Alabama anglers finish fourth in national championship

By: Rebekah Dye

Fishing season has come and gone at the University of Alabama, and the fishing team has a lot to show for it. On Friday July 27, Alabama’s Logan Johnson and Dustin Connell finished fourth in the Carhartt College World Series National Championship in Conway, Ark. Oklahoma State’s Zack Birge and Blake Flurry took the title, followed by Auburn’s Jordan and Matt Lee and Murray State’s Justin Graben and Vincent Campisano.

“I was really excited to be able to qualify again,” Johnson said. “It was a great accomplishment and a personal goal to be able to make it again. It’s a great tournament to go to.”

Connell was also excited to be heading to the national championship again.

“I was pretty excited because we normally do [well] in the championship,” he said. “I got third two years ago in the same tournament, so I knew we would do well.”

However, placing fourth was not entirely what the team had intended.

“We were happy to place fourth, but it wasn’t where we wanted to be,” Johnson said.

Moving into Saturday, the competitors faced each other for a college berth in the 2013 Bassmaster Classic. During this part of the tournament, the Alabama team was split and forced to face off against the national champions, OSU’s Birge and Flurry. Johnson beat out Birge, with two bass weighing in at five pounds, zero ounces, compared to Birge’s, weighing one pound, three ounces. Connell caught three fish, weighing three pounds, 14 ounces, and beat out Flurry, who zeroed on the day.

After beating out the national champions to move ahead to the semifinals, both Johnson and Connell were just ready to move on to the next round.

“I felt really good about it,” Connell said. “I was pumped beating those guys and moving to the next round.”

Heading into the semifinals Saturday afternoon, it was an Alabama-Auburn faceoff for a spot in the finals and an inch closer to a berth in the Bassmaster Classic. Despite needing to knock one another out of the tournament, the members of the two teams are all good friends.

Connell said he had a strategy to deal with that kind of distraction.

“I put my head down and fish,” he said. “I don’t worry about who I’m fishing against.”

The Alabama anglers were all tapped out by the competition Saturday afternoon. In a scorching 108-degree heat, the Lee brothers of Auburn University defeated Johnson and Connell. Matt Lee went on to take the spot in the Bassmaster Classic. When asked about changing anything from the tournament, both Johnson and Connell had very different answers.

“There would have been a couple of things I would have done different,” Johnson said. “Hindsight’s 20-20, you can see all your mistakes after the fact. But I am definitely happy for Matt.”

“If I could change anything, it would probably be the heat,” Connell said. “I am still exhausted.”

Johnson and Connell topped out the team standings this year, with Connell beating Johnson by just one point.

“I love the competition, and I love fishing against my buddies,” Connell said. “But when we back the boat into the water, it's just me and the fish. I go out there and do what I can everyday.”

The Carhartt National Championship will air in two parts starting Sunday, August 5 and Sunday, August 12 on ESPNU at 8 p.m.

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