Nichols, Tew lead the way for state’s top-ranked collegiate bass team

The LSU-S Fishing Team’s Brayden Nichols, left, and William Tew, who are both juniors, had their hands full Sept. 8 with the five bass that won the Major League Fishing Abu Garcia College Fishing Tournament at Lake Sam Rayburn.

Just one month after finishing one season with a solid college bass fishing national championship showing, LSU-Shreveport’s Brayden Nichols and William Tew started the 2023-24 season with a resounding W.

Nichols and Tew were the highest-finishing team from a Louisiana college at the Strike King Bassmaster College National Championship in August at Pickwick Lake in Tennessee. Then they took on Lake Sam Rayburn in September and notched a no-doubter win in Major League Fishing’s Abu Garcia College Fishing Tournament. The Pilots’ limit left the 180-boat field representing colleges in 13 states, including Louisiana and Texas, in their wake.

Their game plan for the San Augustine area they chose was shaky at the start, but shaky is what sealed the deal on a hot summer day in eastern Texas. A point they hoped to get five keepers from right off the bat gave them only two small keepers.

“We didn’t know if we’d be able to get many bites off brushpiles. We knew they’d be big. We were hoping to get a limit off our first spot and only ended up pulling two,” Nichols, 21, said later.

On to the brushpiles

They abandoned the point early, pulled up to a brushpile and caught a 6-pounder, then boated a 5 ½-pounder on the next brushpile. Another brushpile yielded 2-pound class bass that gave them a limit. Around 11:30 a.m., the Pilots returned to the first brushpile and got a 6 ½. Game, set and match, all on red bug Zoom Trick Worms on a Shaky Head.

Brushpile jumping came to a premature halt, however, when their boat’s cranking battery died around midday. LSU-S teammates in another boat, Bryant “Brother” Martin and Luke Batts, stopped to give the dead battery a jumpstart. With a livewell full of potential winners, Nichols and Tew decided to call it a day and drove in early to the weigh-in site about 12:30 p.m. (their flight was scheduled to be in at 3:45). They waited for their respective families and LSU-S Coach Charles Thompson to arrive before putting their limit on the digital scale. It was well worth the wait to hear the weight announced at 20 pounds, 12 ounces.

The LSU-S Pilots also checked in with a 21st by Tripp Bowman and Matthew Nesbit; 24th by Chance Shelby and Levi Thibodeaux; a 46th by Batts and Martin; 89th by Ian Carter and Bryce Distefano; 96th by Hunter Hamilton and Tyler Morris, and 109th by Mason McCormick and Triston Richard. Fifty-one of the teams in the 180-boat field scratched at Lake Sam Rayburn. The victory was a tribute to LSU-S, the winners said.

LSU-S Fishing Team Coach Charles Thompson, right, talks to his Pilots on Sept. 7, the night before the Major League Fishing Abu Garcia College Fishing Tournament at Lake Sam Rayburn. The Pilots boasted the winning team as well as five boats in the Top 100.

“Ah, it felt real good. It’s all glory to God, and glory to our teammates. If I didn’t have them I wouldn’t be where I am today, or without Coach Charles, of course. It’s a win for the team and Coach Charles. He’s the reason I came (to LSU-S). He’s awesome,” Tew said about his decision to fish for the Pilots. The fourth-year program was ranked 15th in the country at the end of last season.

Nichols said the win was “amazing.”

“It really caught us off guard,” he said. “I was surprised and happy for the team and Coach Charles. He puts in so much time and effort. We’ve all been working so hard for the opportunity. Lucky it was us but I would have been happy for any of us. We’ve got some top anglers, especially from Louisiana, and from Texas. We’ve got all the top guys.”

Net man

He also gave credit for the win where credit was due.

“William caught all of the fish,” Nichols said. “I was the net man. I found all the brushpiles and set us up (for casting angles). He was hot that day. I could tell. I just let him have it. I did catch two but he ended up culling them out.”

At the moment, LSU-S’ top guys are Nichols and Tew, who were 38th in the national championship in August on Pickwick Lake. They fished against each other in high school, Nichols for four years at Northwood High and Tew at Benton High, starting when he was in eighth grade.

Nichols, the son of Charlie and Tracy Nichols, teamed each year with Dawson Maloney. Captained by Nichols’ dad, they won a state title as sophomores and qualified for high school nationals in FLW. Meanwhile, Tew qualified for four national tournaments (he was ineligible as an eighth-grader), the first three with Hunter Sanford and senior year with Adam Smith.

His love for bass fishing started at a young age with his father, Billy Tew, and his uncle, Karl “Tookie” Tew of Bossier City. The latter got him hooked on bass tournaments.

The business major works at his father’s pawn shop and considers his “home lake” as Black Bayou Lake, where this time of the year he catches bass on 3/8-ounce white Boo-Yah spinnerbaits in 1- to 5-foot depths in the back of creeks where they are eating shad.

Nichols’ favorite November hotspot is Caddo Lake, where an Alabama rig can’t be beat, he said. The business and marketing major who owns his own lawn care business said he targets guts, ditches and channel swings in 6-foot plus depths near flats with an A-rig loaded with three shad-colored swim baits on 1/8-ounce leadheads.

About Don Shoopman 553 Articles
Don Shoopman fishes for freshwater and saltwater species mostly in and around the Atchafalaya Basin and Vermilion Bay. He moved to the Sportsman’s Paradise in 1976, and he and his wife June live in New Iberia. They have two grown sons.