For the second time in as many weeks, anglers on the Catawba Valley Community College bass fishing team have punched tickets to a national championship.
A trio of Red Hawks — Nathan Dellinger, Caleb Lonca and Justin Eggers — all qualified for the Fishing League Worldwide 2021 National Championship by virtue of their finishes in last week’s Southeastern Division competition on Lake Guntersville in Guntersville, Alabama.
These national tournament berths come one week after the CVCC bass fishing program had its first-ever national championship qualifiers in Jeremy Dellinger and Nathan Smith — both of whom earned national berths on the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series.
“After the Hartwell tournament last week, I was excited that we had our first B.A.S.S National Championship qualifier,” said CVCC bass fishing head coach Angela Mayo. “That is a big accomplishment for a new program, and it would have been a good trip no matter what happened at Guntersville. When Nathan Dellinger weighed in and I realized that we had a shot at having an FLW National Championship qualifier so soon after Jeremy and Nathan's performance last week, I was ecstatic. After Justin and Caleb weighed in and were above the cut line too, I couldn't stop smiling. These guys have worked so hard to get where they are. I'm proud of them for their hard work and dedication to this sport.”
Fishing alone, Nathan Dellinger caught a five-bass limit of 15 pounds, five ounces — which was the 10th-best total among a field of 148 boaters.
Nathan’s national tournament berth is his second major accomplishment as a Red Hawk angler after winning the B.A.S.S. state qualifier on Roanoke River last September and earning a berth at the 2020 B.A.S.S. Nation Southeast Regional.
“Weighing in at almost 15.5 pounds and finishing 10th in an event like this is awesome,” Nathan Dellinger said. “Making nationals is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me since I am finishing my college journey so late in my life. My dream is to be a pro angler and having the opportunity to participate in the college series just gets me one step closer to my dream. I want to thank my number one fans — my wife Cristina and kids, Austin, Haylee and Hannah for allowing me to have this opportunity, while taking time from the home life and our CVCC Bass Fishing sponsors. I also have to say thank you to CVCC and our coaches — Angela and John, who have been a huge part of this team’s success.”
The team of Lonca and Eggers was the final of the five Catawba Valley bass fishing teams to weigh in, and they both felt confident when they presented their fish at the scale to be weighed in.
“We both knew that we had a great day on the lake and caught fish that were good enough to put us on the top of the leaderboard,” Lonca said. “After the weigh-ins ended and we heard our names get called for qualifying for nationals, I went crazy. This is an opportunity that not many people will have in their lives and being able to make it happen right after our teammates did it on Lake Hartwell makes it even better. We are Catawba Valley and we are champions.”
Eggers and Lonca were the final duo to earn a national title spot. Their five-fish limit of 14 pounds, four ounces placed them 16th on the final leaderboard.
The top 14 teams reach nationals, but some teams finishing in the top 14 had already qualified. That opened the door for Lonca and Eggers to qualify.
This was just the second tournament in Eggers’ collegiate career, and it will certainly be one of the most memorable for him.
“Going into the day I wasn’t too confident, but I started to find a little pattern and stuck with it,” Eggers said. “I ended up getting the bites I needed, but honestly I thought I was one fish short to qualify. We had a little more than I thought we would have, and I realized we could have a shot to qualify for nationals. I got anxious for sure because I thought we would come up short. It’s a little overwhelming knowing that we are just a few guys from a small area being successful and competing against some really good fisherman. To qualify in my first year is definitely exciting for sure.”
Following up their big tournament last week in South Carolina, Smith and Dellinger added to their impressive season so far with a 39th place finish on Friday. The duo caught five bass worth a total weight of 12 pounds, three ounces.
Two more Red Hawk teams finished among the top 75 percent of the field, including Lucas Oliver and Spencer Black in 80th place with a four-bass catch that weighed eight pounds, three ounces. Red Hawks Lane Bailey and Adam Seagle also finished in 108th place, catching three bass that weighed three pounds, 15 ounces.