Interview with Bass Pack members Alex Freeman & Chad Craven
As reported earlier, North Carolina State University Bass Pack won the National Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship held at Lake Lewisville Texas. The format had university's from all over the nation sending in two person teams to compete for two days for an overall cumulative weight. After two days the top 5 schools/teams competed on one final day for the title. On the final day, the team representing NCSU Bass Pack of Alex Freeman and Chad Craven proved just to good to beat.
With 41 collegiate angling teams representing schools from major conferences, like the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, and the SEC, the field was set. Facing tough fishing conditions and a stiff north wind, many of the teams were forced to scrap their plans from practice and fish by the seat of their pants. It wasn't any different for Alex and Chad.
Alex: We thought we could win it. We were really excited, specially going into the final day. The top 5 got to fish out of 5 identical rigged Ranger boats, that was neat. And there was camera's every where. We had a camera man with us, a helicopther followed us. The helicopter got so close to us as we were fishing, almost about ceiling high, it was spraying water on us and everything. It was awesome. Can't wait to see the Fox Sports show from it.
Carolina Outdoors: They do a good job of coverage. Its probably the same Fox crew that covers the FLW Tour events. Its a great feeling to be in that kind of limelight. So how did the day start fishing wise?
Alex: It was pretty windy, but not as bad as the first day. I'd say it was blowing about 20 mph. The main lake was pretty tough to fish. We started out flipping tubes the 3rd and final day, but I don't know if it was because it got windy, or what, it just didn't work. Since it was windy, we remembered this rock jetty that lead to Lake Dallas. It got fished hard the first couple days, but with only 5 boats in the finals, decided to go try it. We got behind a little cut on the point, and we managed to keep the trolling motor off the rocks.
Chad: I started throwing a Bandit 100 series crankbait and immediately one about 4 lbs ate it. Not too long later, I got another one, our biggest fish, close to 5. We worked it pretty hard, then would leave it to rest, then come back to it. We managed 4 keepers off it with alot of shorts. We ended up catching our fifth keeper off a deep spot. It was a spotted bass.
Carolina Outdoors: First off, I'd like to say "congratulations" to both of you. Winning the Collegiate National Championship is no small feat. You should both be proud, you represented NCSU well. Tell the readers alittle about yourself.
Alex: Thank you. We owe allot to Jonathan Phillips, our NCSU Faculty Advisor, who helped make the Bass Pack a reality. And to all the members of the Bass Pack. I am from Duncan, NC. I'm a sophomore at State, majoring in education.
Chad: I'm from Greensboro, NC. I'm a senior at State, where I am a political science major.
Carolina Outdoors: Tell our readers alittle about events leading up to the Nationals. Maybe how you prepared for it, thoughts about the tournament.
Alex: Well, we actually send two teams from the NCSU Bass Pack. Me and Chad was one team. Justin Jones and Josh Quesinberry was the other team. I fished a little tournament on Lake Johnson the week before and actually won it.
Chad: I fished a tournament also the week before with friend Tommy Farley. It was a Boat Owners tournament on Old Hickory in Tenn. We won that tournament. We went down there to win. As a college student, you don't get too many opportunities to fish for that kind of money and exposure against only 41 other teams.
Carolina Outdoors: Well, its obvious you both came into the National Championships with momentum and confidence.
Alex: Yea. We both had heard that Lake Lewisville was real low, more than 10 foot. We found out it had allot of standing timber. We figured it would be more a deep bite, so we first started with deep running crankbaits. The weather was hot when we got there, and windy, which made it hard to fish deep.
Chad: We had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to do when we went down there. I'd just gotten back from Old Hickory, and it was kind of the same deal as over there. We were really just junk-fishing and running all over the place. We had 3 days of practice, but never really figured anything out other than covering alot of water. The first day of the tournament, it was windy and overcast. We had 4 or 5 foot swells.
Alex: And cold! The temperature fell atleast 20 degrees. We started out deep, but just couldn't get anything going with the wind. We switched up shallow with a spinnerbait and caught two, our biggest fish of the day, off rocky points. We managed a limit doing that.
