Just over a month after undergoing emergency surgery to remove an infected abscess on his brain, University of Montevallo senior Easton Fothergill won the 2023 Bassmaster College Classic Bracket presented by Lew’s by catching 11 pounds, 13 ounces on the final day at Milford Lake.
The Grand Rapids, Minnesota, native earned a spot in the 2024 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Toyota, scheduled for March 22-24 at Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees near Tulsa, Oklahoma. Fothergill also earned paid entry fees into a division of the St. Croix Bassmaster Opens with the use of a fully rigged Toyota Tundra and Nitro Boat for the upcoming year.
Fothergill worked hard over the past year to earn this opportunity with his success in several events leading up to the bracket competition. He initially felt his hard work had been squandered and this dream was out of reach in the days after his surgery in August.
With the support of his family, UM Fishing teammates and faculty and staff at the University, Fothergill was able to return to competition, dominate the field of eight of the top collegiate anglers across the country and fulfill his life-long dream of competing in the Bassmaster Classic.
“I definitely felt a lot of emotions during that time,” Fothergill said. “My parents have been super supportive, every one of my teammates were texting me and every single professor was willing to work with me and wished me the best in my recovery. It made the journey a lot easier.”
After qualifying for the College Classic Bracket by winning the most recent Bassmaster College Team of the Year title with his partner and UM Fishing teammate Nick Dumke, Fothergill advanced in the quarterfinal round in a head-to-head competition with his Montevallo teammate Jack Alexander and cruised past Hayden Marbut of Auburn University in the semifinal round. Fothergill caught the tournament’s biggest bag on the final day of the competition to top Tucker Smith of Auburn in the championship round. Fothergill caught mostly smallmouth, but he caught a key largemouth each day of the tournament.
Fothergill has always dreamed of competing against the best anglers in the world on the sport’s biggest stage, but he has a greater appreciation for his journey after overcoming so much adversity in such a short time to reach his goal.
“I can’t really wrap my mind around it,” Fothergill said. “A lot of professional anglers never make it this far. I’ve learned if you work hard, you will be successful.”