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University of Texas at Tyler Wins Inaugural Ranger Cup University Challenge
The tournament had a very unique format which led to very close results. It consisted of two four-hour sessions, and a final two hour fish-off as a tie breaker. Each session was treated as its own "mini" tournament, and the winner of each session was awarded one point. The first session took place on Thursday evening, the second on Friday morning, and the tie-breaker session was scheduled for Friday afternoon. The University of Arkansas bass team, represented by Mook Miller and Kyle Billingsley, and University of Texas Tyler bass team, represented by Matt McClellan and Tyler Fisher, were seeing Choke Canyon for the first time. Both teams we're prepared to fish the new waters out of identically rigged Ranger Z521 bass boats that were waiting on them upon arrival.
Thursday yielded some rare weather for South Texas; sustained 20 mph winds and overcast conditions. In fact, Matthew McClellan of UT Tyler mentioned, "I don't think the fish had seen wind and clouds in so long that they were confused; they forgot they are supposed to bite in those conditions." He was being a bit modest, considering they still rounded up a limit weighing 13.08 pounds. Matt went on to say, "I thought we were out of contention for the initial weigh-in; however, with minutes to go I caught a four pounder on a swim jig. I thought that gave us the edge for sure." UT Tyler was disappointed to find out Arkansas edged them out of round one by a mere four ounces. Arkansas' Mook Miller and Kyle Billingsley were awarded the point for their very close win over Matt and Tyler.
The second session of the event Tyler claimed, "They bit really well, but we never found the quality fish Choke Canyon is known for." Just like the first session, Matt and Tyler pushed it to the end, and landed a solid two and a half pound bass with minutes to go to significantly improve their limit. "It is crucial in bass fishing to fish to the very last minute, I have seen tournaments won and lost during the last cast, so we tried to keep our focus and it paid off in round two," said Tyler. This time, the last bite proved to be the difference, with UT Tyler beating out Arkansas 12.11 pounds to 10.5 pounds, and forcing the final round fish-off.
The final session was a two hour tie-breaker. The team that came back to the dock with the heaviest weight after two hours of fishing was heading home as the first Ranger Cup University "Team of the Year." "The final session started with us going over an hour without a bite," said Tyler "We were nervous at that point but we saw Arkansas scrambling around too, so we knew the bite was tougher." Matt and Tyler worked their way towards a point of grass where they landed some of their better fish during the first session; "We pulled up and started punching mats with a big weight and things started coming together." UT Tyler continued to catch multiple keepers in the last 45 minutes of the event by punching creature baits through the thick matted hydrilla. The team continued their last minute fish catching heroics in this session as well. "The cameraman told us we had one minute left, and about that time Tyler hoisted in a solid fish that culled our smallest fish right at the end," said Matt. "There was excitement up until the end in every session." Matt and Tyler won the final round by piecing together a solid limit of just less than 14 pounds, making the University of Texas at Tyler the inaugural Ranger Cup University champions.
Tyler Fisher, competing in his last collegiate bass fishing event, went out the way all anglers dream of; with a win. "It was my last event; just to make it here was awesome, and to win was really something special. Not to mention the fact it will be televised on Americana Outdoors. As far as the cash and prizes, that's just a bonus. This trip was a once in a lifetime experience for all four of us that fished this week." said Tyler.