For the third time in five years, Kansas State University has won a prestigious national championship.
All three have been in the sport of college bass fishing.
Kyle Alsop of Overland Park has been a member of two of those championships.
“It's just pretty freaking amazing, to do it again,” Alsop said Friday afternoon, minutes after he and fishing partner Travis Blenn, of Westmoreland, beat more than 100 college teams from 32 states to win the three-day FLW College Fishing National Championship at Lake Wheeler in Alabama. “I honestly didn't think we had enough (weight) to win at the final weigh-in, but we did.”
Last summer Alsop, who graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering in December, won the equally impressive BASS national bass fishing championship in Kentucky with partner Taylor Bivins.
In 2012, Ryan Patterson of Garden Plain won K-State's other national fishing championship when he won the FLW team world championship event, fishing solo.
Joe Opager, FLW director of public relations, said Alsop and Blenn earned their way to the national championship by placing in the top 10 percent of at least one of three tournaments held by each of the five college conferences.
It wasn't Blenn's first tournament success, either. His senior year in high school, he won the Kansas state high school championship. It was the first tournament he'd ever fished. That victory propelled him into joining the K-State fishing team. Alsop said he entered his first fishing tournament when he was probably three years old, and had fished them regularly.
While they caught fish while pre-fishing for the tournament earlier in the week, they had no solid patterns going into Wednesday's opening round.
“I told Travis that's OK, because times I've smashed them in practice I usually don't in the tournament,” said Alsop. “When you do well in practice, you end up fishing for fish how they were several days ago instead of figuring out what they're doing when you're fishing.”
Alsop caught a fish above the lake's 12-inch minimum on his first cast of the tournament. At their next spot that morning they caught bass of five and three pounds within minutes of each other.
The team probably caught more than 20 bass big enough to keep the first day. Their five-fish limit weighed 16 pounds, 8 ounces, which had them in third place after the first of the three days.
Fishing started slow the second day but Alsop and Blenn's five best bass totaled 16 pounds, 9 ounces. That was good enough to move them into first place by about four ounces.
“At the end of the second day, I looked at Travis and told him we had a shot at the national championship,” said Alsop, who works for an engineering firm in Kansas City. “We just couldn't get nervous. We'd have to just go have some fun and see what we could do, see if we could catch some fish.”
While they caught fish on Friday, it wasn't anything like the first few days of the tournament.
The first two days the partners had caught some of the their best bass, which included smallmouth and largemouth bass, from steep drop-offs, with plenty of brush. They caught most of their fish on plastic lures.
Quality and quantity were down the final day, but Blenn caught the best bass of the day, one that weighed more than three pounds, with only about 30 minutes left in the tournament. Both anglers knew their five-fish limit of 11 pounds, 11 ounces was smaller than many brought in the previous two days. But it was enough.
Walking to the scale, Alsop and Blenn learned they needed only about 10 pounds to beat the University of South Carolina team's total of 43 pounds. The K-State total was 44 pounds, 12 ounces. They earned about $30,000 in prizes.
K-State had again beaten many fishing teams from such legendary bass fishing states as Alabama, Florida, the Carolinas and Texas.
“Some of those schools give full-ride scholarships for bass fishing. They have great budgets,” said Alsop. “Our school only gives us about $3,500 a year, and we have our fund-raising tournaments and sell t-shirts when we can.”
Later this summer Blenn will begin his senior year, majoring in parks management and conservation. Alsop will be “giving a lot of thought” to pursuing a full-time career as a professional bass fisherman.
He may get a big jump on that after Saturday, when the two teammates square off against each other at Lake Wilson, also in Alabama. The winner gets a spot in this summer's legendary FLW Forest Wood Cup, with a prize of $300,000 to the winner.
Blenn thinks he can give Alsop serious competition on Saturday but plans on ending the fish-off with a smile.
“I said on the stage, what happens (Saturday) doesn't really matter,” said Blenn. “We're good friends. No matter what happens I'm just glad to be where we are. We're national champions.”