by Auburn University
By Neal Reid
To say the Auburn University Bass Fishing Team had a big weekend at nationals would be an understatement.
Just days after the talented tandem of Logan Parks and Tucker Smith won the title of Carhartt Bassmaster College Series 2021 Team of the Year, four other Auburn anglers made a big splash at the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship presented by Bass Pro Shops. The teams of Conner Crosby/James Cobbs and Sam Hanggi/Sam Hoesley not only advanced to Championship Saturday at the St. Lawrence River in Waddington, New York, but finished among the top six in a battle with more than 120 college teams from across the country.
Crosby and Cobbs reeled in a third-place finish with a total haul of 59 pounds, 8 ounces, with Hanggi and Hoesley netting sixth place at 57 pounds, 11 ounces. With the top-three finish, Crosby and Cobbs also qualified for the College Classic Bracket — a limited-field event slated for later this year that will send one angler to the 2022 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk — where they will join Parks and Smith, who qualified via their Team of the Year victory.
“I still can’t believe it, honestly,” Crosby, a fifth-year senior majoring in fisheries, aquaculture and aquatic sciences who plans to attend graduate school after completing his undergraduate degree next spring, said. “We just went up there just trying to have fun, and it was our main goal just to make it to that tournament. Of course, you want to do well in the tournament, but we didn’t really have any expectations.
“On the way up, I was talking to my partner and saying, ‘Let’s go catch a 20-plus-pound bag and take home some hardware.’ Something just felt right, and everything just seemed to fall in place. Every decision we made was the right decision.”
The outpouring of support for the entire Auburn team was overwhelming for the anglers.
“It was crazy and kind of choked me up,” said Crosby, who qualified for nationals with Cobbs in the final regular-season event of the year. “On the way to the [boat] ramp at 5 o’clock in the morning — which was 4 o’clock Central time — I was getting 50 text messages from everybody on the team, all my family and friends saying ‘Good luck,’ ‘Go get ‘em,’ and ‘It’s going to happen.’ That was just the whole mind frame — if it’s going to happen, it’ll happen.”
Parks and Smith received a $2,500 check along with a boatload of prizes for being named the nation’s top collegiate team after finishing no worse than 16th in four regular-season collegiate events this year at a variety of water types across the country. Parks, a senior, and Smith, an incoming sophomore this fall, won an event on Saginaw Bay in Bangor Charter Township, Michigan, in mid-June to take home Team of the Year honors by a record points margin.
“It’s pretty cool to say you’re the No. 1-ranked boat in the entire country,” Parks, a double major in supply chain management and information systems management who will graduate this December, said. “It’s a pretty big honor to be able to hold that trophy up. Being consistent is really what it’s about.
“We fished all over the country, so you have to be a diverse fisherman and can’t be just a one-trick pony. You’ve got to be able to do everything everywhere, and being able to fish all those different bodies of water definitely helps prepare you for a career in fishing afterward, too.”
Auburn’s team enjoyed immense success in 2021, landing 10 two-man pairs in the field for the national championship, which ran Aug. 12-14. Six of those 10 teams finished among the top 60, with seven ending up in the top 70 of the final standings.
This year’s accomplishments further cemented Auburn as a major player in the collegiate fishing ranks.
“We’re definitely one of the most well-known college teams overall just because of some of the famous alumni who fished for Auburn and are pros now,” Parks, who plans to become a professional angler after graduation, said. “This year, I think we have a good shot at the School of the Year title for the No. 1-ranked school in the country, because we’ve got a lot of good guys. We’re pretty pumped about that.”
Auburn’s high level of internal competition among team members is a great motivator for the anglers to take their skills to the next level.
“Being on the Auburn team, you’re around the best in the nation,” Crosby said. “There’s no bad people on the team, and you’ve got to bring your A game no matter what.
“I feel like that’s helped me the last two years I’ve been on the team. I feel like I became a better angler and a better person.”
The quartet of Tigers will next take on the nation’s other top four collegiate anglers at the College Classic Bracket in October, an event with still-to-be-determined dates and location that will be featured on Fox Sports 1. Auburn’s anglers are excited about the chance to win that event and punch their ticket to next year’s Bassmaster Classic.
“That’s huge, and it’s probably the biggest win you can have in college is to win that tournament, because you get to go on and fish in the Bassmaster Classic,” Parks said. “That’s basically the Super Bowl of Bass Fishing, and you’ve got millions of fans watching that tournament. That would be huge recognition for yourself and your school if you were to win it, and to have four of the eight people competing in it, Auburn’s got a 50-percent chance of one of us getting to go. So, it’s pretty exciting.”
Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.