HANCEVILLE, ALA. – Wallace State anglers Justin Rivers and Josh Butts have humbly savored the publicity they’ve generated for the college since winning the Carhartt Bassmasters College World Series Wild Card championship last month.
The next step in their impressive journey begins Thursday morning at the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship in Stevens Point, Wis., where they’ll compete against teams from 85 colleges or universities on Lake DuBay.
“We want to be the last team standing. We’re not taking any preconceived notions out on the lake with us. We are going to fish and try to find the best spots, but we’re also going to enjoy this ride,” said Rivers, an Addison native. “Everybody needs to take advantage of these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. They don’t come around often.”
Rivers and Butts made Wallace State BASS fishing club history by claiming the first championship for the group on Lake Dover in Tennessee. The route to the championship was littered with adversity. The night before the competition started, a wheel bearing on their trailer broke. Once they hit the water, they had to use swimbait to plug a livewell drain hole and a troll motor on their boat malfunctioned on the final day of the tournament.
Rivers and Butts didn’t let those obstacles hinder their performance. Using the oldest boat in the competition – a 1989 Bumble Bee model boat owned by Butts and referred to as “Betsy” – they reeled in 42 pounds, 5 ounces total over the three-day event, catching the 15-pound limit on the final day.
Attention has poured in for the Wallace State duo ever since they prevailed against the likes of Division I colleges, including Alabama, LSU, Arkansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, South Alabama, East Carolina and UNA, among others.
“The publicity we’ve received from winning has been amazing. There have been multiple articles written by newspapers and websites and it’s been all over Facebook, Instragram and social media. It’s been everywhere,” Rivers said. “It’s been fun for us and great for the college.”
Wallace State’s BASS club began during the spring 2013 semester. Ethan Flack and Logan Shaddix were the first Wallace State anglers to compete at the Bassmaster National Championship after placing high enough in the wild card competition.
Rivers and Butts have taken the club to new heights and the interest has followed.
“It means a lot to represent Wallace State. I’ve had many people ask me how to join the club since we won. They want to be on the fishing team at Wallace State and didn’t know we had one until now. They’ve read the articles or caught it on social media. We even had ESPNU follow us around in Tennessee. Not many people get to say that,” said Butts, a St. Clair County High graduate. “We are so thankful for the people who have reached out to us in the past couple of weeks, all expressing their support.”
Rivers is an Industrial Electronics student at Wallace State, while Butts is enrolled in the Welding program.
The Wallace State duo left with “Betsy” on July 5 for the 900-mile trek to Wisconsin. They’ve been scouting and surveying Lake DuBay in practice rounds since they arrived. The final day of practice was Wednesday morning.
The weather conditions on Lake DuBay were damp and cool earlier this week, but Rivers and Butts should encounter warmer weather Thursday and Friday, yet nothing like a July day in Alabama. The 6,830-acre Lake DuBay is located on the Wisconsin River.
They feel they’re better prepared for any disruptions in the national event.
“We’re going to take the same boat. We’ve got it all fixed up, but we actually left the swim bait in the livewell just for a good luck charm,” Rivers said.
The entire national championship field competes on Thursday and Friday and the field is trimmed Saturday to the top five teams catching the heaviest cumulative five-bass daily limits. Following the championship round, members of the top four teams compete individually in the Carhartt College Series Classic Bracket presented by Bass Pro Shops for three more days. The top college angler in the Classic bracket competition earns an invitation to compete with the world’s top professional bass anglers in the 2016 Bassmaster Classic on Grand Lake near Tulsa, Okla.
All of the collegiate anglers were treated to a Pro Night, presented by Yamaha, on Tuesday, as part of opening ceremonies.
Results of the daily weigh-ins can be viewed at http://www.bassmaster.com/video/2015-bassmaster-college-series-national-championship-classic-bracket-weigh
For more information about Wallace State, visit wallacestate.edu.