The University of South Carolina Gamecocks Fishing Team won the FLW College Fishing National Championship yesterday on Lake Keowee. Anderson’s Hampton Anderson and Irmo’s Chris Blanchette caught an easy limit of small spotted bass, then moved off to catch enough good largemouth throughout the day to ensure back-to-back championships for the school. Persistence paid off for the duo.
The two anglers finished day one in 18th place with 11-12, upgraded into the top ten on day two with 13-15, then caught 13-4 on day three for a total of 38-15. Day three started off with Anderson and Blanchette bagging a small limit fairly quickly, and they upgraded from there, beating the 2nd place team of Kennedy Kinkade and Josh Worth of Colorado Mesa University by just under a pound.
With an early limit of spots that weighed about 7 1/2-pounds, the two knew they would need to upgrade their fish in order to win.
“We said, ‘this is not how we’re going to win it. We picked up, rant to the back of a creek, and started throwing the Senko. We knew if we kept it in our hand all day, we’d get the bites we needed. Sure enough, we sat down on our first spot, and on my second cast, I catch a 4-pounder at 9 o’clock,” said Blanchette.
This was a huge weight off their shoulders, but Anderson said he knew they needed at least another fish over 3-pounds to really have a shot at the title. After working that same area for some time, and losing another quality fish, the two resigned to search out another fishing hole.
“We had about 10 1/2 pounds, but we ran everything in that creek. We said, ‘we’ve burnt it up, and we have to make a decision,” said Blanchette.
They made a run to another creek that they knew contained similar structure to the last one, and even though the move made sense, neither angler had fished that creek for years.
“We knew that area had what we were looking for, so we hunkered down in that cove. We didn’t get a bite in an hour and a half, but we said, “the fish to win live here,” Blanchette said.
In this creek, Anderson caught a bass over 2 pounds, and Blanchette added another one over 3 pounds. Both those fish came in the last hour of the tournament.
Anderson and Blanchette won 29,000 in cash and prizes, including a Ranger Z175 bass boat with a 90-horsepower outboard. The two are facing each other today for a berth in the 2016 Forrest Wood Cup.