Wildcats pounce on national title


Ronnie Moore

CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. — Kyle Alsop and Taylor Bivins of Kansas State University are the winners of the 2016 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship, thanks to a series of consistent weights. They finished the tournament on Kentucky's Green River Lake with 36 pounds, 4 ounces.

The Kansas State team was the only one in the field of 89 teams to bring in more than 10 pounds every day.

"It was a grind," said Bivins, who just graduated from Kansas State in May with a degree in wildlife and outdoor enterprise management. "We had to fish really slow the whole time."

"Slow is not our preferred way to fish," added Alsop, a senior majoring in engineering. "I hate it. But it was our only way to be consistent."

The two had a plan coming in to the tournament — catch 12 to 13 pounds a day. On Day 1, they had 13 pounds, 15 ounces, including the Carhartt Big Bass of the tournament, a 6-pound, 13-ounce bass. They followed it up on Day 2 with 11-1, including a 5-2 bass. On the final day, Alsop and Bivins weighed in 11 pounds, 4 ounces, including the biggest bass of the day, a 5-9.

"The key was definitely the big bite," Alsop said. "We were blessed to get one big one every day."

The two were not expecting a win. They were hoping to be able to make the Top 4 to qualify for the 2016 Carhartt Bassmaster College Classic Bracket presented by Bass Pro Shops, Aug. 4-6, on Kentucky Lake in Tennessee. The best angler in that head-to-head competition earns a berth in the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic.

"It will take a while for this to sink in," Alsop said, looking at his teammate.

"We're just living the moment right now," Bivins added. The two couldn't stop smiling while toting around their championship trophies.

The key area for the winners was a giant main lake point with a flat that had a big ledge on it.

"There were 20 boats on scattered brush out there the first couple of days," Alsop said. "We found a strip off to the side that we had to ourselves."

They fished the ledge right as it dropped from 20 feet deep to 50 feet deep.

Alsop fished a Carolina rigged Zoom Brush Hog with spike tails in chartreuse, while his teammate fished a shaky head setup with a Yamamoto Senko or Big Bite Baits Trick Stick in green pumpkin with black flake or watermelon red flake.

"We knew there were lots of fish on those channel swing points," Alsop said. "We just had to keep our heads down and keep working until we caught them."

For their win, Alsop and Bivins earned a check for their Kansas State team for $2,500 from Carhartt and another check for $2,500 from B.A.S.S. The two were also presented with a Humminbird Helix unit.

"We were due for a win," said Alsop. "We've always finished well in tournaments — no worse than 30th place — but we could never get above fourth place. It's incredible we did it here.

Right behind the Kansas State team was the Bethel University team of Brian Pahl and John Garrett, who finished second with 35 pounds, 7 ounces.

"We fished brushpiles early in the mornings," said Pahl. "Then we went to shallower water. When that didn't work out today, we went to another spot, where we caught five keepers."

Pahl and Garrett had a really big day on Day 1 with 17 pounds, 4 ounces, one of the biggest bags of the tournament. They will join Alsop and Bivins at the College Classic Bracket on Kentucky Lake next week.

The Day 1 leaders, Sam Stone and Evan Coleman, will also compete at the Classic Bracket, thanks to their third-place finish. The two anglers came in fishless on the final day of the championship, but their Bass Pro Shops Nitro Big Bag on Day 1 of 20 pounds, 13 ounces, kept them in contention.

The final team to qualify for the Classic Bracket was Austin Handley and Caleb Wozniak of Auburn University. They finished in fourth place with 27 pounds, 5 ounces. The Auburn team flipped upriver the whole tournament, but the fish had moved out of that area on the final day, accounting for only a 2-pound, 9-ounce weight on Saturday.

The college championship brought together the best college anglers in the country, as determined by their performance in any of five regionals or a single Wild Card event. More than 500 teams from 200-plus colleges competed for a chance to qualify for this tournament.

Trevor Lo, the college angler who advanced from the championship last year and ultimately won the College Classic Bracket, was on stage on the Campbellsville University campus for the final day of competition this year.

"It's surreal to be back on this stage," said Lo. "My college win changed my life this year. I can't wait to see who the next college angler fishing the Classic will be."

Watch the College Classic Bracket, Aug. 4-6, to see which of the eight qualifiers will earn a berth in the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic.

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