“Yesterday they were teammates, and today they are competitors.”
Those were the words FLW Weighmaster Chris Jones used as 2017 YETI FLW College Fishing National Champions Kyle Alsop and Travis Blenn of Kansas State University took the stage this afternoon.
Yesterday, Alsop and Blenn were united in their efforts in winning the championship for K-State. But there is only one FLW College Fishing berth into the Forrest Wood Cup, so today the two teammates were pitted against each other in man-to-man competition.
At the beginning of the day, Alsop and Blenn were each issued identical fully equipped Ranger boats with matching Evinrude G2 outboards and were taken to Wilson Lake for a one-day shootout. The format: He with the heaviest five-fish weight at the end of the eight-hour fishing day earns the ticket to compete with the likes of Andy Morgan and Bryan Thrift in the 2017 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Murray in August.
Neither had ever been to Wilson before the week began, and they decided to spend a few hours together on the lake last Saturday, before the official practice for the National Championship started on Wheeler.
Other than those few hours, the two Wildcats were dropped on Wilson to shoot from the hip.
Blenn started the day with a popping frog in shallow grass while Alsop went deep with a Carolina rig. Both scored solid keepers right off the bat to get a great start out of the blocks.
From there, Blenn stuck with his frog in the grass and then mixed in some dock flipping with a jig to secure his limit early.
Alsop also moved shallower, flipping grass with a Zoom Brush Hog to catch three more keepers. But he sort of hit a wall after his fourth fish, missing several opportunities to close his limit. By noon, it looked like Blenn might be going to the Cup.
Then Alsop scratched up a keeper to finish his limit, settled down, gained traction and found his groove as he started culling his way up by patiently pitching his Brush Hog into open holes in Wilson’s shallow gator grass. By weigh-in time, both had limits anchored by one solid keeper.
Now officially competitors, Blenn took his turn on the stage with a weight of 7 pounds, 7 ounces. Alsop then took his turn, putting 10 pounds, 5 ounces on the scale and punching his ticket to the 2017 Forrest Wood Cup as the YET FLW College Fishing representative.
For Alsop, who graduated in December with a mechanical engineering degree, this is his second national title. He won the Bassmaster College Series National Championship for K-State in 2016.
“Wow, I don’t know what to say. It’s been an incredible week – an incredible year, really,” says Alsop. “To accomplish this in my very last collegiate event is pretty special. I’ve got a job with U.S. Engineering already, but I sure would like to try the pro fishing route, too. I just love the competition in this sport.”
Alsop also offered accolades to his partner, Blenn.
“The day we practiced together on Wilson, we found one deep spot where we got some bites,” Alsop says. “Travis honored that spot today and stayed off it so I could fish it. That’s where I caught my biggest one this morning. He is a class act, and I can’t wait to return home and continue to fish team tournaments with him in the future.”