Rhinelander native snags collegiate bass fishing championship
When Rhinelander native Chris Burgan and his partner Austin Felix stood on the podium raising the FLW Collegiate Bass Fishing Tournament trophies, Burgan could almost not believe what was happening.
“It was a dream come true,” Burgan said. “It was unbelievable. I wasn’t expecting to win.”
And through much of the tournament, a victory for Burgan and Felix did not seem in the cards. The pair, fishing for the University of Minnesota, found themselves in seventh place after the first day of competition. By the end of the second day, they were in third place.
“I thought going into the tournament we could make the top 10,” Burgan said. “So we were really happy with where we were.”
But the final day saw the duo reel in a monster fish to open the competition as Burgan and Felix caught a 14 pound bass, which spurred them ahead of the competition.
“When I stuck those two fish right in a row earlier today I thought, ‘If we could just catch a couple more, then we had a really good chance to put it all together,’” Burgan said after the tournament. “To win is just unbelievable.”
While the tournament championship may be unbelievable to Burgan, his success on the water comes from years of practice, going back to his earliest memories.
“I have been fishing since I was able to hold a rod in my hands,” Burgan said. “I have always loved fishing and being out on the water.”
While Wisconsin does not have high school bass fishing as a sport, Burgan joined the Hodag Bassmasters at 16 to fish competitive.
Then when he enrolled at the University of Minnesota, he got the chance he always wanted.
“We don’t have high school fishing in Wisconsin,” Burgan said. “But when I got accepted to the University of Minnesota, they had a fishing team so I knew I would join that.”
And that decision has paid off in a big way as Burgan and his partner picked up a $30,000 prize package for winning the collegiate tournament.
The win also gets the duo a spot in the 2014 Forrest Wood Cup touted as the “the most lucrative and prestigious bass-fishing championship in the world.”
Earning a spot in that tournament is something Burgan has dreamed of.
“In the Forrest Wood Cup, I will be fishing against the best of the best,” he said. “I will be pretty happy to make the top 20.”