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Following in the footsteps of last year’s national championship winning team of Patrick Walters and Gettys Brannon, this weekend the team of Hampton Anderson and Chris Blanchette made the University of South Carolina bass fishing team the winners of the FLW College Fishing National Championship for the second straight year. The three-day event was fished on Lake Keowee in the Upstate of South Carolina, and Hampton and Chris posted a three-day total of 38-15, just under a pound ahead of the second place team from Colorado Mesa University (who had a three day total of 38-1). For the win the team earned a $30,000 prize package as well as a spot in the FLW Championship for Hampton, winner of a one-day fish-off on nearby Lake Russell. I caught up with Hampton to learn what he thought made the difference in their win.
In practice Hampton said that he and Chris learned that fish could be found shallow all over the lake in pre-spawn, spawning and post-spawn patterns. While they did find a few fish still pretty deep, these were most likely headed to the banks. In practice they caught 18 pounds by “just fishing,” and they didn’t get too hung up on bedding fish.
Day 1 of the tournament almost got out of control, and Hampton said the team “almost got messed up” on that first day. They got stuck on uncooperative bed fish, and by 11:00 they still had a big fat zero. Hampton acknowledges that they were on the verge of “freaking out,” but they kept their cool and decided to do what they had done in practice – go fishing.
Instead of continuing to run around and chase bedding fish, they picked up a weightless Senko worm (in watermelon and junebug colors) and threw it around the banks. They ended up with about 11 pounds, and knew that they were onto a solid pattern. The second day they weighed in a shade under 14 pounds, and the third day they had about 13 ½ pounds. Even though they weren’t targeting spawning fish, most of the fish they did catch were in spawning pockets. They also did catch a couple of fish off the bed, but slowing down and targeting them wasn’t the primary pattern. They weighed in mostly largemouth as well as a few spots, and everything came from shallow water.
As for what distinguished them from their competitors, Hampton feels strongly that the decision not to target spawning fish was crucial. He believes that many of their competitors were focused on bedders, and getting away from that pattern made the difference. In this and future tournaments, particularly the Forrest Wood Cup, Hampton also says they received some good advice from last year’s championship-winning team. Patrick Walters (who fished the FLW Championship) advised them to “slow down, go fishing, and don’t get spun out.”
While this week has been a challenge for Hampton and Chris as they try to get back to normal life – USC’s spring break was the week before the tournament, so they have to catch up on a whole week of missed classes – there is more excitement ahead. Hampton has fished his final collegiate bass fishing tournament, but coming up is the Forrest Wood Cup on Wheeler Lake in August. Best of luck to Hampton in that one, and congratulations to Hampton, Chris and the whole USC bass fishing team for making it two in a row!