This past Saturday, the first FLW College Fishing Western Qualifier was held on Shasta Lake. Forty sleep deprived two-person teams of college students showed up in hopes of qualifying for regionals and winning some cash and bragging rights along the way. The previous two days of results from the EverStart series showed Shasta was fishing tough, and every limit was going to have to be well earned. As Monster energy drinks were cracked and shots of 5-hour energy passed around; College anglers gathered around the FLW stage early in the morning, greeting old friends from around the West, and nonchalantly chirping out a good luck to rival schools, who they surely hoped to beat after six hours on the water. For a January day at Shasta Lake, the morning was surprisingly warm, and as the day went on, at 66 degrees, It almost felt like a summer day to my partner and I, after countless weeks of cold and rain in Oregon.
Fishing was tough all around, and it was clear making the top five would come down to ounces as it often does at spotted bass fisheries. The bass weren’t cooperating; roaming alone, rather then in schools, making bites few and far between. My partner, Ross, and I were only able to put three fish in the boat, all coming in 25-35 feet of water. With our eyes glued to our graph for most of the day, we were seldom able to find bait, only being able to find one bait ball being actively pursued by bass, which we were able to milk one keeper from. We tried senkos, jigs, drop shots, spoons and wacky jig heads, with our only bites coming on the drop shot.
As we idled into check-in, our thoughts turned to our teammates, hoping they had greater success. Dock talk suggested everyone had a pretty tough day, with most teams shaking their heads holding up one or two fingers, signaling the number of fish they were able to bring in. Over the last two years of FLW College Fishing, the University of Oregon team remained the same for the most part, with most people fishing for the club for their third or fourth year. With many teammates graduating, this would be the first tournament for three new OBT members. This would be my partner and I’s twelfth FLW tournament, and it was fun to think back to our very first and get excited for our new teammates. As two of our teams reached the dock, excitement began to grow as Will Crowl and Kyle Schneider were able to bring in five fish, and the two man team consisting of my roommates; Nick Doring and Zach Niesen, were just one short with four, but with a good kicker. After weighing in our three fish for a respectable although disappointing 17th finish, Ross and I walked off the stage and waited in anticipation for our teammates to weigh in.
Chico State occupied the top three spots after the first ten or so teams had weighed in, as the local school was proving they knew their stuff. Crowl and Schneider came first, and after showing off some new OBT swag, the team took over the hot seat with 7lbs 6oz, led by Will “The Predator” Crowl’s five fish, all coming off shakeyheads. With a lot of teams to weigh in, it would seem very unlikely the weight would hold. But as more and more teams brought up light bags, it seemed it just might be enough. Doring and Niesen were able to slide into third place, anchored by Doring’s 2lb 10oz spotted bass, which by the day’s standards, was quite a kicker. Doring later explained he had actually sight fished the bass as it cruised into the shallows under the heating sun. In just his fourth time bass fishing overall, and some quick lessons the day before and during the car ride, Niesen was able to contribute two fish to the limit, bringing some laughs and loud cheering from the rest of the OBT. First and Fourth, with three teams to go. Boise State was up first, holding what looked like a solid bag. Doring and Niesen held their breaths as Justin Lucas shouted out, “5lbs 10 ounces, just short of the top five.” There were only two teams left, threatening the OBT’s first ever FLW tournament win, and a qualifying finish for Doring and Niesen. Cal Poly came next, a team that absolutely dominated the circuit the year before, and was able to qualify for Nationals in 2011. Another limit just short. Lastly, Sonoma State, another local team with a top five finish at Shasta the year before came to the scales. One fish went into the scale. A few seconds ticked away, and as the OBT realized Sonoma State had only one fish, the cheering began and the familiar “OOOOOOooooooooooooo” buzzed throughout the crowd. Crowl and Schneider were still in the hot seat, and the University of Oregon had won its first FLW College Fishing tournament, qualifying two teams in the process and bringing home $12,000 for the club.
For complete results visit: www.collegefishing.com