Images by Ronnie Moore
My 2nd annual college and high school tournament on Norris Lake is in the books and now I can rest a little. This year’s event was a huge success and we had 163 anglers competing in the event, which was a big increase over last year. All of the anglers really enjoyed competing and I enjoyed seeing their enthusiasm for bass fishing.
This event takes a lot of work and there is no way I could pull it off without the help of my family, friends, and sponsors. It was always a goal of mine to have a tournament like this to give back to younger anglers. Being the first collegiate angler to qualify for the Elite Series I feel like I have a responsibility to help the high school and college anglers and I really hope some of them join me one day on the Elite Series.
Last year we had the event a little earlier in the year and the fishing was tough, so we settled on early December on Norris Lake and the fishing seemed to be better. We had 83 boats; 43 in the college division and 40 from high school competing for over $22,000 in cash and prizes!
1st Place College Team
For the second year in a row, my Alma mater, the University of Kentucky won! I have to add a disclaimer and say that I did not help them at all and they won it on their own. Although some of the other schools asked for help, I told everyone that the fishing questions on Norris Lake would only get answered in a group setting at the Friday night registration dinner. One of the anglers also won it last year and when his partner graduated he and his new partner took the title this year. Congrats!
They had 9.35lbs and won big! They took home $2,500 plus two Suzuki Casio watches and a Lowrance Elite-3xDSI and Elite-4 Chirp.
1st Place High School
This high school team had a better weight than all of the college teams at 10.75lbs! They also went home with a great prize package, $1,500, two Suzuki Casio watches and a Lowrance Elite-3xDSI and Elite-4 Chirp unit.
What Makes This Event Special
It was encouraging to see so many teams return from last year and we hope even more come next year. We try to make this event as fun as possible for the anglers and they really seem to enjoy it. We build a large stage which makes the event feel like a big-time event. It’s so cool to see the young anglers cross the stage with their bass. We even had a “hot seat” with the current leaders and fellow Suzuki pros John Hunter and Chad Pipkens did a great job interviewing them while they were leading.
I’m proud that we were able to pay out 1 in 2 teams and also had tons of raffle prizes and giveaways from with the product provided by my sponsors. Each angler got hooked up with really great gear. Jonathan West from the North Carolina State University Bass Pack won one of my favorite lures, a Yo-Zuri 3D Pencil, in the registration dinner raffle. He tied it on that night and caught a big smallmouth with it on his first cast on our tournament day! It was also his first ever top water smallmouth which made the story even better.
During registration, we started a Q&A session with myself, Chad Pipkins, John Hunter and Bassmaster.com’s Ronnie Moore. The four of us all fished at the collegiate level and now have careers in the fishing industry. The anglers asked tons of great questions and we covered everything from the business side of fishing to technique specific stuff.
I want to thank all of the teams for fishing the event and I definitely have to thank some people for making this event happen.
I really want to thank Suzuki and Campbell County Chamber of Commerce for being the title sponsors of the event. Running a tournament like this is expensive and they provided me with the financial backing to make it possible. John Eaton from Suzuki drove all the way from Missouri to help out, and that speaks volumes of his and Suzuki’s dedication to the younger generation of anglers. Cindi Reynolds from the Chamber got behind this event at its conception and I can’t thank her enough for everything that she has done helping me put these tournaments on.
I have a core group of buddies from high school that I have known for years and fished with many times. They did everything from building the stage to boat checks. You name it, and they did it. My wife and mom also stepped up and got every single angler through registration, and my dad and his company, AB Card Construction, sponsored the big bass prizes for both divisions, in addition to providing food after the weigh-in (thanks for cooking, Dad!).
Chad Pipkens and John Hunter really helped out and I have to thank them for making the long drive to support the event. I was grateful for their support, as well as Ronnie Moore, who produced some awesome pictures from the event.
I also have to thank Twin Cove Marine and Coal Creek Smokehouse for co-sponsoring the registration dinner. The food was amazing and it was a task feeding so many hungry anglers. Other companies who helped make this event a success: Yo-Zuri, Abu Garcia, FishSens Technology, Lowrance, Bass Cat Boats, Bob's Machine Shop, Bass Boat Technologies, GatorGuard, Bass Pro Shops, Gator Grip, Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits, and Navionics. I want to thank all of them for their support.
The 2018 Event
Next year’s event is already scheduled with a date of December 1st, 2018. Registration takes place November 30th and dinner will be provided.
The next event will also be a sanctioned event for Tennessee high school teams with the Tennessee Bass Nation High School Statewide Open Trail, meaning the winners will get an automatic berth into the Bassmaster High School National Championship. This will increase our numbers greatly and we look forward to a great, third annual event next December.
Putting this event together takes some serious planning and effort but it is very rewarding to me as a professional angler. It gives back to youth and helps me promote my sponsors at the same time. It is a win-win for everyone and I cannot wait until next year.