AUBURN, Ala.—Two Auburn University students have won the $1 million first-place prize in the Bass Pro Shops U.S. Open National Bass Fishing Amateur Team Championships.
Logan Parks, a senior, and Tucker Smith, a sophomore, topped 350 teams in the three-day event at Table Rock Lake in Ridgedale, Missouri, pulling in five fish last Sunday for a total of 16.41 pounds, news outlets reported.
The tournament, which celebrated Bass Pro Shops 50th anniversary and also raised money and awareness for conservation, will be aired on NBC at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 5.
Parks and Smith split the prize and also went home with 2022 Toyota Tundra CrewMax trucks and Nitro Z21 bass boats for their efforts.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” said Parks, 23, who will graduate with degrees in supply chain management and information systems management in December. “We woke up this morning thinking it was a dream, but then we looked at our phones and realized it wasn’t. We’re just blown away.”
“We’re speechless. To win a tournament of this caliber is amazing,” said Smith, a 20-year-old marketing major who won three Bassmaster national titles in high school, said.
Auburn’s team was 10th out of 350 teams after the first day of competition, finished eighth among the top 200 teams on day two and then hit the jackpot on the final day. They topped the team of Joseph Nicholson and Gary Sterkel, both of Cleveland, by just .23 of a pound in the final tally to take home the win.
The key to the championship, Parks said, was spotting a group of birds diving in the water in an area of the 45,000-acre (18,210-hectare) lake they had not yet explored.
Sterkel and Nicholson won the second-place prize of $200,000. Chris Martin, of Nixa, Missouri, and Kevin Burnett, of Cape Fair, Missouri, took the third-place prize of $50,000.
Both Parks and Smith want to fish professionally one day.
“It’s been the goal since day one, and I was already planning on doing it, but was really struggling to figure out how I was going to do it monetarily. This tournament really, really helps boost my confidence that, yes I can fish professionally, do well and win, but also it helps knowing I’m pretty much set for the next few years,” Parks said.