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Wire-to-wire: Bryan College wins Bassmaster national title, BSU’s Swansons ninth

Jake Lee (left) and Jacob Foutz let out shouts of triumph as they lift their Bassmaster College Series National Championship trophies on Saturday in Bemidji. (Micah Friez | Bemidji Pioneer)1 / 3
Thor Swanson (left) and Mitch Swanson show long faces as they reach shore at the Bassmaster College Series National Championship in Bemidji. The BSU brothers caught just two fish on Saturday and finished ninth overall. (Micah Friez | Bemidji Pioneer)2 / 3
Hopeful fans cheer at the start of the Bassmaster College Series National Championship in Bemidji on Saturday as free hats are thrown into the crowd. (Micah Friez | Bemidji Pioneer)3 / 3

BEMIDJI -- After taking the lead in day one and adding to it on day two, Jacob Foutz and Jake Lee of Bryan College (Tenn.) ran away with the Bassmaster College Series National Championship in Bemidji on Saturday.

“It’s an absolute dream come true,” said Lee. “The goal was top four, but in the back of your head, you’re always wanting to win. To go up there and be able to get it done is just a blessing.”

With a haul of 15 pounds, 5 ounces on Saturday, the BC tandem pushed their three-day total an ounce shy of 50 pounds at 49-15. Their first-place mark was 4 pounds, 11 ounces more than second-place Bethel University (Tenn.), and more than 10 pounds within the top four, giving them a berth in next week’s individual bracket.

Bemidji State’s representatives, Thor and Mitch Swanson, were unable to retain their third-place spot on Saturday. They caught just two fish with a weight of 5-14 on the tournament’s final leg, which dropped them down to ninth place overall with 33 pounds, 5 ounces.

“Our area (on Stump Lake), we thought it had a lot more fish in it, and it just got worse and worse on us,” said Thor Swanson. “Today, we figured if we stuck it in there the whole entire time, we’d eventually get five bites... We just couldn’t get enough bites. We only got the two. We just ran out of fish.”

“I don’t even know what happened different today. We’ve been sharing that spot with three or four other boats. They didn’t make it to today, so we were the only ones fishing it,” Mitch Swanson added. “But I honestly don’t know what changed today. They just weren’t there.”

Nevertheless, the brothers are thankful to grab a top-10 finish in a national championship in their own backyard.

“I’m just happy to be here. I didn’t think, coming in, we were the favorites. I didn’t think we’d have enough to make it to this day,” said Mitch. “It means a lot to me, the team and hopefully the school, as well, having the tournament here.”

“We wanted to make it to today, and we did just that,” Thor added. “Wheels kinda fell off today, but top 10 at a national championship? You can’t really complain a whole lot.”

For Foutz and Lee, meanwhile, leading from start to finish en route to a national title is something they won’t soon forget.

“Any time you catch two big bags two days in a row, you’re onto something special,” Foutz said. “It’s incredible. These college guys, they’re a bunch of great fishermen out here. To come out here and beat them, make the bracket, words can’t describe what it’s like.”

The anglers will now advance to an individual bracket, where the members of the top four teams will battle for first place on Serpent Lake in Crosby from Aug. 14-16. The winner will earn a spot in the 2018 Bassmaster Classic, held March 16-18, in Greenville, S.C.

Joining Foutz and Lee in the individual bracket will be Bethel’s Cole Floyd and Carter McNeil with a 45-4 haul, Tyler Firebaugh and Chad Sweitzer of Chico State (Calif.) with 40-8, and Brian Pahl and John Garrett, also of Bethel, who came in fourth at 39-7.

Locking up a top-four finish was the goal in Bemidji this weekend, but moving forward, all eight anglers will have their sights set solely on first place.

“That’s the dream. To get to fish the Classic would be unreal,” Lee said. “I’m gonna celebrate this tonight, and when I wake up tomorrow, all focus is gonna be on the bracket.”

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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