College Series anglers reflect on winning million dollar tournament

When Logan Parks signed up to fish the 2022 Bassmaster Opens at the beginning of November, the recent Auburn University graduate was worried about how he would survive financially through the nine event season and pondered if he would have to work another job between events.

But as of Nov. 21, Parks and his former Auburn teammate, Tucker Smith, will have financial ease for the foreseeable future. With 16.41 pounds on the final day, Smith and Parks won the Bass Pro Shops U.S. Open Team Championship presented by Toyota on Table Rock Lake, each earning $500,000, a new Toyota Tundra and Nitro Boat. 

“It is unbelievable. The amount of people in the fishing industries that have reached out and the whole industry has really shown out. It makes you take a step back and there’s no way you can’t believe in God. Without him, we wouldn’t be where we are,” Smith said. “How special it was and how hard it was for us to even get there and the way it all worked out, there’s no other explanation than a higher power that has really blessed us. Fishing is all Logan and I are really good at. All the hard work that we’ve put in, to say we won a tournament of this magnitude is unbelievable.”

With confetti falling all around, family in the crowd and legends of the sport like Kevin Vandam, Bill Dance, Jimmy Houston and Johnny Morris shaking their hands, Parks said, “It was the greatest feeling of my life.”

After wrapping up a college tournament in South Carolina and making a quick stop at Matt Roberson’s house to replace a prop, Parks and Smith qualified for the U.S. Open with a 13th-place finish at Bull Shoals Nov. 17 on only a half-day of practice. With the three-day championship starting on Nov. 19, the duo also had limited practice but managed to catch 13 pounds on Day 1 and Day 2 to make the final day cut.

With weights zeroed for the final day, Parks said he and Smith knew they would need around 16 pounds to have a shot at winning the event. Calm conditions at the start of the day, however, made for a tough morning and Smith said they only had one fish in the livewell before 10 a.m. Their fortunes changed quickly, however, when they saw a flock of bird diving across from where they were fishing.

“I kid you not, in about 30 minutes we had 15 pounds,” Smith, a three-time Bassmaster High School National Champion, said. “We moved around a little bit more and then later in the day, we came back to that same spot. In the last 20 minutes, me and Logan both caught a spotted bass over 3 pounds. We got kind of emotional running back because we thought we might have a chance to do something with that weight.” 

The U.S. Open win is just the latest in a long list of accomplishments the duo has achieved in their young careers. In 2021 alone, Smith and Parks dominated the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, finishing no worse than 16th in the four regular season tour events to win the Team of the Year award and automatically advanced to the College Classic Bracket. 

They clinched the Team of the Year nod with a win on Saginaw Bay in Michigan, a venue Bassmaster had never been to before that tournament, catching more than 20 pounds each day of the event to claim the victory. 

“When we get to a point where it seems like it can’t get better than this, whether it was winning Saginaw Bay or Team of the Year, it does every time. It has been a crazy ride,” Parks said.  

Throughout the season, Smith and Parks have proven they can tackle several different types of fisheries, from Blueback Herring fisheries like Smith Lake and Lake Hartwell to a true Northern venue like Saginaw Bay, catching all three species of bass along the way. The key to that success, Parks said, was having trust in each other’s instincts.

“Tucker is the best angler I have been in the boat with, and we compliment each other really well,” Parks said. “When one of us thinks of an idea, I can almost guarantee you the other person was about to say it. We have similar ideas, and we fish really well together. We have different skills that work well together. Tucker has the spotted bass figured out and for whatever reason I can catch some smallmouth. We are a well-rounded team and diverse. That’s what has helped us separate from some of the others.” 

Smith added, “I couldn’t be happier to share this time with Logan. I paired up with him last year for college, and I can’t thank him enough for getting me to come to Auburn to fish with him. I wouldn’t be where I am without him.”

The variety of fishing styles, as well as the level of competition in the College Series, helped prepare Parks and Smith for what they would face in the U.S. Open and other higher level events. 

“We fished as many tournaments as we could and traveled to as many places as we could to get experience,” Smith said. “The Bassmaster College Series was incredible. I had just come out of high school so I wasn’t expecting much and to do that well was such a blessing. It was crazy to be able to compete against those guys. College fishing isn’t easy. Those guys are hammers.”

Even with an impressive 2021 resume, Parks said he and Smith were not totally satisfied with the way the College season ended. With a spot in the Bassmaster Classic on the line, Parks was bounced from the Bracket in the first round and while Smith advanced to the final day, he fell ounces short of the win to Bethel’s Tristan McCormick. 

With this win, however, Parks said he is feeling good about what the future might hold. 

“I felt like Tucker and I had some unfinished business after the Bracket and how that went down,” Parks said. “I felt like ever since then I had blown the biggest opportunity in bass fishing for myself at that point in time. I feel like I have some redemption now and I feel good about it.” 

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