LITTLE ROCK, Ark. Six months ago, Virginia Tech's Scott Wiley didn't know that College Bass clubs existed. On Saturday, he and partner Brett Thompson out-fished 35 of the top College Bass teams in America to win the Under Armour College Bass National Championship on the Arkansas River.
Wiley found out about College Bass from a friend of a friend, and immediately started going through necessary steps to build a team for the Hokies. He contacted the Student Government Association, filled out some paper work, and found the process "surprisingly easy."
And while he was a rookie to College Bass, Wiley was certainly no rookie to bass fishing. Only a few days after the club formed, it sent two teams down to fish an invitational tournament put on by North Carolina State University and Wiley's team won (Thompson's team finished fourth).
"That gave us a lot of credibility right away," said Wiley, who is a senior majoring in landscape architecture. "It kind of put us on map in the world of college bass fishing."
The team fished one more tournament late in the Summer the Alabama Invitational but it didn't go very well.
"We don't talk about that tournament," he said. "It was too hot."
And they'll never talk about it again because for the next 12 months, all Wiley, Thompson and the Virginia Tech University Bass Club will need to talk about is what it feels like to be national champions. It took 8 pounds, 8 ounces on four fish (there's a five fish limit) to hold the trophy.
"To come to a new body of water, find the fish and actually win it it's just an awesome feeling," said Thompson, a junior is majoring in building construction. "We just won a national championship. It's just something I never thought I'd have a chance to do."
The Hokies had a different strategy than most teams in the tournament. The Arkansas River has quite a few locks and dams and most of the teams would race to dam and wait for the lock to open so they could continue up or down stream. Wiley said he has never locked through a dam, and he wasn't going to start in the national championship.
"There is a lot of wasted time waiting for the lock to open," Wiley said. "We'd rather fish than sit around and wait."
The two-day practice on Tuesday and Wednesday was full of rain and clouds, but as is the custom for a bass tournament, the conditions changed to bright and sunny for the start the tournament on Thursday, forcing the teams to adjust their strategies.
Thompson said they decided to focus mainly on rock piles and jetties, which are abundant on the river, and switch their crankbait to a darker color (Fire Tiger) to deal with the muddy water the storm left behind. They finished Day One in second place with 13-11.
"Coming down here we talked about goals and decided we just wanted to make the top five but even then, in the back of our head, I think we may not have believed ourselves," Wiley said. "Once we had a good stringer on the first day, we got serious because we knew this was something we could do."
They caught 13 pounds even on Day Two, and entered the final with a lot of confidence. The weights were zeroed going into Saturday, and the Hokies eventually pulled it out by more than three pounds.
The University of Louisiana - Lafayette (Cody McCrary and William Carstens) won a tiebreaker over the University of Oklahoma (Chip Porché and Matt Pangrac) to take second, the University of Iowa (John Haynes and Tyler Mehrl) finished in fourth and Mississippi State University (Cal Clark and Sam Lawrence) finished fifth.
Both Thompson and Wiley were as excited about what this win will do for the club and they were to hold the trophy. Wiley said they are always looking for sponsors and actually fished the national championship in a boat loaned to them from Angler's Choice, a boat dealership in Virginia.
Both anglers said it has been difficult getting the word around campus and coverage from the school newspaper, but it's hard to ignore a national championship.
"It's hard to convince a lot people who don't care about bass fishing that what we're doing is important to some people and maybe a lot more people than they think," Wiley said. "I think they'll write about us now."