Headland angler helps Auburn club team to national bass fishing crown
Auburn University fishermen Cole Burdeshaw (right) of Headland and Mitchell Jennings of Lanett teamed to win the BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship on May 27. It was the Auburn bass fishing team's first national title.
The accomplishments for Cole Burdeshaw of Headland in the sport of fishing over the past 12 months are somewhat staggering.
“It’s been a heck of a year – it really has,” Burdeshaw said. “Honestly, this is only the end of my third year in the sport and I’ve just submerged myself in it as much as I can.”
The impressive run on the waters began in May of 2015 when Burdeshaw and Headland High School Bass Team fishing partner Jacob Hartzog won the Alabama BASS National High School Trail State Championship title on Lake Eufaula.
Burdeshaw continued the good work by being named Angler of the Year for the Auburn University Bass Fishing Team as a freshman following his accomplishments during the fall season in the club sport. He became one of 12 team members chosen to compete in national qualifiers during the spring season.
It culminated on May 27 when Burdeshaw teamed with Mitchell Jennings to win the BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship presented by Cabela’s on Pickwick Lake in north Alabama. It’s the first national championship for the Auburn Bass Fishing team.
“It’s a huge deal,” Burdeshaw said. “Really, it’s a win not just for us, but for the whole team and all the guys who have come through Auburn before because we’ve never had a national championship winner and we’ve had so many great anglers come through.”
Burdeshaw and Jennings, a junior from Lanett, combined for a two-day weight total of 44.21 pounds to defeat a duo representing Louisiana State at Shreveport (38.58). There were 160 two-man teams entered in the two-day tournament.
After a first day catch of 21.56, Burdeshaw and Jennings found themselves in third place behind teams from LSU and the University of Alabama.
But it would be the final catch on the second day of competition that would ultimately prove to be the winner for the Auburn fishermen. Each team submits its five top catches of the day.
“It was about maybe 1 o’clock and you come in at around 2:30 or 3,” Burdeshaw said. “We knew the LSU team was struggling a little bit because we saw them.
“We pulled up on our last spot and caught a six-pounder on something we hadn’t caught a fish on all week – it was just a finesse tactic. We weighed in nine fish on one bait (during the two-day tourney), and one fish on another. And that one fish was our kicker – your biggest fish in the bag.”
The Auburn duo felt good at that point about their chances.
“We knew right then,” Burdeshaw said. “We came in about 30 minutes early because we didn’t want any boat malfunctions to cost us or any fish to die.”
Before the tournament began, Burdeshaw and Jennings were confident about their chances following four days of practice on the lake.
“People look at me like I’m crazy when I say this, but we didn’t make but maybe 10 or 15 casts our whole four days of practice,” Burdeshaw said. “We knew the only way you can catch a winning bag is an off-shore bite – not relating to any bank structure – because the Tennessee River has a lot of current.”
So instead of casting, they turned to technology with digital maps to find the schools of fish.
“You idle and scan with sonar and fish finders,” Burdeshaw said. “We were scanning for 12 to 14 hours per day. When you see them on your unit, you know they are there and there’s no sense making a cast on them.
“We had four days of practice and I took my boat and my partner took his boat and we covered the entire area we wanted to focus on.
“We knew we were on the winning schools. We knew the tournament was going to be won off the schools we found, if that makes sense? We knew that other people had found them, too.”
So they got their strategy in place, which was a bit different than most.
“A lot of people pull up to their school – you have it marked on your unit – and would idle over them and check and see if they (fish) were there and then turn around and cast on them,” Burdeshaw explained. “We didn’t do that. We would pull up and cast on them without idling over them.
“What we figured out is everybody went through the four days of practice and these fish had been pressured for four to five days extremely hard with so many boats over the top of them. And your prop wash coming out of your boat actually goes down a long way into the water. So what we figured was going on, is whenever a boat went over them, they got used to a boat going over them and they scattered everywhere.
“The right situation for us was we had to pull up without another boat really sitting on top of them, or either it had been a while since they idled them, and we would pull up and catch one.”
Burdeshaw and Jennings stuck to their game plan.
“It was a really relaxing kind of a feel knowing that we were on the right pattern and it’s either going to happen or it isn’t,” Burdeshaw said. “You’ve got to put yourself in position and pray that it works.
“That’s what it was for us. We put ourselves in position and we needed a couple of key breaks and that happened.”
A camera crew from NBC Sports was with Burdeshaw and Jennings on the final day for a television show that is scheduled to air at some point in August.
“It was kind of nerve-racking,” Burdeshaw said. “The whole deal about the sport being calm mentally and not making bad decisions and not getting frustrated – it’s hard to do when you’ve got so much pressure on you. The little things are what usually break you in the sport, not the big things.”
The Auburn fishermen stayed focused and completed their mission.
“We watched everybody weigh in and we knew not a lot of big bags had come in,” Burdeshaw said. “We’re sitting right beside the other four in the top five, and that’s when we started realizing that we had a shot – that it was about to happen for us.”
This past week, Burdeshaw was back on the waters in a different role. He served as a boat captain for the Headland High team of Aaron Cherry and Peyton McCord as they competed and finished second in the state tournament on Lake Wheeler.
“They are some of my best friends and I wanted to give back while I could,” Burdeshaw said. “It was a really good feeling knowing we won the tournament last year and to go to a lake that none of them had ever been to before and to really defend our title well and place second overall, it felt just amazing.
“The Headland team is something that’s always going to be very important to me.”
Burdeshaw has a goal of one day becoming a professional fisherman. Owning a national title certainly has him heading in the right direction.
“It’s nice to have it on my resume at such a young age,” he said. “I still haven’t let it sink in that I won it at the end of my freshman year.
“It’s been an amazing ride, and I’m hoping it’s just the beginning, really.”
Follow Jon Johnson on Twitter @eaglesportsed