Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Bass fishing: LSUS logs best-ever season with sixth-place finish in standings

by Russell Hedges
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By Matt Vines, Communications Specialist, LSUS Public Relations

The LSU Shreveport Bass Fishing team recorded its best-ever finish for an entire season as the Pilots logged a sixth-place standing in the Bass Pro Shops School of the Year presented by Abu Garcia.

It’s the third straight year that LSUS has put together its best season ever, finishing No. 15 in 2022-23 and No. 20 in 2021-22.

“We feel great about what these guys and this program have been able to accomplish this season, and how LSUS is here to stay as a collegiate fishing power,” said LSUS coach Charles Thompson, who finished his fifth season at the helm. “We knew we had a chance to be really good this season with a great mix of veteran and young anglers.

“It wouldn’t be possible without the support of our sponsors, the Shreveport-Bossier business community, and the LSUS administration.”

There are no divisions in college fishing, so LSUS is trading blows with household names like No. 5 Auburn and No. 12 Tennessee along with schools located in the fishing heartland (Kentucky-Tennessee-Alabama) that host the majority of college fishing tournaments.

That home lake advantage, along with typically larger budgets, means that LSUS has to make every cast – and dollar – count.

“The reality is that we operate on about half the budget of other top fishing programs,” Thompson said. “That matters because points in the standings are affected by how many tournaments you can fish and how many boats you can send to those tournaments.

“We were fortunate to be able to fish four more tournaments this year because of increased financial support from the business community. We’re very responsible with the money we raise, and that’s something we wear on our sleeve when we go out and compete.”

The crown jewel of LSUS’s season came at the end when the Pilots finished third in the Association of Collegiate Anglers Championships on Pickwick Lake, Ala., in late May.

Three boats placed in the top 40 with all five in the top 70 in the 179-boat event.

Brayden Nichols and William Tew led the way with a fifth-place finish, totaling 41.73 pounds on 10 fish in the two-day event.

“The lake was really tough for everybody, but on the second day of practice, we moved to a part of the lake where we fished in high school,” Nichols explained. “We found a good area right before dark, and that spot is where we caught every fish we weighed in the actual tournament.

“We found two schools of fish, and we picked them apart for two days. They fired, and the boat filled up quick.”

Nichols and Tew had great success in the previous ACA Championships as well, finishing 10th.

“This event sets up well for us because it’s post-spawn fishing, and that’s usually where William and I are at our best,” Nichols said. “We found our spot because we spent time on the water, locating those schools of fish around 7 p.m. on that practice day when most other boats had probably gone in.

“The Lord blessed us to find that area. Not saying it was a complete accident, but we probably wouldn’t have checked there normally. You’ve got to have confidence to find fish that aren’t getting hammered (by other anglers) every single day.”

Tew and Nichols are part of an experienced backbone that’s propelled the rise of LSUS Fishing to national prominence.

Brother Martin and Luke Batts (29th at the ACA) and Tripp Bowman and Matthew Nesbit (69th at the ACA) are other veterans who have helped build the program.

Veteran Levi Thibodaux teamed up with newcomer Miles Smith this season, placing 32nd at the ACA Championships.

But it’s been more than just the old heads – LSUS has a mix of younger anglers who’ve made an impact.

Hunter Hamilton and Tyler Morris are new to the starting lineup this season and posted a 55th place finish.

LSUS climbed as high as fourth after the strong championship showing, but McKendree (Ill.) and Auburn were able to fish in a rescheduled tournament in Michigan.

Both programs logged enough points to jump LSUS in the standings in the final week.

“Our jump in the standings is directly impacted by the maturity our anglers have gained throughout their careers here, and they’ve passed that down to the younger guys,” Thompson said. “Tripp, Matthew and Brayden were the first anglers I recruited here, and they get to look back on what they accomplished and say, ‘I’ve done well.”

Batts and Nesbit are the only anglers who have finished their collegiate fishing careers while Bowman and Nichols have one more fall to fish at LSUS.

LSUS Fishing should be near the top of the standings in future years, Nichols said.

“These freshmen are 10 times better than I was when I was a freshman,” Nichols said. “It takes years of experience to get where we are today, and you show the younger guys that it’s not going to come quickly.

“I’m super, super proud of all of us for what we’ve contributed to our success this season, even though we wanted to finish a little better in the standings. But for the (smaller) size of our team and the resources we have, I’d say pound for pound, we’re the best.”

LSUS will get a jump on building next season’s point total in the Bassmaster College National Championships in August. Four Pilot boats have qualified for the event based on this season’s performance with the possibility of a fifth boat (Hamilton and Morris) qualifying at a tournament this coming weekend.

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