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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Jake Gipson and Matt Wercinski won a national championship last year by a 9-ounce margin.

This year, they hope to take home another title.

Gipson, a recent UF graduate, and Wercinski, a senior general business major, will be defending the championship title in the second National Guard FLW College Fishing National Championship on Thursday through Saturday.

The competition is hosted by Murray State University in Kentucky and the winners will receive $100,000 in cash and prizes.

Last year, the UF team brought home $25,000 in scholarship money for the university, $50,000 to the bass club, of which both men are members,   and a boat as victory prizes.

“It was pretty awesome to win,” Gipson said. “And it was really exciting to win the first ever one.”

Gipson said that last year, they were in 11th place after the first day of competition.

He didn’t think they had a chance.

“It was probably some of the hardest fishing we’ve ever had,” he said.

So he and Wercinski decided to just have fun on the second day and ended up in second place.

On the final day, Texas State University, the leading team from the day before, had caught 29 pounds and 1 ounce of fish.

The UF team had 29 pounds and 10 ounces of fish.

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In the tournament, teams from schools across the country fish for three days, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., using artificial bait to catch the five heaviest fish. After the first two days, the totals are added and the top five teams go to the final, third day of competition. The winning team will  have best total weight from all three days.

Chad Gay, the public relations manager for Forrest L. Wood Outdoors, which started the tournament last year, said UF has won a majority of the $1 million FLW has given to winners.

“The University of Florida has just dominated,” he said.

Since 2009, when the FLW added a college section to the national- and pro-level fishing competitions, the number of college teams has grown from about 90 to almost 500.

“It’s just like any other college sport,” Gay said. “These kids are the athletes that go pro.”

Out of those 500 teams, 25 will be competing in the championship this year. Two teams will be from from UF.

Gipson and Wercinski form one team, and  Dennis Croyle and Travis Gates are on the other.

Gipson said there won’t be too much fighting between the two teams.

“We’re really excited to see they made it this far,” he said. “We’re pretty good friends at the end of the day.”

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