The University of South Carolina team of Patrick Walters of Summerville, South Carolina, and Gettys Brannon of Gaffney, South Carolina, took the early lead Wednesday after Day One of the 2017 YETI FLW College Fishing National Championship on Wheeler Lake presented by Lowrance C-Map Genesis.
The Gamecock duo weighed a five-bass limit totaling 17 pounds, 3 ounces and will begin Day Two with an 8-ounce lead over the second place team from Tennessee’s Bethel University.
The three-day event features 139 of the top college bass fishing clubs from across the nation competing in an internationally-televised tournament for a $30,000 prize package, including a new Ranger Z175 boat with a 90-horsepower Evinrude outboard and entry into the 2017 Forrest Wood Cup. The Forrest Wood Cup, the world championship of bass fishing, will be held August 11-13 on Lake Murray in Columbia, South Carolina, and will offer a collegiate angler the opportunity to compete for a top award of $300,000.
The University of South Carolina bass club is no stranger to the FLW College Fishing National Championship, as teams from their club have won the last two championships back-to-back. Walters and Brannon won the event on Lake Murray in 2015, then teammates Chris Blanchette and Hampton Anderson followed it up with another national championship win in 2016 on Lake Keowee. Now, Walters and Brannon are looking to make it three straight titles for the club and earn their second title as a team.
“It looks good, but nothing is coming easy,” said Brannon, a recent graduate with a degree in advertising. “We caught all of our weight by 10 (a.m.) today and then after that it was brutally slow.”
“We’re fishing offshore, and we’ve probably got about 10 to 12 spots,” said Walters, a senior majoring in business management and marketing. “Each spot gets hot at different times. I believe that there are fish on every single one of them, but you just have to time it perfectly and be there when the fish turn on.”
The duo estimated that they caught around 20 fish throughout the day, with 12 keepers. They said that they were rotating through three or four different baits, but one bait seemed to be the key for them on Wednesday.
“There are a couple of boats fishing around us, and they’re probably doing what we’re doing,” Walters said. “We’re just going to put the trolling motor down and get after it and hope that if we do it enough it will pay off.”
“This is my last college fishing tournament, so I’m just trying to enjoy it and soak it all in,” Brannon added. “I would love nothing more than to go out on top and get a chance to go back to Lake Murray to fish for the Forrest Wood Cup.”
The top 10 teams after Day One on Wheeler Lake are:
1st: University of South Carolina – Patrick Walters, Summerville, S.C., and Gettys Brannon, Gaffney, S.C., five bass, 17-3
2nd: Bethel University – Evan Owrey, Jackson, Tenn., and Kristopher Queen, Catawba, N.C., five bass, 16-11
3rd: Kansas State University – Travis Blenn, Westmoreland, Kan., and Kyle Alsop, Overland Park, Kan., five bass, 16-8
4th: University of Louisiana-Monroe – Tyler Stewart and Nicholas Joiner, both of West Monroe, La., five bass, 15-4
5th: University of Wisconsin – Jacob Anderson and Bryce Smith, both of Princeton, Wis., five bass, 14-8
6th: University of Oregon – Ryan Habenicht, Auburn, Calif., and Daniel Marshall, Eugene, Ore., five bass, 14-7
7th: East Texas Baptist University – Brett Clark, Center, Texas, and Jacob Keith, Jefferson, Texas, five bass, 14-6
8th: Murray State University – Chandler Christian, Owensboro, Ky., and Lance Freeman, Eddyville, Ky., five bass, 14-3
9th: Bryan College – Connor Cohran, Dalton, Ga., and Cole Sands, Calhoun, Tenn., five bass, 13-2
10th: Slippery Rock University – Logan Pollman, Slippery Rock, Pa., and Tyler Sheppard, Hermitage, Pa., five bass, 12-10
For a full list of results, visit FLWFishing.com.
Overall there were 569 bass weighing 1,075 pounds, 2 ounces caught by 132 college teams Wednesday. The catch included 87 five-bass limits.
Anglers will take off Thursday and Friday from Joe Wheeler State Park, located at 4401 McLean Drive, in Rogersville, Alabama, at 6:30 a.m. CDT. Thursday’s weigh-in will be held at the State Park beginning at 2:30 p.m. Friday’s weigh-in will be held at McFarland Park, located at 200 Jim Spain Drive in Florence, at 3 p.m., prior to the Day Two weigh-in of the BFL All-American championship at Pickwick Lake.
The winning college team will advance to compete Saturday in a one-day fish-off against each other on Wilson Lake. The two anglers will weigh in at 3:25 p.m. prior to the final weigh in of the BFL All-American championship at Pickwick Lake. The winner will advance to the Forrest Wood Cup. All takeoffs and weigh-ins are free and open to the public.
Television coverage of the YETI FLW College Fishing National Championship will premiere in high-definition (HD) on NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) Oct. 4 from Noon -1 p.m. EDT. The Emmy-nominated "FLW" television show airs on NBCSN, the Pursuit Channel and the World Fishing Network and is broadcast to more than 564 million households worldwide, making it the most widely distributed weekly outdoors-sports television show in the world.
College Fishing is free to enter. All participants must be registered, full-time students at a college, university or community college and members of a fishing club recognized by their college or university.
For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow College Fishing on Facebook at Facebook.com/FLWFishing and on Twitter at Twitter.com/FLWFishing. Visit CollegeFishing.com to sign up or to start a club at your school.