There isn’t a university in America that is better represented in bass fishing than Auburn University. Not only does Auburn boast multiple proud Auburn alumni in the Bassmaster Elite series in the likes of Stephen Kennedy, Jordan and Matt Lee, but Auburn boasts multiple national championships in the short time that college fishing has been mainstream.
Thanks to the relationship between college fishing and the many different professional bass fishing tours, specifically the Bassmaster Classic and the Bassmaster Elite Series, Auburn continues to be in the perennial elite at the college level while elevating club members like the Lee brothers to the highest level.
This week, the Carhartt College Series Finals kick off on Thursday, July 28, and the three-day tournament wraps up on Saturday on Green River lake in Campbellsville, Kentucky. Sure, a national championship is on the line for the Auburn University Bass Fishing Team, but there is even more to it than a trophy.
As in previous years, the two national champions will compete in a fish-off for one spot in the Bassmaster Classic, one of the two most prestigious bass fishing events of the year, next to the FLW’s Forrest Wood Cup. With that one-time shot comes the opportunity to join the Bassmaster Elite Series. Auburn has precedent in doing just that, as Jordan and Matt Lee turned their opportunities at the Classic into a professional career on the Elite Series.
Can Auburn pull off another championship?
Of the 89-team field from 62 colleges, Auburn has qualified three teams to compete. The Tigers will be sending three teams to Carhartt College Bass Nationals to compete with 90 other teams around the country. The three pairs are: Cole Burdeshaw and Travis Culbreth, Austin Handley and Caleb Wozniak, and Auston Wingard and Chad Matthews. The 90 teams from 24 states are heavily dominated by members of the SEC. Fully half the members of the SEC will be on hand as Auburn, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Texas A&M, and Florida will represent the conference.
What can be expected from Green River lake, the earthen-dam reservoir on the Green river? It will fish small. The 8,200 acres have clear water and steep bluff banks. In comparison, Guntersville is Alabama’s largest lake and checks in at 69,000 acres.
This time of year is challenging and tough for any fisherman due to high temperatures, low current and post-spawn conditions. Fish are sluggish due to heat and the spawn and won’t be grouped up without current. Typically they will suspend in deep water, making it especially hard to target.
A lake such as Green River is especially hard because the lack of shallow water and water clarity make it difficult to target bass. Instead of fishing in five feet or less where a fishermen can cover the water column easily, they now have to fish any depth up to 30 feet. With limited major creeks, finding main river points holding active fish will be key, yet the fishing pressure on the lake may make that difficult, as the lake receives a lot of fishing weekly.
Many of the college fishermen expect low weights. Eight pounds a day in five fish seems to be the running number to stay ahead of the daily cuts. Local fishing reports and wildlife surveys report that the average size of smallmouth is up. With quality smallmouth potentially hanging around deep main river points and by the dams, even one four-plus pound smallmouth can make a day as many fishermen report good numbers of small largemouth or spots, just no size. Though the smallmouth option may be the best, there are others. Finding big numbers of spotted bass and culling through the day is always an option, as is catching a quick limit of spots and fishing for a big largemouth.
Who will be the Tiger’s competition? Look no further than Murray States’ own Lance Freeman, who has extensive knowledge of the lake and has won four of the five tournaments he has fished on the reservoir.
Make sure to check in with the Auburn Bass Fishing Team and cheer them on. Within a few weeks, the event will be shown on ESPN2 on Sunday at 7:00 AM, date TBD. The top four teams in this event will split, and the eight anglers will then go head-to-head, bracket-style, on Kentucky Lake, August 4–6. The overall winner will earn a coveted spot in the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic on Texas’ Lake Conroe, March 24–26, 2017.
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