University of Montevallo Upsets on Championship Day to Win 2023 Abu Garcia College Fishing National Championship Presented by Lowrance

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KISSIMMEE, Fla. (Feb. 23, 2023) – The University of Montevallo duo of Peyton Harris and Dalton Head, both of Montevallo, Alabama, weighed a five-bass limit Thursday totaling 27 pounds, 11 ounces to win the 2023 Abu Garcia College Fishing Presented by YETI National Championship at Lake Toho Presented by Lowrance. With two Tackle Warehouse School of the Year titles under their belt (2021 and 2022), the University of Montevallo team came from behind to edge out the leaders from Bryan College on the third and final day to put more hardware and another national championship title on the shelf. The win earns the team a $43,500 prize package, including $10,000 and a new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat with a 115-horsepower Mercury outboard, as well as automatic entry into the 2023 Toyota Series Championship to compete as pros for a shot to win up to $235,000.

After finishing Day 1 in sixth place and Day 2 in third, the Falcon duo’s three-day total of 15 bass, weighing 66-15 gave them the win by a 1-pound, 8-ounce margin over runners up Andrew Ready and Vincent Maffei from Webber International University, whose three-day total of 15 bass weighed 65-7.

Both winning anglers are sophomore marketing majors at UM, and said they knew after the first day of practice that they had stumbled upon something special.

“It’s been a magical week – nearly 67 pounds in three days – and that weigh-in ticket is definitely going on the mantle,” said Head. “We typically struggle here in Florida, but we stumbled on something on the first day of practice that was really exciting. We just didn’t know whether it would hold up through the event.

“We made a long run to find our key area this week,” Head continued. “We knew there were bass in prespawn and postspawn, so we started looking for places where we could find both of them – where there were spawners coming in and post-spawners going out.”

The duo said the key to their week was managing the fish they found. They set 20 pounds per day as their goal, and left them biting after 20 pounds on Day 1. With the weather-shortened Day 2, they only brought in 18-9, but still ended the day in third place.

“On the first day of competition, we quit fishing around 11:30 a.m. to conserve our fish,” said Head. “On the second day with the fog delay, we only had about 2 hours to fish after locking down, so we ran straight back to that spot and caught 18-9 but knew that we’d saved a lot of fish for the final day.

“Today we swung for the fence and caught everything in that area that we could,” added Harris. “We knew we would win it or lose it right there, and if we fell short, we fell short. But thankfully, we didn’t.”

The team attributes the stability of the area to having access to fish in all three stages of the spawn.

“The area we found was basically a ‘fish highway’,” Harris laughed. “There were fish in all three stages – prespawn fish coming in, fish spawning on the grassy flat, and postspawners leaving – so we had fish coming and going in that area the entire time.”

The pair said the spot was about a half-mile long, and maybe 100 yards wide – a big grass flat with lily pads, hay grass and little patches of scattered reeds.

“We fished most of the same areas of the flat the first two days, but today we had to move up a little,” said Harris. “In the last 20 minutes or so we moved up to more shallow water and caught the 9-pound kicker fish that sealed the deal for us.”

The team was flipping a Texas-rigged 3/0 flipping hook with a custom-colored Yamamoto Senko and an Okeechobee Craw-colored Strike King Ocho with a 3/16-ounce weight.

“We did a lot of flipping,” said Head. “We had to stay 50 feet back from where we were fishing and just fished one little clump of pads for 10 to 15 minutes before moving on. But, when you’re fishing around 20 to 30 boats, that’s what you’ve got to do. The fish are there, and they aren’t going anywhere, but they know when boats are there. So we just had to hang back and slow down to catch them.

“It means so much to me to win a tournament like this because I’ve worked my whole life up to this point, just for this moment,” Head continued, choking up on stage. “Some of my buddies came out and supported us today on the water and watched us catch some big fish and just kept us hyped up all day. I couldn’t ask for a better fishing team.”

The duo gave much credit to their stellar University of Montevallo fishing club, amid cheers as the team crowded around the stage in excitement.

