COLUMBIA, S.C. – As the Forrest Wood Cup proved last August, Lake Murray is famous for its close tournament finishes and it looks as if that trend will continue here as the FLW College Fishing National Championship presented by Lowrance Insight Genesis College Cup enters Saturday’s title round.
Liberty University’s Travis Rulle and Caleb Eppler are still in the lead, but it’s no longer a 3-pound cushion between them and second place. In fact, only 5 ounces separates them from Patrick Walters and Gettys Brannon of the University of South Carolina, and their lead over the third-place team, Chase Cochran and Ryan Sparks of Oregon State University, is 6 ounces. In fact, anyone in the top 10 has a shot at the crown, as a couple of the kickers the lake is known to produce could boost a team to the top if the leaders falter.
On day one, Rulle caught a 7-pound, 9-ounce largemouth that gave the Flames 22 pounds, 2 ounces – still the tournament’s heaviest stringer overall. But he and Eppler could manage only 14-4 in the second round for a two-day total of 36-6.
“We think our fish will hold out. We’ve got a few key spots and there are a ton of fish where we’re fishing,” says Rulle. “A big factor for us is going to be the local traffic. We know of one tournament set for Saturday, so that might affect us. Maybe the weather will be the biggest factor though. We have what Jacob Wheeler calls ‘bite windows’ where maybe a cloud goes over the sun or the wind gusts up for 5 minutes and the fish go to biting. For sure, our best fish came when the wind was blowing. It’s like they need some kind of stimulus to start feeding on the bluebacks around us.”
2. University of South Carolina, Patrick Walters and Gettys Brannon, 36-1
The Gamecocks of South Carolina maintained their consistency in the second round and came in with an 18-11 sack that, with the 17-6 limit Thursday, moved them to 36-1. Though they experienced slower fishing Friday, the quality of their fish was better.
“If the sun comes out Saturday and the wind blows everybody will catch them, but that’s okay because we’ll catch them too,” notes Walters, a sophomore business major. “All of our fish except one came by 9 o’clock, and we must have hit 25 different points. We need wind Saturday – that’s the main factor for us.”
3. Oregon State University, Chase Cochran and Ryan Sparks, 36-0
Cochran and Sparks, fishing out of a borrowed boat, had the day’s best bag, 20-8. That limit helped them jump from 14th place to within range of the leaders.
4. Colorado Mesa University, Josh Worth and Kennedy Kinkade, 35-9
Worth and Kinkade experienced their best fishing in the morning and culled three fish. Their 16-pound, 15-ounce stringer came on soft-plastic swimbaits and shaky heads.
5. Auburn University, Ben Curry and Tim Ward, 34-14
The Tigers are running points and using Flukes. They reported their fish weren’t as aggressive Friday, and they slowed down their presentations. “It’s a timing deal,” says Ward. “We just keep rotating through points and keying on the ones with hard clay bottoms.”
Saturday’s final weigh-in begins at 4 p.m. ET adjacent to the Carolina Baseball Stadium.
Top 10 Teams
1st – Liberty University, Travis Rulle and Caleb Eppler, 36-6
2nd – University of South Carolina, Patrick Walters and Gettys Brannon, 36-1
3rd – Oregon State University, Chase Cochran and Ryan Sparks, 36-0
4th – Colorado Mesa University, Josh Worth and Kennedy Kinkade, 35-9
5th – Auburn University, Ben Curry and Tim Ward, 34-14
6th – Eastern Kentucky University, Kyle Raymer and Ethan Snyder, 33-10
7th – Tennessee Tech, Matthew Townson and Joe Ellis, 33-5
8th – Lamar University, Justin Royal and Cameron LaFleur, 31-9
9th – Murray State University, Justin Graben and Dan Schult, 31-1
10th – Lamar University, Brandon Simoneaux and Josh Bowie, 29-14
Click here for full results.