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In the bag: BSU’s Swanson brothers clinch berth in Bassmaster finals

Mitch Swanson (left) and Thor Swanson load up their catches and bring their haul from the shore to the scale for the Bassmaster College Series National Championship in Bemidji on Friday. (Micah Friez | Bemidji Pioneer)1 / 2
Luke Gillund (right) and Robbie Troje (middle) smile during an interview with Hank Weldon of B.A.S.S. after Friday's round of the Bassmaster College Series National Championship in Bemidji. (Micah Friez | Bemidji Pioneer)2 / 2

BEMIDJI -- After a strong start to the Bassmaster College Series National Championship on Thursday, Friday’s round was all but a formality to lock up a top-12 finish for a spot in the finals for Thor and Mitch Swanson.

The brother tandem from Bemidji State added 11 pounds, 11 ounces to their day-one haul for a 27-pound, 7-ounce total through two days, good enough for third place -- and well within the cut-off heading into today’s final round.

“We couldn’t be happier with where we’re sitting right now,” Mitch Swanson said. “Coming into it, we just wanted to be in the top 12 to have a shot at making that final four cut… You’d always like to be leading, but we’re happy with where we’re at.”

The Swansons’ 27-7 total will carry over to today’s round, while the other 11 teams will also bring in their hauls. After today, the top four teams will qualify for an individual bracket at a to-be-announced location on Aug. 14-16, and that winner will earn a berth in the 2018 Bassmaster Classic, March 16-18, 2018, in Greenville, S.C.

“These are the best kids in the country and it’s great to be sitting where we are,” Thor Swanson said. “It’s a good spot to be sitting. Higher the better, obviously, but we need a top-four finish with the whole deal. We don’t have much cushion at all, unfortunately, so we need to go out there and catch them one more day.”

Jacob Foutz and Jake Lee of Bryan College (Tenn.) extended their day-one lead and currently sit in first with 34 pounds, 10 ounces. Cole Floyd and Carter McNeil of Bethel University (Tenn.) are second at 29-13, with the Swansons next in line. Garrett Enders and Cody Huff, also representing Bethel, are fourth at 25-8, three ounces ahead of fifth.

Along with the Swansons, BSU was also represented by Robbie Troje and Luke Gillund, who finish 35th in the 90-team field. The tandem brought in three bass weighing 7 pounds, 1 ounce on Friday, moving their weekend total to 13-2.

“I’d say (our trouble was) a little bit of tough luck, but also just the amount of boats where we were fishing,” Troje said. “We were fishing down the river and it kinda stinks when there’s at least 50 boats at a time down there.”

“All our spots had people on them,” added Gillund. “This fishery isn’t used to having this many people on it. I think it just made it tough, a lot of people had a tough time. It’s too bad that we weren’t able to do a little bit better, being (in our) hometown.”

Nevertheless, they’re thankful for the opportunity and proud that two of their BSU teammates are advancing into the finals.

“Just being able to qualify and come here is a lot of fun. No matter what place we came in, we still were able to make it here, and that’s something to be proud of,” Gillund said. “I’m really proud of Thor and Mitch, they’ve done a great job. Definitely gonna be out here watching them, cheering them on, and hopefully they make it to the bracket.”

With the final launch set for 6 a.m. and weigh-ins at 2:30 p.m. today, the Swanson brothers are still fighting for one of four highly coveted spots atop the leaderboard. And as the hometown reps, they’ve got an entire town backing them.

“It means a lot being able to represent my school and city here. I was not expecting this much support from this city,” Mitch said. “They’re showing out for the school, bass fishing and just the sport of fishing in general.”

“We’ve gotten a lot of support from pretty much everybody in the community,” Thor added. “We’re gonna go out there and give it our all, and I hope everybody knows that.”

Micah Friez

Micah Friez is a sports reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, he is currently studying Creative and Professional Writing at Bemidji State. Follow him on Twitter at @micahfriez for Lumberjack and Beaver updates.

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