Every time I have the opportunity to be involved with the Under Armor College Bass National Championship, I'm always impressed with the caliber of anglers that show up on these college teams. These guys and gals (yes, that's right — gals) can flat catch some fish. A quick look at the standings from the recent Championship on the Arkansas River out of Little Rock is proof.
The Arkansas River has been fishing as tough as I've seen it in several years. High water throughout much of the spawning season for the past few years has taken its toll on the fishery. High water plus the fact that many of the backwater areas along the river have been sealed off by siltation, makes it hard for the fish to find somewhere to successfully spawn out of the current.
Not only have bass had a tough time, but shad, bluegill, and the other species that prefer slack water have had a tough go off it during the spawn.
A decent sack out of the Little Rock area in recent weeks has been in the 12- to 13-pound range. The college teams didn't disappoint, as there were several bags over the 13-pound mark the first two days of the Championship.
North Carolina State took top honors with a walk-off homer on Sunday when they dropped a whopping 14-plus sack on the scales, putting the smack down on second place by 8 pounds. Wow! That after the river had been absolutely pounded for the previous week by the other 59 teams. Good job NC State!
Not only do these college teams fish well, but they look good too. They're out there working it; some sponsors, dye sub jerseys, matching caps and shorts, even a few wrapped boats.
Not bad for some college kids and a far cry from the first Championship I attended in 2005 on the shores of Lake Monticello. That year, there were a grand total of six teams. Everything was done in the parking lot. Not the Academy Sports + Outdoors parking lot, either. The parking lot at the ramp. Man, have things changed for this group.
At the registration dinner on Thursday, the teams were loaded up with swag from Under Armour, Strike King, Revere, the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, Costa Del Mar, Vicious Fishing, Mercury, and a host of other sponsors.
To top it off, the sponsors handing out the goods are some of the top-level, big dogs in the marketing departments of these companies. These companies believe strongly enough in being involved in the sport at this level to take the time to personally shake every hand of every college angler on every team. That's a strong statement right there.
The exciting part of all this will be to watch some of these college anglers who decide to pursue a career in fishing as they work their way up the food chain to the upper levels. In the next 4-6 years, we should see a few of these guys, and maybe even girls, break into the Elite Series and make some waves. They're definitely learning the skills both on and off the water that they need to be successful.
It's been interesting to watch some of them over the past few years as their skills, and personalities, have developed.
Oh yeah, we're going to have some personalities here. We've got personality. Maybe not on the level of Ike, yet, but we've got personality.
Think about it; who has more piss and vinegar stored up inside than a 20-year-old college punk? Just look at that RC 12 guy — he's so full of it that it oozes from his pores and he's just one of several that I've seen who qualify for the Championship on a regular basis.
That's right, these teams qualify through lower-level and regional events; they don't just show up and fish. They work to get to the Under Armor College Bass National Championship.
Attitude, style, and ability — that's a winning combination in the professional fishing world today. No longer is it enough just to have the ability to catch bass. A guy has to have the goods to go along with the skills.
Chicks may dig guys who have skills, but most sponsors want to see a little more than great skills. Some of these kids are molding the package and will be bumping KVD, Skeet, and Ike out of the way at the top of the chain shortly.
Where was all this when I was in college? What were we thinking back then?
For more info on Kevin Short or to contact Kevin, check out his website at www.kfshort.com.