Day 2 largest bag enough for second place finish
FLORENCE, Ala. – Bryan College’s top duo of Nathan Bell and Cole Sands went to the scales and weighed in a five-fish limit of 19.64 pounds after day one of the 2018 BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship presented by Cabela’s, but the impressive bag was only good enough for seventh place. Out of a field of 161, most would normally be ecstatic, but the Lion anglers were hungry for the crown and knew they would need to bust some big fish, which Pickwick Lake has the reputation to produce. Throughout the spring at Pickwick, on average a five-fish limit weighing 20-plus pounds has been needed to win or place within the top few, making the anticipation for the event high. It was rival Carter McNeil and Cole Floyd of Bethel University (Tenn.) who ended as the opening day leaders with five fish totaling 22.63 pounds, narrowly surpassing second place and last year’s Cabela’s National Champions University of North Alabama who brought in 22.60 pounds.
The camera crew caught up with Bell and Sands mid-morning on day two and made it known that the Bryan pair was working on a good bag. An early afternoon cull had Bell thinking they might have a shot at the title, “We got a big bite right there at the end that was able to cull us up about three and a half pounds. We were thinking, man we might have a shot but we didn’t know those guys were going to blast them.” Bell and Sands were just one of five boats to reel in a bag that hit the 20-pound mark in the finale. With 21.18 pounds worth of bass, the Lions wowed the crowd and jumped from seventh into second with 40.82 pounds. Bethel caught a break when McNeil and Floyd came across several schools of fish early on that resulted in both a four and a half pound fish and one weighing six pounds. This allowed the Bethel boat to work on boosting their bag before the end of the day when they showed up to the scales with a whopping 25.12-pound load, earning them the largest bag of the tournament. The 47.75-pound performance was enough to seal both the Cabela’s Championship and the highly respected Cabela’s School of the Year title, presented by Abu Garcia, for the Wildcat Anglers. Bryan was able to claim the best school in the nation when they were named the School of the Year in 2017 and will finish within the top-10 in the running this season.
Having fished this event before, Bell is pleased with how his boat finished, “I think my highest finish in this tournament has been 94th. It’s kind of been my jinx in my college fishing career. We’re super thankful to come in second. It’s a big deal.”
At the end of the day, finishing second overall in a field made up of the nation’s best is still a major accomplishment. Sands, the second member of the tandem, understands the magnitude of this moment for his team, “We’re ecstatic and extremely blessed to have this finish.”
Rounding out the top three was a pair of anglers from the University of North Alabama who weighed in 18.10 pounds to finish with a two-day total of 40.70 pounds. Of the field, with just 0.03 pounds outside of first place, they had the smallest margin to make up in order to claim the top spot after day one. Last year, the UNA team of Sloan Pennington and Hunter McCarty won this very tournament. There has never been a school repeat back-to-back as champion in this event, so the two were looking to capitalize on the opportunity. Unfortunately, the local anglers wouldn’t keep the trophy in Florence as Bryan and Bethel rose to the top.
“Nathan Bell has graduated so this is the last year of the Bell and Sands team, so evidently they have decided to go out with a bang,” said Bryan Head Fishing Coach, Mike Keen. “Because in the month of May they won the Chickamauga Tournament, finished fourth of 263 boats at Cherokee, and finished runner-up in the Cabela’s Championship… all in the month of May! And it’s not over yet, we still have the FLW National Championship in Shreveport, Louisiana this week and the Bassmaster National Championship in Tahlequah, Oklahoma in July.”
To view the full results from the 2018 BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship presented by Cabela’s, click here.
To follow the Bryan Anglers and their performance on the Red River in Shreveport, click here.
The three boats representing the Lions of the 182 participating teams in the 2018 YETI FLW College Fishing National Championship presented by Lowrance C-MAP Genesis (May 30-June 1) include Bell and Sands, the “Fogg Brothers” Chandler and Conner Fogg, and DJ Barber.