Kansas State angler Kyle Alsop put the finishing touches on a stellar career, and he hopes the tradition of winning will continue for years to come.
The senior from Overland Park cemented his legacy as one of the sport’s best college anglers just two weeks ago, becoming the first angler to win multiple college bass fishing national championships.
He accomplished the feat alongside teammate Travis Blenn, of Westmoreland, at the YETI FLW College Fishing National Championship on Alabama’s Lake Wheeler. It was just the second tournament they’ve fished together.
Alsop fished with a different teammate during his previous championship run, securing a Bassmaster College Series National Championship with fellow Wildcat Taylor Bivins in 2016 on Kentucky’s Green River Lake.
“That one still hasn’t even set in yet, so to win this FLW with Travis is pretty unbelievable,” Alsop said. “I’ve been on cloud nine for a year and I’ll be on cloud nine for another year, I’m sure. Yeah, it speaks words to the kind of fishermen that K-State attracts.”
The most recent championship marks the third time in five years that a K-State angler has captured a national title.
“It’s unbelievable, it really honestly hasn’t really set in for us yet,” Blenn said. “Any time your school gets a national championship win, it’s huge. My adviser’s email has been blowing up with people wanting to know how they can join the team.
“I think it says a lot about our team, as well, that while we may not be from a state that is really known for its bass fishing, we are not a team to overlook. But it’s really special to bring that FLW national championship title back to K-State.”
The day after their championship win, the pair squared off in a qualifier for the FLW Forrest Wood Cup, which offers a $300,000 payday to the winner.
“It’s never easy,” Alsop said. “I told him last August when they announced when it was coming, I said ‘Get ready to win a national title cuz we’re going to bring home another one.’"
Alsop said he told Blenn when they were scouting Lake Wheeler for the national championship to go ahead and check out Wilson Lake for the fish-off, as well, because he knew they were going to be in it.
“You always want to see both guys do good. He’s one of my best friends. But at the same time we told each other going into it that regardless of what happens we’re gonna be happy for the other one and you’re still a national champion.”
Alsop bested his teammate by nearly three pounds to advance to the Aug. 11-13 tournament at Lake Murray in South Carolina.
The qualifier win gives Alsop a chance at a massive payday and an opportunity to jumpstart his dreams of a professional fishing career.
“I really was happy that Kyle ended up winning because he really deserved it,” Blenn said. “He has put a lot of time into this sport, and especially since he’s done with college and really thinking hard about making fishing into a career — even though he has two national championship wins, the Forrest Wood Cup is the stepping stone he needs to make that big leap to go pro. If he can go out and have a good showing at the cup, it will really go a long ways for him.”
Blenn added that it worked out perfectly for him, as well, because he qualified for the B.A.S.S. National Championship with another partner. The two tournaments will be going on at the same time.
“That is the one thing I am sad about is that I won’t be able to be down there at the Cup with Kyle,” Blenn said. “But it will be really cool for us to both be fishing for coveted titles, and I can guarantee that there will be lots of exchanging of phone calls between the two of us to see how each other is doing.”
The fact that multiple K-State anglers will be competing for such major titles in August speaks volumes to the prestige the program has acquired in its short lifespan, despite the state of Kansas not being a traditional fishing powerhouse.
“FLW did an awesome article on the team last year at the national championship that I think really spelled it out,” Blenn said. “In Kansas, we really don’t have these world-renowned fisheries, which I think kinda plays into our hand a little bit because it really makes us very diversified in the way that we are comfortable in really doing it all, from finesse fishing to power fishing, and from fishing deep to beating the banks up shallow.”
He added that, despite all of the new technology out there, time spent on the water was perhaps the most important element for becoming successful as an angler.
Support for the team
Blenn said that the support the team received from family, friends and other anglers they had met during their time on the team meant a lot to them during the national championship run. He added that he thought it was really special that their fellow champion, Patterson — who now works for Ranger Boats — drove up on the second and third days of the tournament from Pickwick Lake — situated along the borders of Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama — to meet them at the dock in the morning and wish them luck.
