By Matt Vines
COUNCE, Tenn. – With LSUS fishing pair Matthew Nesbit and Tripp Bowman sitting in 28thplace after the first day of the 2023 Strike King Bassmaster College National Championships on Pickwick Lake, the Pilots wanted to do everything in their power to push the tandem to the top 12 and qualify for the finals.
While continuing to catch their own fish, LSUS anglers shared information and their fishing spots with Nesbit and Bowman to angle for a finals spot over the weekend.
The plan didn’t ultimately succeed as Bowman/Nesbit finished 40th with teammates William Tew/Brayden Nichols making a second-day surge to finish 38th in the 131-boat field.
But LSUS was one of just six teams with three boats in the top 50.
“It was a good week overall, and it was tough fishing on that lake after our practice days were marked by storms,” said Charles Thompson, LSUS bass fishing coach. “The midsummer heat can really change conditions and shake fish up, and when you’re not from that area, it’s tougher to gauge what the fish are actually going to do.
“But we worked well together to figure out the lake, and we shared information. On the second day, some of our guys gave up their spot to try to get an LSUS boat in the top 12. I was proud of the team effort.”
Bowman/Nesbit put themselves in contention on day one with a five-fish stringer of 14-9.
The second day proved to be a little tougher as the tournament reversed its starting order, meaning many of the day one spots were already occupied when they set out on the second day.
Bowman/Nesbit finished with a two-day total of 22-12.
“We did really well on the first day, even exceeded our expectations,” Nesbit said. “We were the 17th boat out on the first day, and the second day, we were like in the (110s).
“But we’re a pretty tight-knit group, and we trusted the information from our teammates because it wasn’t about each one of us winning – we just wanted someone from LSUS at the top because it helps all of us. Our teammates were helping us out as much as they could.”
Nichols/Tew landed a 12-10 stringer the second day as they vaulted more than 25 spots to finish 38th (23-2 total).
Nichols said he and Tew had fished a combined 10 events on Pickwick Lake, and that knowledge helped their second-day push.
“I’ve fished this lake since I was 15 years old, and Will and I bounced ideas off each other and used our experience to catch our limit each day,” Nichols said. “Our team tried different techniques and areas on our practice days, and we talked as a team each day about the practice.
“We may not have gotten a boat in the top 12, but it’s a great opportunity to compete against the best college anglers from across the country.”
Bryant Martin and Luke Batts also surged the second day to finish 45th overall with a 20-2 total.
Levi Thibodaux and Chance Shelby finished 98th (9-15).
The Pilots finished the regular season in 15th-place in the national standings as a program, and they bring all eight championship participants back this coming season.
LSUS kicks off its fall season this coming weekend with an in-house tournament on Cross Lake.
The weekend is a chance to welcome new anglers to the team as they get a taste of college bass fishing.
“I’m excited to get back out on the water because this team is a family,” Nichols said. “We’re excited to meet the new guys, and we can teach them a lot as well as learn a lot.
“It’s exciting to see who’s going to be filling our shoes one day.”
While the in-house tournament will be plenty of fun, it begins the competition to see which anglers can compete for traveling spots.
“This is a fun event where we can also celebrate the families behind these guys and everything they do for us,” Thompson said. “We’ll have older guys fishing with the younger guys and showing them the ropes of how college fishing works.
“We’ll all go to the American Legion and eat cheeseburgers afterward as a team bonding experience.”