Chad: I caught a couple late in the day on a shallow running crankbait that allowed us to cull twice. We ended up the first day in 2nd place behind Oklahoma State University. We had alittle over 14 lbs and OSU had around 16 lbs.
Carolina Outdoors: You had to be feeling pretty good about your chances to make the top 5 cut for the final day.
Alex: Well, kinda. Its was really tough. The wind was bad, and it effected everything. It even made getting from one fishing spot to the next tough. It was really rough, I heard Purdue University tore up their boat from it. They lost power in their boat, and was washed up on the rocks around the dam. We actually hit a bird because of the rough water. I'll let Chad tell you about that.
Chad: We were running down the lake, which had white caps from the wind. You know how flocks of seagull will sometimes rest or flock on the water, well, a group was sitting out in the water. I didn't see them because of the whitecaps and ran into them running about 60. One of the birds flew up, hit me square in the head. I was lucky, if he had hit me in the face, it would probably have broken my nose.
Alex: But going into the second day, we figured if we could catch around 6 pounds, we would make the finals. Our plan was to save our fish but our shallow spinnerbait fish was gone. In practice, we had noticed alot of shad was deep, so we decided to go back deep since the wind had laid some. I tied on a white trick worm rigged on a shakey head to match the shad. I caught our biggest fish doing that. We seemed to be getting mostly short fish deep, so we went back shallow.
Chad: I picked up a tube, started pitching it to shallow timber, and caught another good keeper doing that. We thought we had enough then to make the finals, so we went looking new water.
Carolina Outdoors: That had to be a good feeling, knowing you had made the cut, where the top 5 weights would be zeroed out.
Alex: We kinda got a scare, thought maybe we didn't have enough. When you weighed in, they would put you in a hot seat on stage. We were sitting on the hot seat till the last team weighed in. But at the last minute, they ask us if we had any fish, we said yes, a couple. They started calling us sandbaggers because we joked with a comment the first day we would only go out and catch enough to make the cut.
Chad: I got real nervous because I thought they weren't gonna let us weigh in our fish! Saying stuff like they had to make a ruling or call in the tournament director for advice. It was all in good fun from Jeff Creit and Wade Middleton who were emceeing the event. But it scared me at first.
Carolina Outdoors: That's pretty funny. So going into the third and final day, I guess you felt pretty good.
Carolina Outdoors: Did you feel like you had the tournament won?
Alex: Not really. We figured since we were catching them so good, so was everyone else. But it turned out, they were struggling, I guess with the wind and all. We had the only limit, which weighed almost 14 pounds.
Carolina Outdoors: What did ya'll get for the win?
Alex: We got a big check to hold up, and a trophy. We won $12,000 in scholarship money for NCSU Bass Pack. The scholarship money will go into their college club's account and all members will have a say in how it's spent.
Carolina Outdoors: In closing, is there any thing you guys would like to add?
Alex: We would like to thank Jonathan Phillips, our Faculty adviser. With out his help, none of this would have happened. He even let the second team representing NCSU BassPack borrow his 3 day old Ranger. Fred Page at Webbs Fiberglass of Rocky Mount has done a lot for the team too. Ron Enslen from Ranger boats helped us, as did Jason Tam from Yamaha. Also JB Rods, Secret Weapons Lures, Rosco's outdoors. And you also, thanks for all you do for us and the BassPack.
Carolina Outdoors: Its got to be a great feeling bringing a National Championship back to Raleigh.
Chad: Oh it is! The campus is really buzzing about it, as is the area press. We have also set the bar high for the Bass Pack (laughing). I'm a senior, will graduate in Dec., so the other club members will have to go win it again next year!
NOTE: Justin Jones and Josh Quesinberry was the other team that represented the NCSU Bass Pack. Carolina Outdoors also talked to them. They reported catching alot of fish during the tournament, just had a problem getting keepers. They were in 15th place the first day. Congratulations should also go out to Justin and Josh for representing NCSU well. Go get them next year! Go Pack !