“He was also there at the final day weigh-in to watch us win it, which really made it even that much more special to have him there to see us bring the title back to K-State,” Blenn said.
That sort of unceremonious passing of the torch from one champion to another is what the program is all about — and why it may continue to be a national power for years to come. With that in mind, Alsop said it will be interesting to see how much support the university gives to the club going forward.
“Hopefully, K-State will start to realize the potential that exists with the team,” Alsop said. “Don’t get me wrong, they do a great job and they support us and help us out a little bit, but it’d be great to see them pay a lot more attention. Like I said, we’ve brought three national titles in five years.”
The team is considered a club sport, so the student council gives the approximately 40-member team between $3,000 to $3,500 a year to function. Alsop said that, in the grand scheme of things, that doesn't come close to covering the cost of the club. The team spends a lot of time fundraising, and thanks to its success, some of the winnings have gone back into the club. With Alsop and Blenn winning a certificate of sale for a Ranger Z175 bass boat as the championship prize, the pair will sell the certificate. Once the club is paid back for any expenses it covered during the anglers’ trip to Alabama, they’ll split the remainder of the winnings between themselves and the club.
“Hopefully, they’ll start to open their eyes and see they’ve got something special and they need to make sure they take care of it,” Alsop said. “They’re drawing in kids from all across the country right now to fish for K-State. There are other schools that give scholarships for that, but K-State isn’t one of them right now.”
About the tournament win
The K-State anglers jumped out to a lead after Day 2 and looked to keep that momentum going on the final day.
“You know, honestly, we had three patterns going into the first day of the tournament that we could run to catch fish,” Blenn said. “Every day of the tournament we started out deep on the ledges, then moved up to a small stretch of docks, and then ended the day fishing some offshore brush. The only thing that really changed from that plan was really just how much time we spent at each spot.
“Where we started at the first day, it really didn’t produce like we thought it would and we happened to have another spot that was in between our starting spot and the stretch of docks we were fishing. I had caught about a 2-pound smallmouth there in practice and had another fish on that felt like a pretty good one that ended up breaking me off that we never saw. But anyways, we made a game-time decision to pull up and give it another chance and it ended up paying off big for us, not only the first day but the second day, as well. On the final day, however, we didn’t get the bites we were looking for at that spot or our little stretch of docks and ended up spending a lot more time at our offshore brush to fill out our final-day limit.”
Blenn and Alsop, with their weight of 44 pounds, 12 ounces, finished ahead of Patrick Walters and Gettys Brannon, of South Carolina, by just 1 pound, 12 ounces. Evan Owrey and Kristopher Queen, of Bethel, followed them with a weight of 42-11.
“It was really nice knowing that we had that little bit of cushion over South Carolina, but the Bethel team was still right there,” Blenn said. “It really didn’t change our mindset going into the final day. It really is just fishing, we were just going to go out, have fun and leave it all on the water and whatever happens, happens. We finished the final day with less weight than what we were hoping for but we knew at the end of the day we wouldn’t have changed anything we did.
“We honestly didn’t think we had enough weight on the final day. Sitting at the tanks, both me and Kyle really didn’t think we had it won, because Bethel had a limit and they were only sitting about 5 ounces behind us, and while we had a little bit of cushion over South Carolina, they brought a pretty decent bag to the scales on the final day that had us thinking we didn’t have enough weight. It wasn’t ‘til closer to the end when I was seeing some of the bags go across the stage and hearing some of the weights that I thought we might still have a small chance. It really wasn’t ‘til the very end when we were doing some quick math in our heads figuring we only needed about 10 pounds that it really set in that we had it won. Kyle and me kinda looked at each other thinking surely we had at least 10 pounds. I think we ended up weighing 11-11 on the final day.”