2 West Ten­nessee fish­er­men get win

The Commercial Appeal - - Sports - Larry Rea Spe­cial to Mem­phis Com­mer­cial Ap­peal USA TO­DAY NET­WORK - TEN­NESSEE

Rudy Wor­ley and John David Nowlin have been friends since they were young­sters grow­ing up in Sa­van­nah, Tenn. In fact, they played base­ball on op­pos­ing teams. But, it was a day when they were sit­ting in an eighth grade class that changed their lives.

Rudy asked John David if he’d like to go fish­ing.

It was, as John David re­mem­bers, “freez­ing cold, but for some rea­son I went and I am sure glad I did. We have been fish­ing to­gether ever since.”

Which ex­plains why Rudy and John David de­cided to take their love of fish­ing to Blue Moun­tain Col­lege in north Mis­sis­sippi about 1 hours from their home in Sa­van­nah where they joined coach Shane Cox’s sec­ond-year bass fish­ing team.

Turns out it was a wise choice, not only for Rudy, John David and Coach Cox.

They led Blue Moun­tain Col­lege’s Top­pers to the cov­eted cham­pi­onship at the re­cent Amer­i­can Fish­ing Tackle Com­pany (AFTC) Col­le­giate Bass Tour­na­ment on Lake Dar­danelle near Rus­sel­lville, Ark.

You might say it was an out of the “blue” vic­tory for Blue Moun­tain, which came into the tour­na­ment ranked 52nd in the AFTCO Col­le­giate Bass stand­ings. Plus, there were al­most 200 boats and 400 an­glers rep­re­sent­ing col­leges from all over the coun­try.

De­spite heavy rain on the first day, Rudy and John David com­bined to catch 27.62 pounds, in­clud­ing 15.12 on Day 2 to claim the cham­pi­onship by 13 ounces over Alabama’s Snead State Com­mu­nity Col­lege. There was slightly more than a quar­ter a pound dif­fer­ence be­tween the top three teams.

“It was huge (for Blue Moun­tain),” said sec­ond-year coach Cox. “We went into the tour­na­ment hop­ing that we might get a top 20 fin­ish. None of us had ever been on the lake (part of the Arkansas River sys­tem). We had no knowl­edge of it. If we can go to a lake and win that we had no knowl­edge of, like I said, that’s huge. It’s un­be­liev­able.” Yet, that’s what hap­pened. Cox praised Wor­ley and Nolin for what they ac­com­plished, es­pe­cially when you con­sider that the two fresh­men grew up fish­ing on the Ten­nessee River, which, Cox said, “is noth­ing like Lake Dar­danelle. My hat’s off to them be­cause af­ter two days of prac­tice they fig­ured it out, and they made it work.”

Rudy ad­mits he had never heard of Blue Moun­tain Col­lege prior to ac­cept­ing Cox’s schol­ar­ship of­fer. Blue Moun­tain, which is 76 miles from Mem­phis, is a pri­vate lib­eral arts col­lege that cel­e­brated its 145th an­niver­sary in 2018. For many, many years it was an all-fe­male col­lege. To­day, 25 per­cent of the en­roll­ment is men.

Rudy orig­i­nally planned to at­tend North Alabama Univer­sity, but changed his mind when he learned about Blue Moun­tain’s fish­ing team and the good an­glers Cox had signed. It helped that Blue Moun­tain had a 10-an­gler ros­ter, too.

It turned out to be a pack­age deal for Cox.

“That is what it takes to build a good col­lege fish­ing team,” said Cox, owner of Ham­mer Fish­ing Rods, whose busi­ness has spon­sored sev­eral fish­ing as­so­ci­a­tions, in­clud­ing Alabama Stu­dent An­gler Bass Fish­ing, Alabama BASS Na­tion, Kids First Fish­ing and North Mis­sis­sippi Stu­dent An­glers. “You have to watch the high school ranks and watch the guys that are con­sis­tently do­ing well. I think col­lege fish­ing re­cruit­ing is a lot like re­cruit­ing (col­lege) foot­ball play­ers.”

Rudy and John David cred­ited their knowl­edge of each other’s fish­ing abil­i­ties with their vic­tory on Lake Dar­danelle.

Both said de­spite the heavy rain on the sec­ond day of the tour­na­ment, it was their de­ter­mi­na­tion to catch fish no mat­ter the weather that en­abled them to cap­ture their stun­ning vic­tory.

“We just put our heads down and we fished,” John David said. “We knew the fish were there. It was just a mat­ter of time to get them fired up and catch the ones we needed.” That, they did. “This (vic­tory) is one of the big­gest things that has ever hap­pened to our team,” Cox said. “When we left we knew that we were go­ing to be stand­ing a lot bet­ter than 52nd.”

Only re­cently did Cox learn that his team is now ranked No. 9.

“Be­ing in the top 10 in a col­le­giate com­pe­ti­tion is ab­so­lutely awe­some,” said noted Mid-South an­gler Ron Wong of Mem­phis. “We’re talk­ing about a team that does not have a se­nior on its ros­ter. Yet, these two fresh­men stepped up and won the tour­na­ment.”

The Top­pers won’t re­turn to ac­tion un­til early Fe­bru­ary for a Ca­bela’s spon­sored tour­na­ment on Texas’s sto­ried Lake Sam Ray­burn, fol­lowed a week later for a FLW event on Lake Semi­nole in Ge­or­gia.

“No doubt this win (at Lake Dar­danelle) was an early Christ­mas present,” Cox said.

Got an out­doors item or note? E-mail Larry Rea at lrout­doors@att.net or go to his web site at lrout­doors.com; listen to Larry Rea on Out­doors with Larry Rea on Satur­day morn­ings from 6-7:30 on ESPN 790-AM and 1520-AM and 95.3 in Brownsville, Tenn., and 6:30-8 on News/Talk 101.5 in Jack­son, Tenn.

SUB­MIT­TED

John David Nowlin (left) and Rudy Wor­ley cel­e­brate with their coach Shane Cox, Blue Moun­tain Col­lege’s vic­tory at the Amer­i­can Fish­ing Tackle Com­pany Col­le­giate Bass Tour­na­ment on Lake Dar­danelle near Rus­sel­lville, Ark.

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