The Adrian College men's bass fishing team's meteoric rise is complete with its first No. 1 national ranking in the latest CollegiateBassFishing.com poll, which has the Bulldogs' leading a field of 315 schools affiliated with all three NCAA divisions, NAIA and junior college. Quite an accomplishment when you consider the program isn't even a full year into its existence.
"It's crazy to see us where we are right now after founding the program," said second-year Adrian head coach Seth Borton. "It's been a perfect storm – with numerous top 10 showings in regional events—so we've had to finish well in qualifying" to make it to the next level.
"I tell the kids where we are going, but I didn't think we get to the pinnacle in our sport this quickly," Borton said on the rise to No. 1 in the poll. "But I also tell our guys to work hard, plan for details and be consistent. It says a lot about the quality of anglers here, finding ways to work hard."
Borton's confidence is contagious to the team and his student-athletes feed off his experience.
"I've tournament fished for several years across the country, knowing what it takes to get results, pay attention to detail and realizing preparation is key," he said. "The support of the college and community is great. It's good to see supporters take a chance on us and see it play out, so that's special.
"Obviously, we got to keep our success going. The challenge now is to stay at the top in 2016."
Adrian has competed in three events so far this season to receive a weighted score of 127 points, edging the University of Dubuque with 123. The national rankings are derived on a metric basis that determine point totals on how many teams are in the event, where the team places and finish in national and regional qualifying events.
Most recently, a pair of Adrian boats qualified for the 2016 Fishing League Worldwide (FLW) College National Championships after strong performances at a regional invitational held Sep. 11-13 on Chesapeake Bay. Sophomores Nick Marsh and Jeff Morton placed fifth with a two-day weight total of 13 pounds, 12 ounces. Classmates Jarrett Martin and Jake Bayer placed seventh at 13 pounds and 6 ounces.
In order to qualify for the regional, a team must place in the top 15 in at least one of the three regional qualifiers. All three Adrian teams qualified in at least two of the three events.
Day one of the regional began with three Adrian teams in the field of 45 schools competing. At the end of the afternoon, that field was cut down to the top 15. Following day two, a team needed to be inside the top 10 in order to qualify for Nationals.
Martin and Bayer were 10th leading into day two, while Marsh and Morton were seventh. The third team of sophomore Caleb Taylor and freshman Zach Nelson were 24th following day one, but did not qualify for the next day.
Adrian College is the only school with two national championship qualifying teams and will boast two of the three teams representing the state of Michigan.
"This is a huge accomplishment for any program, let alone for a program in its first (full) year," Borton said after his team's performances at the regional invitational. "To have two of the top 50 teams in the country speaks volumes of the quality of anglers in our program and solidifies how serious Adrian is about becoming one of the top bass fishing programs in the country."
The 2016 college national championships hasn't yet been announced, but is expected to take place in early March.
Bass fishing joins NCAA men's hockey (four straight weeks during the 2013-14 season) as the two sports at the College to achieve a No. 1 national ranking.