Bassmaster College Bracket Champion Tristan McCormick caught the competitive bug at an early age and that has propelled his bass fishing tournament success. In his hometown of Dickson, Tenn., McCormick began competitively riding horses and traveled across the country doing just that, all before the age of 10. Competitive horse-riding consumed McCormick’s life so early on that he became burned out and wanted a break. That break came in the form of bass fishing.
“My grandpa would take me fishing on the ranch ponds every day,” McCormick said. “I fell in love with it. Right when I’d get home from school, I would ask him if we could go fishing.”
As the Tennessee native got older, his love for the sport continued to grow.
“When I got to high school, I started fishing with some older buddies and really got the itch for it,” McCormick said. “My parents surprised me with a 10-foot Pond Prawler, so I started hauling it down to the lake every chance I got.
“That 10-foot Pond Prawler turned into a 21-foot bass boat, then that 21-foot bass boat turned into a fishing scholarship at Bethel University.”
McCormick fished at the bass fishing powerhouse of Bethel University for five years and qualified for four Bassmaster College Series National Championships. Much like any other collegiate angler, McCormick dreamed of fishing the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk as the collegiate representative.
“Everybody wants to fish and show out in the Bassmaster College Series,” he said. “There’s a reason why they fill up so fast. Every season the first goal is to qualify for the National Championship, but once you get there the goal changes to trying to qualify for the Bracket.”
In McCormick’s final event as a collegiate angler, he and teammate Stevie Mills led the 2021 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship presented by Bass Pro Shops after Day 1, but after slipping on Day 2, their goal on the final day was just to stay in the Top 3 to advance to the Bracket.
“I can remember leading the event on the final day with two boats left to weigh in and could care less if we won the event because I knew we qualified for the Bracket,” he said.
McCormick and Mills would finish second at the 2021 National Championship. Seven weeks later, they would have to face the gauntlet of the Bassmaster College Bracket in Wetumpka, Ala., competing against eight of the best collegiate anglers in the country.
After advancing past the first two round of competition, McCormick would eventually face off against Auburn University angler Tucker Smith on the final day for a chance to punch his ticket to the 2022 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk.
“It happened in the flick of a switch, and all of a sudden it was just me and Tucker left,” he said. “I was a wreck – I was crying on the way to the boat ramp that final morning because it all started to set in that this was my final day as a college angler, and the fact that it was down to a 50-50 shot at making the Classic.
“I walked down to the boat ramp that morning by myself and just started praying that the Lord would let me do this.”
A slow start to the morning would put McCormick behind Smith early on, but the Bethel angler stormed back in the final hour to claim the title at the College Bracket. With his victory, McCormick became the third Bethel University angler to qualify to fish the Bassmaster Classic in the last six years, joining former teammates John Garrett and Cody Huff.