Summertime showdown on tap for Bassmaster College Series National Championship
COUNCE, Tenn. —

More than 130 teams from 54 different universities will compete in a summertime showdown in Counce, Tenn., during the 2023 Strike King Bassmaster College National Championship at Pickwick Lake presented by Bass Pro Shops.

And while Sam George — one of the St. Croix Bassmaster Opens pros fishing the Opens Elite Qualifiers Division — knows the lake can be stingy during the dog days, any stop on the lake can produce the quality of bass needed to take home the prestigious trophy.

Tournament days are scheduled for Aug. 10-12 out of Pickwick Landing State Park. The Top 3 teams will qualify for the College Classic Bracket presented by Lew’s, joining Bassmaster College Team of the Year Easton Fothergill and Nick Dumke of Alabama’s University of Montevallo in an individual, head-to-head style tournament that sends the winner to the 2024 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Toyota in Tulsa, Okla.

Over the past decade, Pickwick Lake has become one of the most popular tournament destinations in the country. The Bassmaster Elite Series has visited the Tennessee River reservoir two of the past three seasons, with Bill Lowen and Brandon Lester both claiming their first career blue trophies.

The College Series last visited Pickwick in 2018, a springtime event that took 58 pounds, 11 ounces to win.

Much of the hype that surrounds Pickwick is all about the offshore ledge bite, and George expects that to get a lot of attention in this event, particularly with anglers launching from the northwest side of the fishery.

“With it still being August and Pickwick being one of the most famous ledge lakes in the country, I still expect those deep fish will play a factor for sure,” the Athens, Ala., native said. “They get beat on from mid-May until late summer.”

Much like any other Tennessee River event, George believes productivity will come down to how much water is moving through the system. Generally, at the beginning of August, the strength of the current is at its lowest point, which makes for a scattered offshore bite. It will also limit the Wilson tailrace productivity, and that means smallmouth will not come into play nearly as much.

Finesse tactics like drop shots, shaky heads and magnum shaky heads will come into play, as well as deeper-diving crankbaits and spoons.

“The problem with this time of year is, and it seems to get worse every year, the Tennessee Valley Authority doesn’t seem to run water like you want to set those bass up to be catchable,” he said. “More often than not, it can be pretty tough and it is a grinder deal out there. You aren’t typically going to pull up and catch 40 or 50. You will pull up and catch one here and there. You have to grind your way to a limit.”

During a normal year, bass living offshore are difficult to catch due to pressure and current flow. With several factors hampering the deep bite potentially, the shallow bite tends to pick up.

“That time of year, you can kind of get back on the bank a little and just fish,” George said. “There are residential fish that are trying to get away from the thermocline stuff you start to get. It will spread people out a little bit.”

While he hasn’t been to Pickwick this year, George said all indications point to an increase in hydrilla and eelgrass. He added that when you are targeting grass, not all of it is good, and finding the right stretches with the most life is imperative.

“It is starting to get a lot of grass back in it. A few years ago, the grass was really good before all (of) that flooding in the Elite event. I’ve talked to a few people who have said the grass is coming back, and I expect that to be a player as well. If you find the right stuff and the grass is truly coming back, I could easily see flipping and frogging coming into play.”

Flipping and pitching will work for grass anglers, as well as ChatterBaits, swim jigs and topwaters. If the grass is topped out, the frog bite could be really good as well, George said.

The field will take off from Pickwick Landing State Park each day at 6:00 a.m. CT and return at 1:45 p.m. for weigh-in. Full coverage will be available on

The tournament is being hosted by Tour Hardin County.