Adrian College’s Eggerding, Washburn pull off comeback, win National Championship by 1 ounce - Major League Fishing
Adrian College’s Eggerding, Washburn pull off comeback, win National Championship by 1 ounce
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Adrian College’s Eggerding, Washburn pull off comeback, win National Championship by 1 ounce

Image for Adrian College’s Eggerding, Washburn pull off comeback, win National Championship by 1 ounce
Adrian College's Braylon Eggerding and Lucas Washburn surged from 10th to the top at the Abu Garcia College Fishing Presented by YETI National Championship. Photo by Rob Matsuura. Anglers: Braylon Eggerding, Lucas Washburn.
January 11, 2024 • Mitchell Forde • Abu Garcia College Fishing

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — When they launched their boat Thursday morning, the Adrian College team of Braylon Eggerding and Lucas Washburn believed they still had a chance to take home the trophy at the Abu Garcia College Fishing Presented by YETI National Championship. Sure, they entered the second and final day of the weather-shortened event tied for 10th place and more than 8 pounds back of the leaders, but they knew the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes held enough giant bass to make up the deficit.

By the time they returned to Big Toho Marina for weigh-in, however, they thought the opportunity had slipped away. It wasn’t that Eggerding and Washburn had struggled. They sacked up 23 pounds, 9 ounces — nearly 5 pounds more than the day prior — including a massive, 11-7 kicker. But with seven teams having topped 20 pounds on Day 1, including a 27-3 bag from Montevallo’s Nick Dumke and Easton Fothergill, they didn’t think it would be enough. Eggerding kicked himself over a big one that broke off late in the day.

“Honestly, we did not think we’d have enough to win,” Eggerding said. “We thought we’d get beat by at least a few pounds. I had lost a key fish that I broke off. It was a 6,7-pounder. So, we were kind of down.”

The feeling wouldn’t last long. Eggerding and Washburn watched from the hot seat as each of the final 10 teams brought their fish to the scales. Each came up short. Their two-day total of 42-4 ultimately edged the Campbellsville University team of Carter Doren and Ryan Lachniet by a single ounce.

“Utter disbelief,” Washburn said of his reaction. “I had no words. I mean, I had a million thoughts racing through my mind, but just nothing came out.”

The victory marks the first-ever title for Adrian, a perennial College Fishing powerhouse. The 8-9 deficit Eggerding and Washburn erased also represents the biggest final-day comeback at the National Championship since at least 2016.

They pulled it off by bucking the trend set by the other contenders.

Most of the top finishers on Day 1 used forward-facing sonar to target bass with jerkbaits, glide baits and other reaction baits — generally doing so in Lake Toho. However, that bite fizzled under Thursday’s chilly, overcast conditions. Doren and Lachniet were the only team who caught more than 20 pounds Wednesday to replicate the feat. Dumke and Fothergill mustered just 11-6 Thursday, opening the door for the rest of the field.

Eggerding and Washburn, meanwhile, ran to Lake Kissimmee and employed more traditional Florida methods. They plied lily pads and submerged hydrilla around the mouth of a pocket, targeting fish that were moving up to spawn with lipless crankbaits, vibrating jigs and swimming worms.

“I think with the area that we were in, the clouds and wind actually helped our bite,” Washburn said. “The wind, especially, helped to position those fish on the lily pad points and those hydrilla points and made it a lot easier for us to target them.”

Eggerding said the tandem made the run to Kissimmee because of its history of producing tournament wins. As the event progressed, they figured out the bigger bass weren’t interested in slow presentations; they had to make the fish react.

Their starting spot Thursday didn’t yield a keeper. But on his first cast in their second area, Eggerding caught a 4-pounder. A few minutes later, it felt like his lipless crankbait “just ran into some standing timber.” After a nerve-wracking fight, Washburn scooped the 11-7 brute into the net. It would take home Berkley Big Bass honors with ease, weighing 2 ½ pounds more than the second-largest fish of the event.

“She grabbed it and pulled straight backwards, and it went really wherever it wanted,” Eggerding said. “It got into some lily pads, and obviously that’s really scary with treble hooks. So, we kind of just let it play itself out. We were going crazy when we finally caught it.”

For the win, Adrian College will receive a new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat with a 115-horsepower outboard plus $10,000. Eggerding and Washburn, both sophomores, also gained entry into the Toyota Series Championship as pros. Whichever of the two finishes higher at Wheeler Lake will earn a berth to REDCREST 2025 on Lake Guntersville. Doren and Lachniet also received spots in the Toyota Series Championship as boaters, while the Montevallo tandem of Brandon Berry and Hunter Bright will fish the event as co-anglers after finishing third.

In the moments after weigh-in, those future opportunities hadn’t really sunk in yet. But both Eggerding and Washburn noted their pride in bringing a championship back to Adrian College, which had a second team finish among the Top 10.

“It’s huge,” Washburn said. “Hopefully it’s the start of some momentum that we can keep rolling throughout the season. It’s going to be huge for our points. It’s going to be a huge morale boost for the team overall. And we’re excited that we were able to pull it off.”