After day two of the YETI FLW College Fishing National Championship presented by Lowrance C-Map Genesis on Wheeler Lake, 16 pounds per day seems to be the mark to reach if you want to keep the winning pace.
Kyle Alsop and Travis Blenn, the current tournament leaders from Kansas State University, have achieved that mark two days in a row. But so has the second-place team of Evan Owrey and Kristopher Queen from Bethel University, now just 4 ounces off the lead.
Most of the quality fish for teams have been coming off the main river. The quality bite is short and fast, but lethal. Several teams, including the leader, made mention that teamwork is critical to striking while the iron is hot. Bite windows only seem to last 30 to 60 seconds, so getting another bait out in the water while a river bar is fired up is mandatory. For some successful teams, that means one guy handles the fish care duties after netting so the other angler can make another split-second cast.
Here is a further look inside the top five teams’ tactics on Wheeler Lake.
2. Bethel University – Evan Owrey and Kristopher Queen – 32-13
Evan Owrey and Kristopher Queen of Bethel University have sacked up 16-11 and 16-2 over the last two days to hold on to second place with a total of 32 pounds, 13 ounces. Today their limit consisted of four largemouths and one nice smallmouth.
The Bethel team is running any kind of structure or cover it can find out on the main river. Queen, who originally hails from Catawba, N.C., is running an up tempo offense for Bethel in the form of the North Carolina/Bryan Thrift run-and-gun strategy, hitting visible cover positioned along the river.
“We’re just running down the river looking for anything that sticks out – logs, rocks, buoys. Whatever we can find to fish, we’ll pull up and cast at it a couple of times,” Queen says.
“If a fish is there, it usually bites immediately,” Owrey adds. “As soon as the lure hits the water, the fish has got it. If we don’t get a bite after a few casts apiece, we move on to the next target we can see.”
For lures, the team is using Queen Tackle jigs, which are made of tungsten instead of lead to make the jigs more compact and snag-proof, while creating a different fall. They are teaming them with Zoom Big Salty Chunks.
The Bethel duo, too, mentioned teamwork was a key component in scoring a double fish catch today. Both fish were quality specimens, which made for some big-time culling.
3. University of South Carolina – Patrick Walters and Gettys Brannon – 29-14
After leading on day one, Patrick Walters and Gettys Brannon of the University of South Carolina slipped to third place with a 12-11 catch today, giving them a total of 29 pounds, 14 ounces.
“The bigger fish just didn’t bite as well today, and we missed out on a couple of opportunities to cull up a little bit, too,” Walters says. “So it was a combination of the two that resulted in the lighter limit.”
Due to boat order, the South Carolina anglers were a little later to their prime spots this morning.
“With the spots we’re fishing on the river, minutes are critical,” Brannon says. “Just being five or 10 minutes later is a big deal. Yesterday, we caught some of our better fish in those first crucial minutes of the morning. And today, we were just a little bit later. That may not sound like much, but when you’re talking two or three good fish in that time, it’s critical. So hopefully with just 10 boats tomorrow we’ll get out quicker and get on those prime spots faster.”
The team stayed committed to bigger baits on the bars, something it does not plan to change on the final day.
“We could slow down and fish smaller stuff, but we feel in order to get in that 17- to 20-pound range we’ve got to be fishing the lures that will bring a bigger bite,” Walters adds. “Also, anything that might extend that morning bite window – wind or clouds – could be a big benefit for us tomorrow.”
4. University of Louisiana-Monroe – Tyler Stewart and Nicholas Joiner – 25-12
Tyler Stewart and Nicholas Joiner of the University of Louisiana-Monroe held on to the fourth-place spot with a limit of 10 pounds, 8 ounces and a two-day total of 25-12.
The team’s limit today was some 5 pounds lighter than on day one, which it attributed to lack of current.
“Our boat was sitting dead still today,” Stewart says. “Yesterday it was drifting back and around in the current, and today we didn’t have to use the trolling motor near as much. I think that lack of current kept the bigger fish from setting up to feed. We could catch plenty of fish, but we were culling by ounces at a time instead of pounds at a time.”
5. Lamar University – Brandon Simoneaux and Colby Ogden – 25-9
Lamar University’s Brandon Simoneaux and Colby Ogden rocketed up the leaderboard today with a 14-pound, 7-ounce catch that carried them from 22nd to fifth place with 25-9.
The Lamar team is the only team in the top five that is not utilizing the currents of the main Tennessee River for its catch. Instead, Simoneaux and Ogden are running far back into a creek that requires traversing a lot of shallow water and slipping past two beaver dams to reach cooler water where bream are still spawning.
“We went back to the same spot as yesterday; we just got the bigger ones to bite today,” says Simoneaux. “The bass are in there chasing bream on beds. Yesterday, we saw a real big one chasing and couldn’t get it to bite. Today, we caught a 5-pounder in that same exact spot. I know it was the same one we saw yesterday.”
The top 10 teams fish in Friday's final round. Watch the weigh-in live at 3 p.m. CT at FLWFishing.com.
Top 10 teams
1. Travis Blenn & Kyle Alsop – Kansas State University – 33-1 (10)
2. Evan Owrey & Kristopher Queen – Bethel University – 32-13 (10)
3. Patrick Walters & Gettys Brannon – University of South Carolina – 29-14 (10)
4. Nicholas Joiner & Tyler Stewart – University of Louisiana-Monroe – 25-12 (10)
5. Brandon Simoneaux & Colby Ogden – Lamar University – 25-9 (9)
6. Brett Clark & Jacob Keith – East Texas Baptist University – 25-2 (10)
7. Logan Pollman & Tyler Sheppard – Slippery Rock University – 24-15 (10)
8. Ryan Habenicht & Daniel Marshall – University of Oregon – 24-6 (10)
9. Gabriel Dubois & Brandon Heizer – University of Missouri – 23-13 (10)
10. Chandler Christian & Lance Freeman – Murray State University – 23-12 (10)