For the first time in program history, the McKendree University bass fishing team is ranked No. 1 in the Association of Collegiate Anglers (ACA) School of the Year standings.
The Bearcats, who were previously ranked second by the ACA, ascended to the top spot this week with a strong performance May 14 at the Lake Barkley Fishing League Worldwide (FLW) Central Conference Qualifier in Kentucky. McKendree had two boats that placed in the top six of the 65-boat event. The team of Jordan Ledbetter (Carlyle) and Trent Robinson (Havana) won top honors with a total weight of 17 pounds, 10 ounces, while Taylor Schmitt (Lebanon) and Curtis Lilly (Sterling) produced a sixth-place finish at 14 pounds, eight ounces.
“The team and myself are both humbled and filled with pride with this accomplishment,” said McKendree bass fishing coach Jon Rinderer. “It has been our goal – since this program began just three years ago – to be number one in the School of the Year rankings. This has been an incredible season so far, and especially amazed at how well our team is performing on unfamiliar bodies of water. Our guys are fishing with incredible confidence right now.”
In just three years, McKendree has made quite a name for itself in the world of collegiate bass fishing. The Bearcats wrapped up their first season of competition in 2013-14 ranked No. 20 in the final ACH School of the Year standings. Last season McKendree made the leap into the top 10 of the final standings, and closed the year with a No. 8 ranking.
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The team and myself are both humbled and filled with pride with this accomplishment
McKendree bass fishing coach Jon Rinderer
This season, McKendree has had boats finish in the top 10 in eight of the team’s 11 events to date. That includes first-place boats in both the McKendree Fall Invitational back in September and at Saturday’s FLW Central Conference Qualifier. On six occasions, the Bearcats have seen multiple boats grab top-10 efforts in the same tournament.
A total of 353 colleges and universities compete in the ACA School of the Year program. McKendree was able to move up one spot from second, which was the program’s highest ranking until this week’s numbers were released. The Bearcats surged past the University of Alabama to reach the top of the rankings, with Murray State University following behind in second place. McKendree has earned 1,559 points in events this season, which is 22 more than Murray State.
McKendree has three events left in its 2015-16 season. Up next for the Bearcats is the Cabela’s/BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing National Championship, which will be held May 25-27 at Pickwick Lake in Florence, Ala. Rinderer is looking for his program to continue the progress made throughout the year. Following that, McKendree is entered in two Bassmaster/Carhartt College Series events – the Midwestern Regional Qualifier June 2-4 on Clinton Lake in Illinois and the Wildcard Tournament June 8-10 on Lake Murray in Oklahoma.
“Our biggest challenge will be matching up with the southern teams on the ledges of Pickwick,” said Rinderer. “After that, we want to finish strong at the tournaments on Clinton Lake and at Lake Murray. At each tournament, someone new has stepped up with a strong finish, and I believe that has made us a much more competitive team heading down the stretch.”