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Cody Santel holds up one of the bass he caught during the Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship. Photo courtesy of

Santel moves up in ranks of college bass fishing

May 30, 2013 at 07:44 PM

The State Journal-Register

Cody Santel keeps fishing his way toward the top of the college bass fishing ranks.

Santel, of Petersburg, and his Murray State University fishing partner Justin Berger took seventh place in the 2013 BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship held on Pickwick Lake in Kentucky on May 23-24. The finish was strong enough to push Murray State from third to first place in the Cabela’s/Boat US Association of Collegiate Anglers School of the Year standings.

The tournament on Pickwick Lake was a big one, attracting 168 teams.

“This is the largest college event every year,” said Wade Middleton of CarecoTV, producer of outdoors programming including the Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship. “It is considered the national championship.

“Kids have to qualify to come and represent their school. To get here, some of the kids will fish as many as a dozen qualifiers within their own club (which may have as many as 100 students). Just to be able to fish in the event is pretty prestigious,” he said.

Santel and Berger were in third place after the first day with a limit of five fish weighing 22.66 pounds. That earned them the reward of being followed by the camera boat for the entire second day.

The second day’s catch was 18.19 pounds, still good enough for 40.85 pounds and seventh place overall.

That’s more than four pounds per bass on average.

Cody Santel and Justin Berger record an interview.

“Overall the tournament was fantastic,” Middleton said. “All you had to do was look at the results and see these guys were pretty serious.”

Perennial college bass fishing powerhouse Bethel University took the first and third place spots.

Tennessee Tech University and North Carolina State University both scored two teams in the Top 10. Santel’s teammates from Murray State finished 15th and 33rd.

Matthew Sells and Joey Disomma from the University of Illinois finished in 25th place.

On the water

The tournament was so big, the takeoff was done in flights — much like a golf tournament.

“They split them up into flights of 40 boats,” said Santel, who will be a junior at Murray State next year. “Boats would go off every 15 minutes so it was not mass chaos.”

The first day, Santel and Berger drew number 51.

The order was reversed the following day.

Pickwick Lake is a reservoir with 43,000 acres of surface area, and is part of the Tennessee Valley Authority. To find fish, Santel said they had to look in deep water.

“We used our electronics and found two different schools of fish in about 20 feet of water,” he said. “We were fishing a big drop-off in the middle of the main river channel, near where the fish would spawn.

“After they spawn, they start to move out from shallow water to deep water, and the fish that were coming out were coming out in waves, in schools.”
The key was quality, not necessarily quantity.

“We knew there weren’t many fish in them, but we knew they were big fish,” he said. “We sacrificed getting a bunch of numbers, but each time we got a fish it was good one.”

The primary spot Santel and Berger found produced two six-pound bass, two five-pounders and two of four pounds.

“That spot was pretty much loaded with some big fish,” he said.

Santel said fishing a big reservoir like Pickwick wasn’t intimidating because his school often fishes Kentucky Lake, located just 10 minutes from the Murray State campus.

Murray is located less than 60 miles southeast of Paducah, Ky.

“(Pickwick) is pretty much the same lake, but a lock down,” Santel said.

School may be out for summer, but the bass fishing schedule continues on.

“Next month I’m going up to the Detroit River to the FLW Regional Invitational,” he said.

The winning college team takes home $4,000 for its bass club.

Santel said he will fish eight club tournaments and five or six other tournaments representing the school each year.

As for college bass fishing becoming a scholarship sport, Santel said that may be on the horizon.

“There are no scholarships yet,” he said. “But they are looking to start one next year.”

Chris Young can be reached at 788-1528 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow him at

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