It's official. The University of South Carolina Gamecocks are back-to-back FLW College Fishing National Championships.
With a three-day total of 38 pounds and 15 ounces, Chris Blanchette and Hampton Anderson from the University of South Carolina are keeping the title in the Palmetto state. The fact that the tournament took place in their home state, at beautiful Lake Keowee, made the win that much sweeter.
From March 17-20, 53 teams competed in the 2016 FLW College Fishing National Championship was presented by Insight Genesis College Cup and hosted by the Mountain Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau.
At the end of day one, a team from Dallas Baptist University was in first place with the top 10 teams only being separated by less than three pounds. The University of South Carolina trailed behind in 18th place.
By the start of day three, the Gamecocks managed to break into the top ten, but the Illinois State University Bass Team had taken lead and caught the heaviest limit of the tournament.
Rather than settle for just a top-10 finish, the Gamecocks rallied for a comeback. Their third-day weight of 13-4 was not only a game changer for the tournament standings, but the largest of the final round of the tournament.
After a slow start that morning with several fish pulling off, the duo didn't lose hope. They managed to pull about 7 1/2 pounds into the boat by throwing Senkos near stumps in water five- to seven-feet deep.
"We said, 'This is not how we're going to win it,'" Blanchette recounts. "We picked up, ran 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."
Anderson says that while the early kicker took a huge weight off their shoulders, they knew it wouldn't be enough. They needed two 3-plus fish to win.
Unfortunately, Blanchette broke off a good fish on the other side of the cove that produced the 4-pounder. Convinced they could upgrade further, the anglers pushed hard and gave the area every chance to produce.
Though they were able to breathe a small sigh of relief, Blanchette and Anderson knew it they would still come up short. They still needed two 3-plus fish for the win so relocation was the only option.
"We knew that area had what we were looking for, so we hunkered down in that cove," Blanchette said. "We didn't get a bite in an hour and a half, but we said, 'The fish to win live here.'
With only an hour left to fish, Blanchette reeled one in weighing two plus using a white Zoom lizard. Anderson immediately picked up the unweighted Senko, and within minutes caught one that was over three pounds.
"It came down to staying focused and patient with our game plan of being able to move and not being afraid to go out and potentially lose the tournament on something that we didn't fish in practice," Blanchette said.
Anderson and Blanchette won 29,000 in cash and prizes, including a Ranger Z175 bass boat with a 90-horsepower outboard. But before all the excitement of winning the championship could even begin to sink in, the duo were faced with a new challenge--each other.
Less than 24 hours after securing their school's second consecutive College Fishing national title, Blanchette and Anderson settled into their separate boats on Lake Russell, with only each other as competition.
Blanchette caught four bass with a final weight of 6 pounds, 6 ounces. With a five-bass limit of 10 pounds, 1 ounce, Anderson solidified his spot to compete in the Forrest Wood Cup from Aug. 4-7 on Wheeler Lake in Huntsville, Ala.
Like every Cup competitor, Anderson is guaranteed to take home at least $10,000, though he'll vie for the top prize of $300,000. Regardless of how The Cup shakes out, the national championship win is sure to have a lasting impact on the University's fishing program.
"This championship win was huge for our club," Anderson went on to say. "After Gettys (Brannon) and Patrick (Walters) won the championship last year our bass team definitely got bigger. I'm sure that our second-straight title will only help our numbers. We've got a few good teams already qualified for next year's championship as well, so the University of South Carolina is definitely becoming one of the top bass clubs in the nation."
Top 10 Teams
1. Chris Blanchette & Hampton Anderson - University Of South Carolina - 38-15 (15) - $29,000.00
2. Kennedy Kinkade & Josh Worth - Colorado Mesa University - 38-01 (15) - $5,000.00
3. Mitchell Jennings & Timmy Ward - Auburn University - 38-00 (15) - $4,000.00
4. Cobey Wingfield & Michael Gross - Henderson State - 35-14 (15) - $3,000.00
5. Andrew Tate & Dawson Lenz - North Alabama - 35-02 (15) - $2,000.00
6. Bryce Wegman & Taylor Umland - Illinois State University - 34-14 (15)
7. Jacob Bayer & Jarrett Martin - Adrian College - 34-00 (15)
8. Josh Bensema & Matthew Mcardle - Texas A&M - 31-07 (13)
9. Zackery Hines & Reed Foster - Dallas Baptist University - 30-05 (13)
10. Lance Maldonado & Ethan Dhuyvetter - Kansas State University - 25-03 (10)
For complete results, visit the FLW Fishing website.