The stretch of bottomland bordering the Atchafalaya River at Whiskey Bay off Interstate 10 is moist from recent winter rains, ready-made for moisture-loving woodcocks.
SEC football rivals Louisiana State University and the University of Alabama are set to meet Feb. 20 on the water in the Bassmaster College Classic as part of the Bassmaster Classic events that week. The college championship will be held on Lake Verret.
At the same time, the world’s top anglers will be competing elsewhere on the Louisiana Delta on the final day of the 41st Bassmaster Classic, the world championship of bass fishing, out of New Orleans.
The one-day, combined-weight college tournament will award bragging rights, a coveted trophy and the right to come back to defend their title next year. All team members will weigh in on the Bassmaster Classic stage just before the final 25 contenders for the Classic crown appear.
A walk across the biggest stage in the sport will be among the trip’s highlights for LouisianaSportsman.com’s Logan Mount, a junior from Leesville, La., majoring in wildlife ecology and serving as president of the LSU Fishing Team. Mount’s online alias is Logomount.
“No place we’ve been is going to compare to the crowd of a Bassmaster Classic, so I’m very excited about the weigh-in,” said Mount, who has fished on the LSU team since he was a freshman.
Other LSU team members are Mason McCain, Doug Greenman, LouisianaSportsman.com’s Travis Laurent (aka buddybigfish), TJ Goodwyn, and LouisianaSportsman.com user Douglas McClung (aka djmcclung).
Alabama will be represented by team president Ben Weldon, Warren Hoffman, Dustin Connel, Jeremy Christian, Brian Morrow and Drew Sanford.
Six anglers will represent each school, two to a boat. The winner will be determined by adding the weights of the fish brought in by each boat. The team with the highest weight will win.
Alabama won the right to compete this year by taking the victory last year in the inaugural Bassmaster College Classic. Alabama’s 24 pounds, 8 ounces to Auburn’s 15 pounds, 5 ounces was a definitive win.
A repeat might be tough. The one official practice day of Feb. 18 will be Alabama’s only opportunity to learn the water, Alabama Fishing Team president Ben Weldon. Tuscaloosa, Ala., is too far away to make a pre-competition trip viable, he said.
“We feel we can figure something out,” said the senior from Wetumpka, Ala., who is majoring in urban and environmental planning. “Our anglers are very capable going into a new lake and finding fish. We feel we have a good shot even though we have no experience on this particular lake.”
The playing field may be more even than he guesses: Most of the LSU anglers aren’t familiar with Verret either, Mount said. But with Baton Rouge about an hour’s drive to the fishery, LSU has been able to scout before the off-limits period kicks tomorrw, he said.
“Our whole team will be putting in practice time. We want to do well, we want to be victorious,” Mount said.
The two teams have met before in the same college-level competitions, but never in a team face-off. The built-in rivalry is enough to fire up both teams.
“It’s another Deep South battle,” Weldon said. “We’re two fishing teams, both with a lot of pride in our fishing and in our schools.”
“When we’re going against another SEC team, especially Alabama, we’d like to come out on top, he said. “But with fishing, it’s not as intense as football — it’s a more friendly competition — but that doesn’t mean we aren’t serious about it.”
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