By Paul Stackhouse, Sports Writer, The Decatur Daily
Eight happy anglers clad in bright orange shirts couldn’t help themselves.
As emcee and tournament director Jann Swaim announced that the University of Tennessee had won the Southern Collegiate Bass Championship on Wheeler Lake, the eight fishermen cheered as they climbed on the stage at Decatur’s Ingalls Harbor on Saturday.
Tennessee finished with a two-day total of 43.07 pounds of bass to claim the large golden cup that goes to the champion. The Vols barely beat out two other schools, both from the state of Tennessee.
Tennessee Tech finished in second place with 42.85 pounds, while Chattanooga came in third at 41.98.
“This is so surreal for me,” Tennessee freshman Hunter Shults said. “Believe it or not, this is only my second tournament with the team and now I’m a member of a championship team.
“We felt pretty good about our chances last night, but then we had like a two-hour weather delay this morning before anybody could launch their boat. We got a little bit nervous about that, but not too much.”
The cup now belongs to Tennessee for one year. To keep it at their school, the Vols will have to win the same tournament again next year. Montevallo won in 2008, followed by North Alabama last year.
The Tennessee team also will receive two paid motel rooms (five days, five nights) at the Boat U.S. National Championships, which will be in May in Lewisville, Texas.
College teams are allowed to bring as many as four two-man teams to the event, but only the top two weights were counted each day.
Shults and junior David Lambert were one of four teams that represented Tennessee in the tournament. The team brought in a five-bass limit to the scales that weighed 11.42 pounds on the first day and then 11.27 pounds Saturday.
Lambert said he and Shults found a good hole to fish, and that was the key in helping their team win.
“We caught a bass bigger than the 1-pounders that were biting a lot,” Lambert said. “But we weren’t fishing real shallow like most of the teams. We decided to work deeper water, and it paid off. The 4.6 we caught was in about 6 to 8 feet of water, and I caught it on a jig near a main river channel ledge.”
Northwest-Shoals placed fourth with 40.18 pounds, followed by Auburn (38.73), UNA (38.55), Kennesaw State (37.28), Alabama (35.95), Georgia (32.96) and Clemson (32.32).
UNA anglers Ryan Salzman of Decatur and Andy Page of Athens said the late start hurt their chances for a big bass.
“We fished the same spot that we did Friday,” Salzman said. “Some of the bigger fish were starting to move up, and we had a limit in about an hour. I think the bigger bass here are being caught real early now and the time we missed may have killed our chances at some kicker fish.”
Even though no big fish were caught, Page said the two anglers still had a great time.
“We probably caught 20 to 25 fish,” Page said. “We had to do a lot of culling and I mean culling by ounces because a lot of them were the same size fish.”
The big bass of the tournament was caught Friday by Auburn’s Jordan Lee. That fish tipped the scale at 5 pounds, 3 ounces.
Teams that fished in two of the three qualifying tournaments were allowed to participate in the championship.
The Versus network has announced plans to do a television show of the tournament, scheduled to run in August.
Southern Collegiate Bass Championship final results
Here are the final standings of the Southern Collegiate Bass Championships at Wheeler Lake and much bass each team caught in pounds.
School Day 1 Day 2 Total
1. Tennessee 20.22 22.85 43.07
2. Tennessee Tech 18.67 24.43 42.85
3. Chattanooga 20.46 21.52 41.98
4. Northwest-Shoals 22.59 17.59 41.98
5. Auburn 19.95 18.78 38.73
6. North Alabama 15.75 22.80 38.55
7. Kennesaw State 18.36 18.92 37.28
8. Alabama 19.42 16.53 35.95
9. Georgia 17.51 15.45 32.96
10. Clemson 17.01 15.31 32.32
11. Bethel University 11.28 17.41 28.69
12. Ole Miss 16.27 11.27 27.54
13. Birmingham-Southern 10.46 14.84 25.30
14. Jacksonville State 13.56 11.72 25.28
15. Middle Tennessee State 10.48 13.38 23.86
16. Gadsden State 11.09 12.67 23.76
17. UAB 8.87 14.58 23.45
18. Freed-Hardeman 14.26 9.09 23.35
19. Troy 10.29 11.86 22.15
20. Mississippi State 8.75 12.51 21.26
21. Georgia College 13.46 5.74 19.20
22. Austin Peay 5.99 12.04 18.03
23. South Alabama 9.26 3.20 12.46