Bethel University Wins Eighth-Annual MLF Abu Garcia College Fishing Open at Lake Chickamauga - Major League Fishing
Bethel University Wins Eighth-Annual MLF Abu Garcia College Fishing Open at Lake Chickamauga
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Bethel University Wins Eighth-Annual MLF Abu Garcia College Fishing Open at Lake Chickamauga

Image for Bethel University Wins Eighth-Annual MLF Abu Garcia College Fishing Open at Lake Chickamauga
February 28, 2022 • MLF • Abu Garcia College Fishing

DAYTON, Tenn. – The Bethel University duo of Hunter Fillmore of Waynesville, Ohio and Dylan Fogarty of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania won the eighth-annual Abu Garcia College Fishing Presented by YETI Open tournament at Lake Chickamauga on Friday. The team’s two-day cumulative total of 10 bass weighing 45 pounds, 9 ounces, gave them a whopping 14-pound, 3-ounce-margin over the second-place team, Georgetown College’s Conner Johnson of Paris, Kentucky and Jordan Nicely of Mount Vernon, Kentucky, who brought 10 bass to the stage weighing 31-6. The Bethel victory earned the duo a $33,500 prize package, including a new Phoenix 518 Pro boat with a 115-horsepower Mercury outboard, and an automatic berth into the 2023 Abu Garcia College Fishing National Championship. 

A total of 275 teams competed in the event on Lake Chickamauga, setting the record for the most teams in Major League Fishing history to compete in the College Fishing Open. With the number of teams competing, the Bethel duo said they were surprised to realize they had such a large lead on the final day of the event.

“We honestly just got lucky,” said Fogarty. “We spent a whole day graphing Lake Chickamauga, from the dam all the way up to Sale Creek. This one spot we found is unlike anything we’ve ever seen – just one patch of grass, about the size of a boat – and we managed to pull over 45 pounds out of it. 

“After we got a good limit on Day 1, we just stuck around the area to see if we could cull, and kept an eye on the place, but no one else showed up.”

The pair headed back to their lucky spot on Day 2, where they found conditions had changed – the formerly clean water was dirty and the water level had risen, pushing the grass down even deeper. 

“The water had come up about a foot and a half or so, pushing the grass down to about 8 feet of water,” said Fillmore. “We had been fishing with a lipless crankbait on the first day, but switched over to vibrating jigs on Day 2, and had our limit by 11:30 a.m.,” said Fillmore.

Their key baits were a Z-Man ChatterBait Jack Hammer and a Queen Tackle Switch Blade Tungsten Bladed Jig in ½-ounce models, with red skirts and a white Yamamoto Zako, which they dyed orange. The pair said once Fogarty reeled in the 9-5, they had a pretty good idea they would be in first place.

“We knew we were sittin’ good but had no idea we had that large of a lead,” said Fillmore. “This is Bethel’s first Open win and it feels great.”

The 27 teams that advanced to the 2023 Abu Garcia College Fishing National Championship were:

