Bryan College Anglers ranked Number One in Nation

Nathan Bell and Dylan Pritchett finished 7th and 15th place respectively at Kentucky Lake on Saturday

March 16, 2017

Dayton, Tenn. — The temperature dropped drastically and the snow turned Kentucky Lake into a whiteout over the weekend, but that didn’t hinder the Bryan College Lions Fishing Team who weathered the wintry mix and battled their way to 7th and 15th place finishes at the Cabela’s Collegiate Big Bass Bash presented by Berkley on Saturday, Mar. 11, to surge ahead of the competition and dethrone Auburn University (Ala.) and claim the No. 1 spot in the country.

Dylan Pritchettt hold up his fish that garnered a 15th place finish for Bryan College on Saturday

The format of the 2017 Big Bass Bash had already been changed from a two-day event to a one-day event due the chance of inclement weather. The previous standings for Cabela’s School of the Year had University of Alabama, University of North Alabama, and University of South Carolina also ahead of Bryan, but the 513 points awarded to Nathan Bell (SR/Riceville, Tenn.) for his 6.81lber and 505 points given to Dylan Pritchett (JR/Evensville, Tenn.) after his 6.39lb catch helped the young Lions program make a rippling splash in collegiate fishing to lead the race for School of the Year.

In just their third year in existence, Bryan has fished their way through a tough body of water with no divisions or conferences, meaning that all schools in the nation are facing off for the Cabela’s School of the Year title. The 634 points compiled before the Big Bass Bash grew by more than a grand with the Lions now at 1,652 for the year.

The Big Bass Bash is a highly anticipated event for the schools vying for School of the Year, because of the large field of anglers that enter the event, which in turn allows for a large amount of points to be earned. The prize gets even sweeter with Cabela’s taking the top two finishes of each team, and each angler is considered a team. “You have to do well at the Big Bass Bash for a chance at becoming School of the Year,” explained Bell.

Even though fellow rival Bethel University (Tenn.) took the top honors with an 8.49lber and placed 6th with a 6.85lber, they closed the gap by only 15 points. Consistency has been key for the Lions with top finishes in every tournament this season, and that will play a major role in Bryan guarding the number one ranking.

Because of his experience, Bell didn’t let the mental game start playing tricks on him. “The day before I didn’t think the conditions were going to affect the fishing,” said Bell. “I have fished enough to know that when weather drastically changes that the fish will still bite. It’s normally the day after that you can start to notice the difference.”

He wasn’t nervous about the fish biting, but he did think that the approach would need to be different to get a big bite. Bell remarked, “I told my partner, Cole Sands (SO/Calhoun, Tenn.), that we would need to slow the pace down. Some of the guys wouldn’t be able to reach their spots, but all we needed was to catch two fish over 6lbs to lead in School of the Year.”

The tournament was broke into eight sessions, and the top-10 in each would win prizes. Bryan’s Dylan Kear (JR/Clinton, Tenn.) was the only one on the team to land a large enough fish to place through the first two sessions. Pritchett helped Bryan feel more comfortable when he placed 3rd in session three presented by Cabela’s with one of the 6lbers that Bell said the Lions would need. It wasn’t until session six that Connor Cohran (FR/Dalton, Ga.) and Jonathan Peck broke the silence with fish that neared the 5lb mark for 6th and 7th finishes during that particular weigh-in.

The Lions entered the final session, session eight presented by Engel Coolers & Costa Sunglasses, in need of one more 6lber, and it was Bell who delivered for Bryan. “When I caught the fish with just an hour left, I knew we killed it,” said Bell. “We had been fishing shallow all day, but Sands had the idea to go over to a deep spot. On my first cast of the last session, I felt it reach bottom and took it about two feet before the huge hit.”

