WADDINGTON, N.Y. — Adrian College brought seven teams to the 2021 Carhartt Bassmaster College National Championship presented by Bass Pro Shops on the St. Lawrence River, and while Hayden Scott and Griffin Fernandes were the only team to make the cut for Championship Saturday, the other 12 Adrian anglers hit the water one last time to follow their teammates and provide a support group.
With each bass the Day 2 leaders landed, the cheers of approval increased in volume. When the fifth smallmouth entered the net and was lifted over the gunnel of the duo’s Phoenix, the roars of approval echoed across Eel Bay and were only drowned out by the splash of an Adrian teammate jumping in the chilly waters in celebration.
The celebration continued when they arrived at Whitaker Park and Scott and Fernandes weighed in 20 pounds, 6 ounces to claim the National Championship victory with a three-day total of 63-10. Between tears, hugs and high-fives, the two trophies touched the hands of every teammate and family member in attendance.
“When we caught a fish, everybody went nuts,” Scott said. “This is more of a victory for the whole team than for ourselves. Once we caught one, we knew how much it meant to everybody else. They stuck around this whole time to watch us and experience a National Championship. Even afterwards, we passed around the trophy because without them we wouldn’t be here and if we didn’t have a team that supported each other, it would be a mess.”
It is the first National Championship victory for Adrian College, which started their fishing program eight years ago.
“To see all 12 guys that made this event not want to go home and spend their day out there cheering them on, that is what you want,” head coach Seth Borton said. “You aren’t always going to be the one to shine, but your team is going to get more exposure by being better as a team than they are as individuals.”
Borton said that while they have secured impressive finishes in the past, including a victory with Bassmaster on Lake Pickwick during the 2018 season, this win is an important stepping stone.
“Anytime you win a National Championship, it is a catalyst type moment,” Borton said. “We’ve had some incredible finishes over the first eight years of our program in different championships and conference events. But to finally put the exclamation point on one means a lot. These guys work crazy hard. It’s an incredible undertaking to work through the travel, we have an immense amount of travel and to have a national championship in more of our comfort zone and what we cut our teeth with, it puts us in a comfortable spot to capitalize on one.”
With a long and unpredictable run up river, Scott added that the texts and messages the night before the final day from former alumni and the support of their current teammates on the water kept the duo focused and motivated.
“I was getting messages from former anglers and their parents saying, ‘You got this, keep going.’ To have the team out there to support us, it kept us going,” Scott said. “They pulled through in a crazy way today, just keeping us going and the momentum going. It’s not easy when you drive an hour and a half down there and only have a couple hours to fish and then drive all the way back. There is little room for error. It wasn’t easy, but I can’t thank them enough.”
Throughout their careers so far, Borton has been impressed with the resolve Scott and Fernandes have shown on the water. Despite a bad practice on the St. Lawrence River, Borton said they found a way to have a productive tournament.
“Once they get a couple pieces they are good enough to be off to the races whether it is largemouth, smallmouth or spotted bass,” he said. “Not every kid has that foundation or confidence to overcome practice and run with it. Griffin and Hayden stay pretty levelheaded and that is a quality attribute of any angler or athlete or anything. If you are going to compete at a high level, you have to have a happy medium balance of not getting too high or too low. That’s going to be something that carries them a long way.”