KINGSTON, Tenn. — Representing Auburn University, Tucker Smith and Logan Parks found redemption on Watts Bar Reservoir, catching 16 pounds, 3 ounces of largemouth bass to win the Strike King Bassmaster College Classic presented by Bass Pro Shops.
Parks and Smith, who won the 2021 Team of the Year title and fished this event last year as well, hoisted the trophy on the stage of the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Toyota inside Thompson-Boling Arena in downtown Knoxville.
Last years’ champions Hayden Gaddis and Ben Cully from Carson-Newman University finished second with 13-4 and Avery Hammock and Garrett Smith from Erskine College finished third with 12-8.
As a St. Croix Bassmaster Opens Elite Qualifiers division competitor, Parks hopes this win is only a preview of what is to come in his career.
“It was really special to hold up a big trophy on the biggest stage in bass fishing,” Parks said. “It is also my last college event ever. I didn’t even expect to be invited. I thought my college career was over. So, it was special to come back with my best friend and get the win.”
Parks and Smith fished an event on Watts Bar several years ago but only managed to catch one bass. For all of practice and much of Sunday, they thought they were doomed to repeat that performance. But with an hour to go, they pulled up on a prespawn staging area and filled their limit.
Their biggest bass weighed over 5 pounds.
“We caught all of our weight in an hour,” Smith said. “We caught our biggest one in the last seven minutes of the day. It was meant to be.”
The bass they found were located around bluff walls in anywhere from 5 to 20 feet of water. With the water temperatures not warm enough to start the spawning process, Smith and Parks believed the bass they found were setting up to spawn.
Spotted bass bit first, but they eventually weeded through them to find some bigger largemouth. The Auburn anglers rotated through a variety of baits including a Berkley Stunna and a Livingston jerkbait, as well as a Picasso spinnerbait and a jig.
“We were just so happy when we caught our second fish,” Parks said. “Then it went down. It was crazy. They were eating.”
Parks hopes he will be able to use what he found this week at the Bassmaster Open at Watts Bar that will be held in September.
“I don’t know if this will work again, but it was good to have a better experience than we did the last time,” he said. “September is a tough month and that will be a season-maker or breaker.”
Coastal Carolina University’s Andrew Vereen and Connor Cartmell, the winners of the 2022 Strike King Bassmaster College Series National Championship presented by Bass Pro Shops, claimed Big Bass of the Tournament honors with a 6-7 largemouth.
The city of Kingston hosted the event.
2023 Bassmaster College Series Title Sponsor: Strike King
2023 Bassmaster College Series Presenting Sponsor: Bass Pro Shops
2023 Bassmaster College Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota
2023 Bassmaster College Series Premier Sponsors: Dakota Lithium, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Progressive Insurance, Ranger Boats, Rapala, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha
2023 Bassmaster College Series Supporting Sponsors: AFTCO, Daiwa, Garmin, Lew’s, Marathon, Triton Boats, VMC
2023 Bassmaster College Series Youth Sponsors: 13 Fishing, Seaguar, Shimano