LEWISVILLE, Texas — When the day began, it was a University of Arkansas team positioned to be the lone spoiler among the five finalists capable of keeping a Texas school from again taking home the BoatU.S. National Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship trophy. Included in the final-day shootout were Arkansas, Baylor, Texas Tech, Texas A&M-Kingsville and defending champion Texas A&M.
All teams started the day with a score of zero and the equal beginning seemed to keep the anglers patient, focused and fishing to their strengths. By weigh-in, several keeper bass had found the way to livewells and the stage at Sneaky Pete's Marina. The crowd of fans and onlookers that had gathered were wowed once more by impressive catches that had become the norm for the week.
The Arkansas team did outlast the Texas finalists, with Kazuki Kitajima and Bodie Drake claiming the championship for the Razorbacks with five bass weighing 17.37 pounds, anchored by two near 4-pounders.
"We chased shad the whole time and were fishing a depth range of 5-14 feet," said Kitajima. "We concentrated on a short point with some foundations and rock that had a subtle break. Our key bait was a Berkley Power Finesse Worm in blue flake. We also caught a couple on a War Eagle jig, some on a deep crankbait, but caught most of our fish on a shakey head. To win this one means a lot."
"We have a strong fishing club at the University, and this win is great for our school and the club," said partner Drake. "It's been a great experience for both of us."
The Arkansas team's total was just enough to hold off last year's winner Justin Rackley and new partner Andy Shafer, from Texas A&M. They had five bass totaling 16 pounds.
Rounding out the top five teams who advanced to the third and final day of the championship were: third place — Texas Tech's Ryan Dupriest and Laramie Coggan with five fish weighing 11.98 pounds; fourth place — Texas A&M-Kingsville's Jerod Hawkes and Daniel Brock with 5 bass weighing 11.17 pounds; and fifth place — Baylor's Jay Holland and Chris Gass with two bass totaling 3.34 pounds.
The Arkansas team took home a $14,000 scholarship check to their fishing club. Texas A&M was awarded $8,000, Texas Tech received $5,000, Texas A&M Kingsville took $3,000 and Baylor won $2,000.
The five had advanced to the championship round by being the top five among all 194 anglers competing during the previous two days. The full field represented 23 states and 51 schools of all sizes and conferences.
Of the daily incentive awards, Texas Tech's Coggan received the daily Abu Garcia Big Bass $1,000 scholarship for his 4.29-pounder. Arkansas' Kitajima and Drake were awarded the Berkley Big Bag award receiving $1,500 in merchandise for today's heaviest total catch.
For the heaviest bag of the entire tournament, the American Rodsmiths Big Bag award of $500 went to Baylor for Holland and Gass' 22.05-pound bag from yesterday.