DAYTON, Tenn. – The East Texas Baptist University duo of Cannon Bird of Marshall, Texas and Jacob Keith of Jefferson, Texas, won the seventh-annual Abu Garcia College Fishing presented by YETI Open tournament at Lake Chickamauga on Wednesday. The team’s two-day cumulative total of 10 bass weighing 38 pounds, 13 ounces, gave them a mere 3-ounce-margin over the second-place team, Bryan College’s Cole Sands of Calhoun, Tennessee, and Conner DiMauro of Dayton, Tennessee, who brought 10 bass to the stage weighing 38-10. The ETBU victory earned the duo a $33,500 prize package, including a new Phoenix 518 Pro with a 115-horsepower Mercury outboard, and an automatic berth into the 2022 Abu Garcia College Fishing National Championship.
A total of 228 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 such a large field of competitors, Keith and Bird said they didn’t initially believe they could vault to the win based off of their Day One results.
“We didn’t think we had a shot,” Bird said. “There were guys that dropped some really big bags on Day One and we only had 18 pounds.”
After Tuesday’s sun-splashed day and beautiful blue skies, Wednesday brought in cold, driving rain. But Keith and Bird had a plan and executed it methodically and deliberately.
The duo said they had practiced around the marinas dotting Harrison Bay, and that training session gave them confidence for the finale.
“Going into Day Two, we figured, let’s start right back where we caught the 4 (pounder) and the 3 (pounder) the day before,” said Keith. “And immediately Cannon caught another one that was about 3½ pounds.”
The duo said they fished the same pattern both days but thought poor planning may have cost them the chance at a win after Day One.
“We left our stuff down south, probably about 10 o’clock or 10:30 on Day One and started running back toward the weigh-in, just panicking trying to put together a limit,” said Bird. “We were worried that decision had hurt us, but in the long run, it actually helped us because it made us save stuff that we needed to pull out the win on Day Two.”
Bird said winning the tournament is something he will never forget.
“I’ve fished a lot of BFL’s and other tournaments, but I’ve never won a big tournament like this, so it’s crazy.”
The 22 teams that advanced to the 2022 Abu Garcia College Fishing National Championship were:
1st: East Texas Baptist University – Jacob Keith, Jefferson, Texas, and Cannon Bird, Marshall, Texas, 10 bass, 38-13
2nd: Bryan College – Cole Sands, Calhoun, Tenn., and Conner DiMauro, Dayton, Tenn., 10 bass, 38-10
3rd: University of Tennessee – Robert Gee and Reed Noyes, both of Knoxville, Tenn., 10 bass, 35-12
4th: Murray State University – Adam Puckett, Murray, Ky., and Nick Montilino, Edina, Minn., nine bass, 35-8
5th: Emmanuel College – Chase Carey, Hoschton, Ga., and Dylan Akins, Buford, Ga., 10 bass, 33-15
6th: Bethel University – Chase Milholen, Lexington, Tenn., and Levi Mullins, Nineveh, Ind., nine bass, 33-12
7th: University of Montevallo – Chandler Holt, Sterett, Ala., and Aaron Cherry, Kinsey, Ala., 10 bass, 32-15
8th: University of Montevallo – Trey Dickert, Taylors, S.C., and Adam Carroll, Carrollton, Ga., 10 bass, 32-11
9th: Carson Newman University – Caz Anderson, Haysville, N.C., and Lee Rose Koza, Marietta, Ga., 10 bass, 31-15
10th: Drury University – Beau Browning, Hot Springs, Ark., and Hunter Baird, Gypsum, Kan., 10 bass, 31-10
11th: Missouri Western State University – Gaige Blanton and Kody Mazur, both of Saint Joseph, Mo., 10 bass, 30-15
12th: Bryan College – Bailey Fain, Lenoir City, Tenn., and Preston Kendrick, Mount Olive, Ind., 10 bass, 29-10
13th: Bethel University – Cody Gregory, Troy, Tenn., and Seth Roberts, Jacksboro, Tenn., 10 bass, 29-4
14th: Carson Newman University – Braden Perry, Bluff City, Tenn., and Aidan England, Wise, Va., 10 bass, 28-15
15th: University of Louisville – Tyler Thompson, Radcliff, Ky., and Charles Snawder Rougeux, Louisville, Ky., nine bass, 27-11
16th: Georgia Southern – Avry Thomason, Dalton, Ga., and Ty Black, Cumming, Ga., 10 bass, 27-11
17th: University of Tennessee – Teddy Peznola, Knoxville, Tenn., and Jonathan Ayers, Jacksboro, Tenn., seven bass, 26-15
18th: Murray State University – Harbor Lovin, Fayetteville, Ohio, and Allen Mullins, Murray, Ky., seven bass, 26-15
19th: Campbellsville University – Wil Rigdon, Campbellsville, Ky., and Dustin Jones, Stanford, Ky., 10 bass, 26-12
20th: Bethel University – Wilson Smith, Southaven, Mo., and Dax Ewart, Humboldt, Tenn., eight bass, 26-11
21st: Catawba Valley Community College – Nathan Dellinger and Spencer Black, both of Hickory, N.C., 10 bass, 26-11
22nd: Bryan College – Justin Botts, Bluff City, Tenn., and Eli Stevenson, Dechard, Tenn., 10 bass, 26-6
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 Southern Conference tournament, scheduled for April 16 on Lake Somerville in Brenham, Texas.
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. Registration is accepted from any eligible college team from across the United State. 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.
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 Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.