Bassmaster’s top college fishing prospects for 2023

Before the 2023 Bassmaster College Series kicks off late this week in Florida, a panel of former college anglers breaks down the hottest college bass fishing teams coming into 2023.

Among the top teams are stars like Tucker Smith, a phenom with an Academy Sports + Outdoors endorsement deal, and Beau Browning, who leveraged the transfer portal to land a spot in one of the sport's most dominant programs.

The Strike King Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops has proven to be the pathway for young anglers looking to break into the professional ranks of bass fishing. Currently, 19 Bassmaster Elite Series pros were collegiate competitors and four of the last six Elite Series Rookie of the Year awards have been won by former collegiate anglers.

Here are the Top 10 teams to watch this season.

Tucker Smith & Hayden Marbut | Auburn University

The band is back together! The 2020 Bassmaster High School National Champions from Alabama’s Briarwood Christian are together again, this time at Auburn. Both anglers are former members of the Bassmaster High School All-American Fishing Team presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors who have dominated at the local level and will look to bring that success back to the College Series stage. In his first two years at Auburn, Smith found immediate success with former partner and current St. Croix Bassmaster Opens Series pro Logan Parks. The pair had a monster 2021, earning a College Series trophy at Saginaw Bay and the Team of the Year title as well as $1,000,000 in the Bass Pro Shops US Open Team Championship.

Hayden Gaddis & Ben Cully | Carson Newman University

Hayden Gaddis and Ben Cully have exhibited remarkable consistency in the Bassmaster College Series. The Carson-Newman duo won on Lake Hartwell in 2021, finished fifth in the 2021 Team of the Year race, notched a ninth-place finish on the Harris Chain in 2022 and earned a sixth-place finish in the 2022 National Championship. Not to mention they won the 2022 Strike King Bassmaster College Classic presented by Bass Pro Shops at Lake Keowee and were introduced to the fishing world on the Bassmaster Classic stage. This will most certainly be a team that will make a run in 2023 and possibly find themselves in the College Classic Bracket presented by Lew's at the end of the year.

Lafe Messer & Matt Messer | Kentucky Christian University

After an incredible run at the Bassmaster College Series Team of the Year title during the 2022 season, the duo is looking to avenge their second-place finish in the points. The Messer brothers started 2022 by winning at the Harris Chain of Lakes, breaking the Bassmaster College Series single-day weight record in the process with a massive 36 pound, 7 ounce bag. They racked up two more Top 20s. The Messer brothers are going to work double duty in 2023 as both brothers will be fishing all nine St. Croix Bassmaster Opens.

Beau Browning & Drake Sturgill | University of Montevallo

Beau Browning (left) hit the transfer portal this season to join the ranks at powerhouse program Montevallo and Drake Sturgill will be joining the team as a freshman. Browning is very familiar with success in the collegiate ranks, earning a win for Drury University with former partner Jake Peck at Lake Norfork last year. He and Peck notched two Top 40 finishes and landed ninth in the 2022 Team of the Year standings. Sturgill, meanwhile, was named a 2022 Bassmaster All-State Fishing Team honoree and had a solid outing at the 2021 Abu Garcia Bassmaster High School Combine. While they might be new fishing partners, look for this team to have a breakout year.

Jackson Swisher & Seth Slanker | Florida Gateway College

Both former members of the Bassmaster High School All-American Fishing Team presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors, this duo only fished two events on the College Series last year, but it was good enough to land them in the Bassmaster College Classic Bracket. After finishing 21st at Harris Chain, Swisher and Slanker punched their ticket to the National Championship. At Winyah Bay, they used their tidal water skills to finish second. Both would advance to the semifinal round of the Bracket and Slanker advanced to the final day, but he could not catch Louis Monetti. Momentum is on this team’s side, and they start the season in their own backyards.

Connor Jacob & Sam Smith | Auburn University

When it comes to shallow-water fishing, the Auburn University duo of Connor Jacob and Sam Smith are two you have got to watch out for. They proved that at the 2022 National Championship at Winyah Bay, where they finished 10th. After a rough start to 2022, they rebounded with a fourth-place finish at Lake Norman and followed that up with two Top 20s. The schedule certainly allows shallow fishing through all four events, and if so, this team could make a real run at Team of the Year.

Trey Schroeder & Lane Stephens | McKendree University

Trey Schroeder has a storied career on the Bassmaster College Series. In 2019, Schroeder qualified for the first of two College Classic Brackets with a fourth-place finish in the Bassmaster College National Championship. Last year, he and former partner Tyler Christy rallied on Day 3 of the championship to finish third, qualifying them for their second College Classic Bracket. Stephens is a sophomore and in October, he and partner Colsyn Head notched a Top 5 finish at an ACA event.

Easton Fothergill & Nick Dumke | University of Montevallo

This duo from the state of Minnesota has proved yet again they belong on the list. After a rocky start at the first three events, Fothergill and Dumke rebounded at Saginaw Bay to finish fourth and punch their ticket to their second National Championship. Also noteworthy, Fothergill is a Bassmaster High School All-American. Look for them to be a deadly duo in 2023.

Andrew Vereen & Connor Cartmell | Coastal Carolina University

The 2022 Bassmaster College National Championship winners look to repeat their success in 2023. After a rough start to the year, the duo got the wheels back on in the College Series Wild Card at Logan Martin with an eighth-place finish, which ultimately qualified them for the National Championship. They would take the lead after Day 2 in the National Championship and cruise to victory, punching their tickets to the College Classic Bracket in the process. Some seemingly favorable fisheries await, including the James River. Can they ride the late-season momentum into 2023?

Levi Mullins & Matthew Cummings | Bethel University

As much as a team from Bethel University can, Levi Mullins and Matthew Cummings have flown a little under the radar, but they have impressive finishes on their resume. These two-time National Championship qualifiers finished third on Florida’s Harris Chain. Later in the season, Mullins and Cummings made the final day cut at the 2022 Bassmaster College National Championship, finishing in ninth.

Follow the Bassmaster College Series action all year at