The Bryan College fishing team has reached the taking-names stage of dominance in its third year of existence.
A week after the NAIA school in Dayton jumped ahead of Alabama, South Carolina and previous leader Auburn to No. 1 in the Cabela's School of the Year standings, the Lions' Matt Brown and D.J. Barber won the FLW YETI Southeastern College Fishing tournament last weekend on Lake Hartwell on the Georgia-South Carolina border.
Their five-bass limit in the one-day event totaled 18 pounds, 14 ounces. A Clemson boat was second with 16-8, with Kennesaw State, Bethel and Georgia completing the top five.
Barber and Brown said they caught all their keepers before the tournament was barely an hour old.
"We took off at 7:30 a.m. and made about a 30-minute run up the Seneca River, so we went shallow on a lake that people normally go deep," Brown said in a school release. "We found the spot in practice, and the area paid off as the first cast I made was hit by a 6-pounder. For the next 40 minutes we landed all of the fish that we ended up weighing in."
The two already had qualified for the 2018 FLW College national tournament with a fifth-place finish on Lake Seminole in January, and this one was similar.
"We caught all of our fish in the first 35-40 minutes there, too," Barber pointed out. "Matt and I knew we were sitting well as soon as he got his first bite."
Their win Saturday came with a $2,000 scholarship for the Bryan bass club, which will be competing this weekend in the three-day Cabela's College Bass Fishing Open on Lake Dardanelle in Arkansas.
"I've never been to Dardanelle, but many of the guys are well-versed at fishing Dardanelle," Barber said in the release. "It looks like the conditions will be great while we are there, and we look to duplicate what we did last year when the team had a top-10 finish."
Bryan's Nathan Bell from Riceville and Cole Sands from Dayton finished 17th out of 176 teams on Hartwell — one spot ahead of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's Patrick Hoskins and Dillon Falardeau — and also qualified for the second time for the 2018 FLW nationals. Bryan's Chandler Fogg and Conner Fogg were 27th last week, Connor Cohran and Dylan Kear were 55th and three other Lions boats — seven in all — made the top half of the field. Two other Bryan entries were 92nd and 105th.
"To say I'm proud of these guys is an understatement," coach Mike Keen said in the release. "They have done everything we've asked them to do and more. I think there are two things that have caused this: their hard work and the Lord has blessed them."
The Fogg brothers also have qualified for the 2018 national event, and Bryan has four boats qualified for the 2017 FLW College nationals in late May on Wheeler Lake in Alabama: Bell and Kear, Sands and Cohran, Jake Lee and Jacob Foutz and Dylan Pritchett and Connor Thompson.
"Success at some point becomes a culture. We'd like for that to be our culture," Keen said.
Success requires adaptability as much as any other quality, and Brown and Barber proved again they have that.
"Hartwell is a highland reservoir," Brown said. "It's deep and clear, so it's a lot different than the lakes we normally fish. We even caught a bass about 50 feet deep, but it was our strategy to go shallow and use our red squarebill crankbaits that helped us seal the deal.
"Once the pressure was taken off, we went deeper and tried spot fishing in an attempt to upgrade, but nothing bigger came our way."
And they didn't need it to.