College is back in session and that means that FLW college fishing events are getting back into the swing of things as well. One of the big events of the season - the West Division Invitational - is set to take place next weekend, October 12 and 13, at the beautiful Clear Lake in Lake County, California.
It's a prime freshwater fishing destination, and the event will reflect just that: 45 college teams from throughout the western United States have qualified to participate in the event, and the winner will not only go home with $4,000, but will also score a berth in next year's FLW College Fishing National Championship. In other words, this is a high stakes event, and the participants will undoubtedly bring their best fishing to the table in order to fight their way to the top.
So who is worth watching at this year's college fishing West Division Invitational?
We have our eye on the team from Oregon State University, which includes talented young anglers Zach Macdonald and Ryan Sparks. Both Macdonald and Sparks are returning veterans, with a number of high profile top-three finishes under their belts for Western Conference events. In February, the two won an FLW event worth $2,000, and they will doubtlessly be looking to add to the bank at next weekend's invitational.
In addition to their obvious talent, Sparks and Macdonald are both mentored by Chevy fishing pro Jay Yelas, a guy who FLW actually quoted in their press release about the upcoming West Division Invitational. Yelas calls Clear Lake his "favorite lake in the country," a place where he typically escapes for a fishing weekend or two come October each year. Chances are good that Yelas has taken the Oregon State team out to Clear Lake for some training, or at the very least he has revealed some of the lake's secrets and strategies to his younger apprentices. Either way, Oregon State certainly has a leg up over the rest of the competition.
Macdonald and Sparks were trailed by a few pounds at their successful February event by Kevin Chen and Koulton Westbrook, who together make up one of the three teams making the pilgrimage to the West Division Invitational from Chico State. Chen and Westbrook won't be looking to taste defeat at the hands of Oregon State again.
Speaking of Chico State, another team - featuring Nick Carrico and Andrew Loberg - currently stands as one of the heavyweights of the season. In May, they scored 24 pounds of bass at a Western Conference event, a number that easily puts them in the category of anglers to watch at next weekend's invitational.
An early-year winner in the Western Conference was the Eastern Washington University team of Nick Barr and Jarred Walker, who bested Oregon State at another $2,000 California event in January. Barr and Walker managed to score a 9-pound, 8-ounce five-bass haul at that event, despite having not fished for months due to Washington's winter weather conditions. If the two can put on such a strong out-of-practice showing, then we are excited to see what they can do with a whole summer of fishing at their backs.