In 2021, The University of Montevallo rolled to the Tackle Warehouse School of the Year Presented by QuikTrip title with six Top-10 finishes, and they went back-to-back in 2022 to become the first school to win two years in a row. This year, the team totaled 2,312 points, 20 points off the pace they set in 2021, but still enough to get the job done. For the win, a $10,000 scholarship was awarded to Montevallo from QuikTrip to help offset tuition for the students who contributed to the title.
In 2022, no Montevallo team won an Abu Garcia College Fishing Presented by YETI event, but they put up good finishes across the board, especially at the beginning and end of the season. In the Southeastern Conference opener at the Harris Chain, Nicholas Dumke and Easton Fothergill finished fourth and Jack Alexander and Brody Robison finished fifth to get the season rolling in style. To finish it off at Pickwick, Peyton Harris and Dalton Head knocked out sixth place and Merritt Arnold and Chance Schwartz finished 10th.
“It’s awesome, being a fairly new team in college fishing, to show the teamwork and the way we’ve built ourselves to be the No. 1 team in the country and a team to be reckoned with,” said sophomore marketing major Harris. “It’s nice, we have a bunch of great anglers on the team. Whenever we launch the boats out, we leave the dock with confidence that somebody on the team is going to catch them.”
“Every year is always different, it seems like you have a different group in and out of the program each year due to graduations and stuff,” said William Crawford, the Outdoor Scholars Program Director and Head Fishing Coach at Montevallo. “The biggest thing is that we have a really good group of anglers, and also a good group of kids. That makes it fun, they put a lot of hard work into being successful and it’s paid off. To go back-to-back, I believe it’s the first time it ever happened on the college circuit for MLF, and we’re excited to be part of that and bring recognition to the program and the institution.”
Like a growing number of teams these days, Montevallo operates as something like a varsity sport on campus, with scholarships and a much more official structure than most teams from the early days of collegiate fishing. In 2022, Montevallo had 60 anglers on the team, and rolled deep in each tournament, with more than 15 boats at most events.
A big roster was important for Montevallo in 2022, as the school didn’t win any MLF events, but still pulled off School of the Year honors.
“It gives us enough depth to where if some things happen, we’re still competitive, and that’s the name of the game,” Crawford said. “We know that not every tournament is going to be the same guys having success. Having a deep roster and knowing that someone can pick up the slack, regardless of where we’re fishing, we know someone is going to catch ‘em. It creates a good mix within the group, where they’re able to push themselves and each other and be successful.”
Harris said the size of the team and their teamwork is key for the overall success.
“We’re all so close-knit with each other, when someone is struggling, usually someone else is catching some fish and they can throw ‘em a bone and get on it,” he said. “It’s the teamwork. Going back through the tournaments this year, I don’t think we had somebody collect points more than once. Having boats on the water and feeling confident that someone is going to go out there any day and catch fish is huge.”
The Tackle Warehouse School of the Year Presented by QuikTrip title is determined by the total accumulated points from three regular-season conference events and the annual College Fishing Open tournament. Three hundred points are awarded to the winning team in each tournament, 299 for second, 298 for third, and so on. Each school receives the total points earned by its top two teams in each tournament.
1. University of Montevallo – 2,312
2. McKendree University – 2,308
3. Adrian College – 2,267
4. Tarleton State – Stephenville – 2,257
5. Bryan College – 2,253
6. East Texas Baptist University – 2,253
7. Auburn University – 2,239
8. Drury University – 2,217
9. Louisiana State University in Shreveport – 2,212
10. Blue Mountain College – 2,203
MLF also recognizes the top-performing school in each of the five Abu Garcia College Fishing conferences with the Tackle Warehouse Conference School of the Year award. The point system is structured in a similar way as the overall School of the Year award, but points are only given for the three regular-season events in each respective conference.
Here are this year’s winners:
Southeastern Conference School of the Year
Auburn University – 1,731 points
Southern Conference School of the Year
Stephen F. Austin State University – 1,731 points
Central Conference School of the Year
McKendree University – 1,747 points
Western Conference School of the Year
Simpson University – 1,789 points
Northern Conference School of the Year
Adrian College – 1,751 points