When asked about how he felt helping the Lions to take over as the No. 1 team in the nation, Bell explained, “We are all excited about the honor to become the leader in the running for School of the Year. It’s entirely a team effort, and the cool thing is it takes all of us to outlast these large colleges and universities since there are no divisions. The strong finish in the Big Bass Bash sets us up really good for the top-10 in School of the Year, because all of the other schools close to us in the race have already participated in their regional tournament. We haven’t fished our BASS regional, which will provide us with even more points.”

Head Bryan Fishing Coach, Mike Keen said, “I am extremely proud of these guys. They have worked very hard to reach this milestone. This is the reward of a total team effort. Now we move our focus to placing high in each tournament in order to protect our No. 1 spot.”

Up next for the Lions, they travel to Lake Hartwell in Hartwell, S.C. this weekend for the FLW Southeastern Regional on Saturday, Mar. 18, and follow it up with the Cabela’s College Open on Lake Dardanelle in Russellville, Ark. next Saturday, Mar. 25.

Andy Morgan Wins Third AOY Title

(Editor’s Note: This story courtesy Curtis Niedermier, www.FLWOutdoors.com)

There’s no established benchmark for what is a dynasty in professional sports. It’s a subjective term.

What the pundits can agree on is that a dynasty requires multiple championships over the course of several seasons. How many championships we can all debate, but in the case of Andy Morgan’s performance over the last four seasons, the case could be made that he’s established a dynasty on the Walmart FLW Tour.

Today at Lake Champlain in Plattsburgh, N.Y., Morgan won his third Angler of the Year title and its $100,000 prize. He’s not the first to win three, but Morgan is the first in FLW Tour history to win three in four years.

The first came in 2013. Then Morgan went back to back with his second in 2014. Last season, Morgan “slipped” with a ninth-place finish in the standings – what would be a career best for many other anglers – and he’s now back on top in 2016.

Generally, dynasties are contingent on winning year-end championships, but in professional fishing we can argue that AOY is the more challenging title to win. It rewards consistency over the course of a season. And Morgan’s year defines consistency.

He made the top-20 cut this week at Champlain, so his final place hasn’t been recorded, but he’s going to average at least a 22nd-place finish for the season. He took 40th at the opener on Okeechobee then had his worst finish of 42nd place at Lake Hartwell. Morgan made the top 10 at Beaver Lake and Kentucky Lake and finished 11th at Pickwick.

“My first two tournaments were not that great,” Morgan says. “I got checks, and I was proud of that. But to win AOY it wasn’t the kind of checks you need to get. The last four tournaments I put it together, and it just worked out well. It was a blessing to do well.”

Remarkably, Morgan never really had a bad day over that span. He’s caught a limit every day of the season so far and attributes that kind of consistency to both willingness to gamble and his unwillingness to relent on the tough days.

“After you do well for a little while you get a little fearless,” he says. “You kind of get the preconceived stuff out of the way. You have a game plan, but you’re not afraid to scrap it sometimes when it all goes bad. And it usually does. In practice and the tournaments, sometimes it’s totally different, right and left. But you get fearless, and you just go fishing. You treat it like a normal day. That sounds simple, but it’s not easy to do when you pay the big entry fee and it’s all on the line.”

Morgan overtook Jeff Sprague for the AOY lead at stop No. 5 on Kentucky Lake in early June, but his biggest hurdle was the finale here on Champlain. It’s a place where smallmouths are in play, and Morgan has never been shy about his distaste for Northern smallmouths. It’s also a place where everybody catches fish. A scrapper who cashes a lot of checks with a spinning rod in hand, Morgan says he’d have preferred that the AOY title be settled in a tough event.

“I’m just not comfortable up here,” he says of Champlain. “It’s not a good feeling to come here in a slugfest and have to catch them. I think this is my fifth time here, and every time everybody catches them.”

Adding to the drama was a pair of dead fish in Morgan’s limit today – his first dead fish, he says, in “I don’t know how long.” It appeared early on in the weigh-in that the resulting 8-ounce penalty might open the door for Sprague or one of the other contenders to take away Morgan’s lead. It didn’t happen. He weighed 16 pounds, 14 ounces, and one by one the rest of the AOY contenders fell short.