  1. Bethel University – Hunter Fillmore, Waynesville, Ohio, and Dylan Fogarty, Mechanicsburg, Pa., 10 bass, 45-9
  2. Georgetown College – Conner Johnson, Paris, Ky., and Jordan Nicely, Mount Vernon, Ky., seven bass, 31-6
  3. Tarleton State University – Reagan Nelson, Athens, Texas, and Collin Reyes, Saginaw, Texas, 10 bass, 28-14
  4. Louisiana State University – Bryan Bergeron, Port Allen, La., and Heath Pinell, Plaquemine, La., 10 bass, 28-3
  5. Bryan College – Conner Giles, Riceville, Tenn., and Christian Wright, Clinton, Tenn., eight bass, 28-2
  6. Blue Mountain College – Tyler Hill and Bryant Marsh, both of Corinth, Miss., six bass, 25-6
  7. Bryan College – Mason Cizek, Knoxville, Tenn., and Rob Lindsey, Harrison, Tenn., seven bass, 25-1
  8. Bethel University – Austin Aikins, Lower Burrell, Pa., and Sean O’Brien, McKenzie, Tenn., seven bass, 24-2
  9. University of Montevallo – Cade Holcomb, Helena, Ala., and Grayson Morris, Birmingham, Ala., eight bass, 24-1
  10. Catawba Valley Community College – Lane Bailey and Justin Eggers, both of Granite Falls, N.C., six bass, 22-5
  11. Drury University – Hunter Baird, Springfield, Mo., and Cole Breeden, Eldridge, Mo., nine bass, 21-11
  12. University of Montevallo – Adam Carroll, Carrollton, Ga., and Trey Dickert, Taylors, S.C., six bass, 21-9
  13. Emmanuel College – Dylan Akins, Flowery Branch, Ga., and Chase Carey, Hoschton, Ga., eight bass, 20-11
  14. Columbia State Community College – Hunter Jones and Ryan Prince, both of Mount Pleasant, Tenn., six bass, 20-5
  15. Blue Mountain College – Lake Norsworthy, Brandon, Miss., and Nick Staub, Germantown, Tenn., seven bass, 19-14
  16. University of North Carolina – Samuel Dunson, Chapel Hill, N.C., and Jake Monti, Mooresville, N.C., five bass, 19-11
  17. Louisiana State University – Jeremy Severic, Bossier City, La., and Blakely Young, Hallsville, Texas, seven bass, 19-1
  18. East Texas Baptist University – Kaden Proffitt, Pittsburg, Texas, and Cason Ragsdale, Winnsboro, Texas, five bass, 18-15
  19. McKendree University – Tyler Christy, Bolingbrook, Ill., and Trey Schroeder, Crestwood, Mo., eight bass, 18-14
  20. Bethel University – Matthew Cummings, Union City, Tenn., and Levi Mullins, Nineveh, Ind., six bass, 18-9
  21. Emmanuel College – Seth Jenkins, Townville, S.C. and TJ McKenzie, Andrews, S.C., eight bass, 18-8
  22. McKendree University – Jack Stephens, St. Louis, Mo., and Maxwell Trotter, Decatur, Ill., seven bass, 18-0
  23. University of Nebraska – Cade Ludwig, Lincoln, Neb., and Hunter Suchsland, Kearney, Neb., seven bass, 17-9
  24. Tarleton State – Kreed Averhoff, Hico, Texas, and Jordan Kalsbeek, Stephenville, Texas, six bass, 17-8
  25. Emmanuel College – Cole Holloway, Madison, Ga., and Taylor McMullen, Oxford, Ga., five bass, 17-2
  26. Blue Mountain College – John Berry, Mt. Olive, Miss., and Blake Bullock, Seminary, Miss., six bass, 17-0
  27. University of North Alabama – Ty James, Iuka, Miss., and Walker Sahagun, Trussville, Ala., four bass, 16-10

Complete results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.

The Abu Garcia College Fishing Presented by YETI Open tournament was hosted by Fish Dayton and the Rhea Economic & Tourism Council. The next event for MLF collegiate anglers will be a Southeastern Conference tournament, scheduled for March 4 on Lake Guntersville in Guntersville, Alabama.

Abu Garcia College Fishing Presented by YETI teams compete in three regular-season qualifying tournaments in one of five conferences – Central, Northern, Southern, Southeastern and Western. The top ten teams from each division’s three regular-season tournaments and the top 20 teams from the annual Abu Garcia College Fishing Open advance to the following year’s Abu Garcia College Fishing Presented by YETI National Championship. One additional team will automatically qualify for the National Championship for every 10 teams over 200 competing. 

Proud sponsors of the 2022 MLF Abu Garcia College Fishing Presented by YETI include: 4WP, 13 Fishing, Abu Garcia, A.R.E. Truck Caps, B&W Trailer Hitches, Berkley, Black Rifle Coffee, E3, Epic Baits, Favorite Fishing, Gary Yamamoto Baits, General Tire, Lew’s, Lowrance, Lucas Oil, Mercury, Mossy Oak, Onyx, Phoenix, Polaris, Power-Pole, Strike King, Tackle Warehouse, T-H Marine, Toyota, Wiley X and YETI.

For complete details and updated information visit MajorLeagueFishing.com. For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow the Abu Garcia College Fishing Presented by YETI on MLF’s social media outlets at FacebookInstagram and YouTube .