ROCK HILL, S.C. – Straddling the North Carolina-South Carolina border, Lake Wylie is known primarily as a dock-skipping lake. But with the bass in the midst of a summer-to-fall transition, the Auburn University team of Jordan Lee and Shane Powell decided to stay off the bank. That decision led to a 12-pound, 2-ounce day and the early lead at the National Guard FLW College Fishing Southeast Conference Championship.
Lee and Powell started on their first spot this morning and failed to catch any fish. The same result happened at spot No. 2, which was supposed to be a good numbers area. At 9 a.m. they switched again and this time stuck gold – catching four of their weigh fish on almost consecutive casts.
“From there, we caught lots of keepers and probably made one or two culls,” said Lee.
“We kept moving,” added Lee. “We didn’t save any of our spots, we hit them all.”
While the Tigers wanted to keep most of their pattern details under wraps, they admitted they are fishing off-shore ledges with reaction baits. During pre-practice they tried fishing shallow but couldn’t get any good bites so come tournament time they decided to concentrate their efforts off the bank.
“Not all of our places are real deep, but they’re not on the bank,” added Lee. “We did weigh one off a dock today, but we’ve pretty much eliminated shallow water. They’re not biting right away in the morning, so that’s maybe when we’ll go shallow and look for a bonus bite. We haven’t caught a 3-pounder the entire time we have been here so I would be surprised if we get one tomorrow. They’re tough to find. But from 9 to 11 the offshore fish bite really good. Tomorrow I think we’re going to lean on them pretty hard.”
Auburn’s 12-2 gives them a 7-ounce lead with two days remaining on Lake Wylie.
“It seems like we come in second almost every time,” said Lee. “Maybe we can finally make this one happen.”
Indian River State College sits in second
Indian River State College anglers Kyle Monti and Mike Cornell may live the furthest from Lake Wylie, but they didn’t fish like it on day one. The campus, located in Okeechobee, Fla., sits next to one of the best bass fisheries in the nation. The Big O is known for its grass fishing but there is absolutely no grass in Lake Wylie.
After a week of prepractice before the off-limits period, Monti figured out he could catch them off hard targets. Today he and Cornell put together a limit worth 11 pounds, 11 ounces.
“We caught two right off the bat and then it turned into a total grind,” said Monti. “We caught eight fish total, but only five keepers. I caught four of the keepers and Mike landed the last one around 2 p.m. We did lay off that first good spot after an hour and a half or two hours. Tomorrow we’ll probably hit it harder.”
IRSC is mainly throwing a custom Medlock jig with a chunk around hard pieces of cover such as docks and lay-downs.
“We’ve got a couple areas where we can catch a limit, but we’re trying to fish for big fish and save that stuff for when we really need it,” said Monti.
The team fished cleanly except for one big one (estimated at 4 pounds) that spit the jig.
“This lake is extremely tough and you can’t afford to lose any fish. We’re looking at this week as an opportunity to prove ourselves outside of Florida.”
UNC Charlotte, led by former TBF Junior National Champion Shane Lehew and Adam Waters, sits in third place with 10 pounds, 13 ounces.
“We’re actually a little disappointed because our last few days of practice were a lot better; we had several 13- and 14-pound days.” said Lehew. “We found a strong topwater bite in prepractice and today we caught zero on topwaters.”
Lehew said he and Waters fished docks both on the main lake and in the backs of creeks. Lehew typically targeted the furthest spot back under the dock while Waters worked the deeper portion. Overall, the team described the fishing as tough as they received only 8 or 9 bites all day.
“The disappointing thing is that we found no strong or consistent pattern,” added Lehew. “We probably hit 30 or 40 docks with an E.R. lures jig. We would just hit docks we know are typically producers and then crank the main engine and go to the next one.”
Alabama anglers Dustin Connell and Logan Johnson managed a five-bass limit worth 9 pounds, 14 ounces, good enough for fourth place after day one. Included in their stringer was a 3-pound-plus kicker largemouth.
“It was a grind all day, no joke,” said Johnson. “We fished a mix of both deep and shallow water. We never really got onto anything – just caught five.”
The Tennessee Tech team of Joe Slagle and Matthew Clay managed 8 pounds, 13 ounces on only four bass. They’re clearly on the right-sized fish, but their execution will have to improve if they’re going to move up from their current fifth-place position.
“We had a couple come off today and that will probably cost us,” said Slagle.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top-10 schools after day one of the Southeast Conference Championship:
6th: Matt Lee and Chris Seals, of Auburn University, 8-0
7th: Dalton Darnell and Tyler Strock, of Auburn University of Montgomery, 7-15
8th: Graham Rich and Thomas Gravitt, of Wake Forest University, 7-15
9th: Miles Burghoff and Casey O’Donnell, of Central Florida University, 7-13
10th: Neal Combs and Kevin Lucas, of Seminole State College, 6-13
Anglers will take off from Ebenezer Park located at 4490 Boatshore Road in Rock Hill, S.C., at 7:30 a.m. Friday morning. The day-two weigh-in will be at the Walmart store located at 4875 Old York Road in Rock Hill, S.C., beginning at 4 p.m.