It wasn’t a dominating performance that sealed the deal. His wasn’t a season-long display of big limits and contending for tournament wins. It was more a collection of scrappy, blue-collar performances that allowed him to survive the tough days and gradually build momentum throughout the season. It was a hard-working AOY win, says Morgan. And if anything, that’s the definition of the Andy Morgan dynasty.

“I’ve always said it just takes a good rain coat and some sunscreen to get out here and compete. That kind of grinding, and that kind of mentality that you’re not going to beat me is what it takes,” he says. “You have to learn to work. You learn to get up early and put in whatever it takes to compete and stay competitive. I’m 44 years old. You can see the gray in my beard. But I still know how to work. It’s all about the hustle.”

2016 Bass Pro Shops’ Big Bass Tour comes to Dayton

Over $75k to be awarded at Bass Pro Shops’ Big Bass Tour this Wkd in Dayton, May 21-22

big_bass_tour_logo_white (1)One special fish could win a new boat and loads of cash at Bass Pro Shops’ Big Bass Tour this weekend in Dayton, Tennessee.

Lake Chickamauga is the seventh stop in the nation’s premier big bass tournament series brought to you by industry giants such as Bass Pro Shops, Nitro Boats, GoPro, Huk Performance Fishing, Shimano, Mercury, and Oakley.

“Anyone can win this one. You need one big bite. One cast, one big bass.  This one here is anyone’s ballgame,” says local lunker hunter Chad Reel, who won Rhea Medical Foundation’s Big Bass Tourney last May with an 8.27 pound largemouth.

Reel and long-time partner Kevin Burnett say they are yet to fish a tournament this year, but this one’s too good to pass up.

“If you’re gonna fish a tournament where your odds are good, there isn’t another tournament you can enter for this price ($110 per day, $160 both days).”

Over $3,000 will be awarded each hour to the top ten bass with biggest paying $1,000.  Add the grand prize, 2016 Nitro Z18 with a Mercury 150HP ProXS motor ($33,175 as equipped), and it’s easy to see why this has become the hottest big bass series in the nation.

“Anyone can win this one,” adds Reel.  “You need one big bite to win – one cast, one big bass.”

Dayton pro Michael ‘The Real Deal’ Neal, fresh off a second place finish ($30,000) at Walmart FLW Tour’s Pickwick Lake event, says, “Fishing a big fish tournament is anybody’s game because there is more luck involved.”

“Don’t focus on catching numbers.  Throw the biggest bait in your tackle box all day,” is Neal’s best advice for anglers hoping to drive away with that new Nitro Z18.

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Lake Chickamauga – Big Bass, Lots of Grass

Out of six events thus far in 2016, the largest bass in the series was caught prespawn (February 27-28) on the Harris Chain of Lakes (FL) weighing in at 8.94 pounds.

This is a great opportunity for Lake Chickamauga to show the nation what we’re all about.

Dennis Tumlin – RETC Director

If last weekend’s Morristown Marine Tournament (195 boats) is any indication, Lake Chickamauga will shatter that amount.

Josh Roark and partner Allen Smith (Morristown, TN) brought a 10.17 pounder to the scales, and we won’t mention the 12 plus pounder caught James Gobel of Bean Station (TN) earlier last week.

“It will definitely take at least 10.5 to 11.5 to win,” says FLW Pro Michael Neal who has a front row seat to current lake trends as proprietor of Dayton Boat Dock, a hub for area anglers and the venue for this event.

Rhea County’s Economic and Tourism Director Dennis Tumlin says Lake Chick has risen to every occasion and hopes it will shine again this weekend.

“This is a great opportunity for Lake Chickamauga to show the nation what we’re all about.  We have big bass and lots of grass.”

“I’ve been working to bring this event to Dayton for over three years,” says Tumlin.  “We’re excited to see our local anglers have the opportunity to fish one of the biggest tours in the nation right here in Dayton.”

For more details, visit bigbasstour.com.

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