“These guys have taught me so much,” said Head. “I come from a small town in Moody, Alabama and these guys are some of my best friends and have made me ten times better as an angler.

“Competing against our own teammates is usually the hardest competition we have all year, so to be able to stand up here and hoist these trophies, with all of our teammates here cheering us on, just means the absolute world to us,” Harris added. “We both fished in high school and chose to go to University of Montevallo to join their fishing team because they are the best.

“If you want to be the best, you’ve got to compete against the best and if you want to get to the next level, you’ve got to put yourself in the position to do so. The University of Montevallo has been that position for us,” Harris finished.

The top 10 teams on Lake Toho finished:

1st:           University of Montevallo – Peyton Harris and Dalton Head, both of Montevallo, Ala., 15 bass, 66-15, $43,500 prize package

2nd:          Webber International University – Andrew Ready of Auburndale, Fla., and Vincent Maffei of Lake Wales, Fla., 15 bass, 65-7, $5,000

3rd:          LSU – Beau Landry of Brusly, La., and Peyton Matherne of Walker, La., 15 bass, 61-6, $4,000

4th:           Drury University – Cole Breeden of Lebanon, Mo., and Hunter Baird of Salina, Kan., 15 bass, 59-15, $3,000

5th:           East Texas Baptist University – Brett Jolley of Kingwood, Texas and Cade Nettles of Stonewall, La., 15 bass, 58-8, $2,000

6th:           Bryan College – Conner DiMauro of Longwood, Fla., and Justin Botts of Bluff City, Tenn., 14 bass, 56-12, $1,000

7th:           Kentucky Christian University – Lafe and Matt Messer, both of Warfield, Ky., 15 bass, 52-1, $1,000

8th:           Bryan College – Elijah Kirk of Chattanooga, Tenn., and Andrew Fisher of Calhoun, Ga., 15 bass, 49-6, $1,000

9th:           Adrian College – Matthew Davis of Morenci, Mich., and Sam Shoemaker of Martinsville, Ind., 15 bass, 47-3, $1,000

10th:        University of Montevallo – Brandon Berry and Hunter Bright, both of Helena, Ala., 15 bass, 42-3, $1,000

For a full list of results, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com.
Overall, there were 50 bass weighing 195 pounds, 4 ounces caught by the final 10 teams Thursday. The catch included 10 five-bass limits.

The 14th annual Abu Garcia College Fishing National Championship was a three-day event – hosted by the Kissimmee Sports Commission – featuring the top 195 college bass fishing teams from across the nation competing in an internationally televised, no-entry fee tournament for a $33,500 prize package plus $10,000, including a new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat with a 115-horsepower Mercury outboard.

In addition to the boat package, both members of the winning University of Montevallo team and the runners-up from Webber International University now advance to the 2023 Toyota Series Championship where they will compete as pros for a top prize of up to $235,000. In addition, the winning University of Montevallo team’s highest finishing team member at the Toyota Series Championship will advance to REDCREST 2024 to compete against the world’s best pros for the sport’s top prize of $300,000.

Both members of the third-place Louisiana State University team from the College Fishing National Championship will advance to the 2023 Toyota Series Championship to compete as co-anglers for a shot at winning a $33,500 Phoenix 518 pro with a 115-horsepower Mercury outboard.

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. The Top 10 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.

Proud sponsors of the 2023 MLF Abu Garcia College Fishing Presented by YETI include: 4WP, 13 Fishing, Abu Garcia, B&W Trailer Hitches, Black Rifle Coffee Company, E3, Favorite Fishing, Fox Rent a Car, General Tire, Grundens, Lawless Lures, Lew’s, Lowrance, Mercury, Mossy Oak, Onyx, Phoenix, Polaris, Power-Pole, Strike King, Tackle Warehouse, T-H Marine, Wiley X and YETI.

For complete details and updated tournament information, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com. For regular College Fishing updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow MLF5’s social media outlets at Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.