I just watched the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Classic Bracket presented by Bass Pro Shops. In a word, it was “incredible.” But I could also add “dramatic,” “exciting” and a bunch more superlatives to the descriptions.
For me, it was like watching an Alabama/Clemson football game. I’m watching it like a fan; not rooting for either team, I just want to watch a good, hard-fought competition.
To be honest, as I’m writing this I have to look up the two college anglers’ names. It struck me this wasn’t KVD or Ike going head-to-head, but two young men, who may one day be known by their initials or their nicknames.
Right now, they are Nick Ratliff of Campbellsville University and Nolan Minor of West Virginia University. If this were football, the West Virginia Mountaineers would probably trounce over the small Baptist school from Kentucky — if they even had a football team. This isn’t football. Still these two young men produced a contest for the ages.
It goes something like this:
Ratliff jumps out to an early and possibly insurmountable lead. Minor, though, keeps plugging away. Fish after fish and he ekes his way up and takes the lead. Then Minor grows that lead by 3 pounds or more.
At that point, I’ve already seen a great match-up with good, hard-fought competition. But it wasn’t over.
In the waning minutes, Ratliff starts catching them. He culls three times and wins by 4 ounces. It was the equivalent of a fourth-quarter comeback with all the poise and determination we love to see from all our athletes.
See the full story on Ratiff's win.
It forced me to recall Dean Rojas in our first Elite Series Classic Bracket with seconds clicking off the clock, he basically throws two Hail Mary casts and upends Jordan Lee, who has been leading the whole day. Then there was last year, when Dave Lefebre boated a last-second catch to advance.
We turn the cameras on these men and we start seeing just how these events play out, often down to the final minutes, or less.
This is why I love “Live” competition. It’s not guys showing up at the weigh in and recalling the one that got away, while the rest of us watch as numbers are thrown on a leaderboard and we watch them tally up.
Most tournaments do that. That’s what fans of bass fishing are accustomed to. But would the fervor be the same for an Alabama/Clemson game if you didn’t get to see every play? Instead, you watched as each team reveals their points and you are left listening to someone tell you about the pass they dropped, or a block they missed.
That is exactly the way bass fishing has been covered for decades. It’s the thing we are constantly working to try and change in a sport with gargantuan playing fields and 100-plus players going in 100-plus different directions.
This is why we blog, take photos and go LIVE at our Bassmaster events: So we can showcase the excitement of “every cast” and the drama that takes place on the water while it’s happening. Not relayed later in the day, week or month. It’s the thrill of victory and agony of defeat as it happens at our fingertips. Obviously, we can’t be everywhere all the time, but it’s so much better than it once was, and it’s just getting more compelling week after week, season after season.
I watched two college kids fish against each other today. Even though when I started writing this, I couldn’t recall their names, I was entertained and thrilled. It was live, and it was worth watching.
Here's video of Ratliff's winning fish.