a.m. with no luck, Bensema and McArdle called and purchased a new claim with another insurance company in order to get on the water and start their day.
“We got a little rattled this morning and I made about hundred phone calls,” McArdle said. “We just decided to keep our heads up and just go fishing because you fish much better when you don’t stress yourself out.”
The tough nature of this fishery and the pressure that Lake DuBay has received over the entire week culminated with only two teams boating keeper fish on Saturday. The University of Minnesota, like Texas A&M, only boated two keepers and fell short of the title by 1 pound. Trevor Lo and Chris Burgan of Minnesota claimed second place after weighing 5 pounds, 8 ounces on Saturday and finishing with a three-day total of 17 pounds, 4 ounces.
In completely opposite fashion of Texas A&M, Minnesota caught seven smallmouth and fished at the opposite end of Lake DuBay. They targeted swift current near the Mosinee Dam and used spinning tackle to land their weight on Saturday.
The Friday leaders from Nicholls State University didn’t catch a keeper on Saturday and dropped to third place overall, but they still punched their ticket to fish in the College Series Classic Bracket, which begins competition on Sunday morning. The duo of Tyler Rivet and Allyson Marcel boated six fish for 15 pounds over three days.
Jake Whitaker and Andrew Helms from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte claimed the fourth and final spot in the Classic Bracket after they too failed to boat a keeper bass on Lake DuBay Saturday. The defending National Champions will now set their sights on the Classic Bracket.
The University of Alabama squeezed into the fifth and final spot to fish on Saturday, but Frankie Appaluccio and Logan Shaddix couldn’t get any momentum going and didn’t weigh a fish on Saturday. Since they didn’t catch a fish and was already on the outside of the Classic Bracket, they were eliminated. Appaluccio will finish his college career with a fifth-place finish in the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship while Shaddix has one more year to compete.
Trevor Lo and Chris Burgan from the University of Minnesota brought a 3-pound, 13-ounce smallmouth to the scales and claimed the Carhartt Big Bass of the tournament. For their efforts they will receive a $500 Carhartt gift card.
The Bass Pro Shops/Nitro Big Bag award goes to Tyler Rivet and Allyson Marcel of Nicholls State University after they brought 8 pounds, 7 ounces to the scales on Friday. They received a $250 Bass Pro Shops gift card for their achievement.
Round 1 of the College Series Classic Bracket begins on Sunday with takeoff at 6 a.m. from Bukolt Park (100 Bukolt Ave., Stevens Point, WI 54481) with weigh-in starting at 2:30 p.m. at Bukolt Park.