GV bass anglers place 18th in national tourney
Zachary Wiggers and Justin Bruno secure team's second top 20 finish this year at 2014 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship.
The Chatuge Reservoir, located about 730 miles from Allendale, is a serene lake tucked into the lazily sloping mountains of northeast Georgia. Last weekend, the reservoir welcomed 84 teams from 58 different schools to the 2014 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship. Of these 58 schools, just nine came from north of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Of these nine, just one came from Michigan.
Sophomore Justin Bruno and senior Zachary Wiggers of the Grand Valley State University bass anglers club were the first-ever competitors from the Mitten to qualify for the event. The duo finished in 18th place.
Bruno and Wiggers may have been operating in unfamiliar territory, but to say they were out of their element would be nothing but a fisherman’s tale.
“I’ve lived in the South for a couple years,” Wiggers said. “I fished in this event last year with the University of North Alabama. I had an idea for what the lake was, but there’s nothing like it up in Michigan.”
The event, which was televised on ESPN, took place in two parts. The initial section involved the entire field as all 84 teams competed against each other for two days. The top five teams then squared off in a one-day bout for the 2014 title. Teams were allowed to weigh their five heaviest fish each day.
The GVSU duo got off to a slow start on day one after bagging just three fish for the weigh-in. Their trio of bass came to a total of 7 pounds, 7 ounces – a middling score among the talented field.
Nathan Martin and Michael Gullette of UNA turned in the top day-one weight with a total haul of 14 pounds, 15 ounces.
Bruno and Wiggers filled their quota on the second day after reeling in five fish for a total of 9 pounds, 4 ounces, but when the weigh-ins for the rest of the field were completed it became clear that the two-day total wasn’t enough.
“We had the opportunity, we just lost a lot of fish,” Wiggers said. “It’s not anybody’s fault, that’s just how it goes sometimes. We were on the right-sized fish to be in that line to do well, but we didn’t capitalize.”
The pair’s efforts were just a couple pounds shy of a top 10 finish.
“It’s a rewarding finish considering that we were up against the top colleges in the nation,” Bruno said. “It felt like we were one of the few northern teams that actually did well.
“It’s nice to be able to compete on their level.”
The pairing of Jake Whitaker and Andrew Helms from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte won the team portion of the event by edging Bethel University’s Zach Parker and Matt Roberts with a three-day total of 38 pounds, 9 ounces.
Each member of the top-four teams then proceeded to fish solo in a series of head-to-head elimination brackets, where the University of Louisiana-Monroe’s Brett Preuett secured the individual title and a berth to the 2015 Bassmaster Classic with a final-round total of 13 pounds, 2 ounces.