The University of Florida team of Matthew Wercinski of Gainesville, Fla., and Jake Gipson of Niceville, Fla., won the first National Guard FLW College Fishing National Championship on Fort Loudoun Lake on Monday after catching three bass weighing 7 pounds, 11 ounces for a three-day total of 10 bass weighing 29 pounds, 10 ounces. The national championship, featuring a $100,000 first-place award, was a three-day nationally televised event hosting the top 25 teams in the country.
“It’s really great,” said Gipson, a senior industrial and systems engineering major. “It’s a dream come true to fish in the national championship. Just to get here is a dream come true, and to actually win it … I don’t think I can describe how cool that feeling is.”
“The title … the title means more to us (than the money),” added Wercinski, a junior finance major. “You can only be in the national championship most likely once in your life in anything. We were able to do it today and, wow … it’s an amazing feeling. It’s an indescribable feeling.”
Wercinski said on the first day of competition they were “hoping and praying” they could just make it to the top-5 cut.
“We really struggled that day,” Wercinski said. “We ran 25 different points, and it wasn’t until the last point that we found the fish that we caught. And that’s what we ended up milking for the entire tournament. So we were very fortunate just to be fishing here, let alone winning this whole thing.”
Gipson said the team ran all over the lake fishing points for pre-spawn fish during the first day of competition, which is how they had caught fish during practice. The team ended up catching mostly short fish on jerkbaits and Reactions Innovations Smallie Beavers on small jigheads.
“Day two completely changed our tournament,” said Wercinski. “We went back to the points that we found at the end of day one, and I was able to catch a really nice smallmouth and a really nice largemouth — probably around six pounds. That boosted us into second place — out of nowhere we came.
“Today it was rough on everybody, apparently,” Wercinski added. “So we squeaked it out. We fished hard all day. We caught seven or eight short fish, but we kept our heads down and we just kept fishing. And that’s all you can do.”
When day two leader Texas State came to the weigh-in stage, the Florida team said their emotions were high as the drama unfolded.
“I thought they had us,” said Gipson. “Honestly. They had three fish, and I knew it was going to be close. I thought they had us. I didn’t think there was going to be any way. When I saw the weight, I couldn’t believe it at first. I didn’t think that was real.”
The remaining top five teams included:
2nd: Texas State University – Jay McCollum of Athens, Texas, and David Cosner of Austin, Texas, (12 bass, 29-1, $50,000)
3rd: Auburn University – Dennis Parker of Prattville, Ala., and Shaye Baker of Reeltown, Ala., (10 bass, 28-10, $25,000)
4th: Murray State University – Kalem Tippett of Murray, Ky., and Steve Miller of Lincolnshire, Ill., (10 bass, 21-8, $20,000)
5th: Texas A&M – Andrew Shafer of Chadfield, Texas, and Paul Manley of Orange, Texas, (nine bass, 21-7, $15,000)
A complete list of results can be found at: http://www.collegefishing.com/tournament.cfm.
The teams, which represent the top five teams from each of five divisions — Central, Northern, Southeast, Texas and Western — are the representatives from a tough season where teams fished four regular-season events in each division. The top five teams in each qualifying event advanced to one of five three-day National Guard FLW College Fishing Regional Championships. The top five teams from each of those regional tournaments competed in Tennessee for the title of National Guard FLW Collegiate National Champion, and also qualified for the 2010 Forrest Wood Cup Aug. 5-8 at Lake Lanier in Atlanta, Ga. The winners also received use of a wrapped boat and Chevy truck for Cup competition.
College Fishing events are free to enter, boats and drivers are provided by FLW Outdoors and all collegiate teams receive a travel allowance. Each team that competed in the national championship sported jerseys and fished out of wrapped Ranger boats towed by Chevy trucks for the competition.
Each regular-season College Fishing event boasts a top cash award of $10,000 to be split evenly between the university and the university’s bass-fishing club. Regional events tout a top award of a Ranger 177TR with a 90-horsepower engine wrapped in school colors for their school’s bass club and $25,000 for the school they represent. The national championship awards the top team with $25,000 cash, a Ranger 177TR with a 90-horsepower engine wrapped in school colors for their school’s bass club and $50,000 for the school they represent. The Forrest Wood Cup, the world championship of bass fishing, offers anglers the chance to win a top award of $600,000.
In conjunction with the National Championship, FLW Outdoors also announced the 2010 National Guard FLW College Fishing Regional Championship schedule. The scheduled events include:
West Regional Championship
Oct. 7-9, 2010
Folsom Lake, Sacramento, Calif.
Sacramento State University
Southeast Regional Championship
Oct. 21-23, 2010
Lake Monroe, Orlando, Fla.
University of Central Florida
Northern Regional Championship
Oct. 28-30, 2010
Jordan Lake, Raleigh, N.C.
North Carolina State University
Central Regional Championship
Nov. 4-6, 2010
Lake Monroe, Bloomington, Ind.
Texas Regional Championship
Nov. 11-13, 2010
Sam Rayburn, Nacogdoches, Texas
Stephen F. Austin State University
ABOUT FLW OUTDOORS FLW Outdoors, named after Forrest L. Wood, the legendary founder of Ranger Boats, is the largest fishing tournament organization in the world offering anglers worldwide the opportunity to compete for millions over the course of 189 tournaments in 2010. FLW Outdoors has also taken fishing mainstream with FLW Fantasy Fishing awarding the largest prizes in the history of fantasy sports. FLW Outdoors memberships are available featuring numerous benefits including Player’s Advantage. For more information about FLW Outdoors and its tournaments, visit FLWOutdoors.com or call (270) 252-1000. For more information about FLW Fantasy Fishing, visit FantasyFishing.com. FLWOutdoors.com