Top 10 Patterns from the National Championship - Major League Fishing
Top 10 Patterns from the National Championship
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Top 10 Patterns from the National Championship

How the college contenders caught ’em on the Potomac
Image for Top 10 Patterns from the National Championship
Tristan McCormick, Dakota Pierce Photo by Charles Waldorf.
June 10, 2019 • Jody White • Abu Garcia College Fishing

Though there was some carryover from the T-H Marine Bass Fishing League (BFL) All-American the week before, the fishing on the Potomac River was a lot better for the anglers in the YETI FLW College Fishing National Championship presented by Lowrance. With better fishing came more robust grass patterns, but plenty of bass (some of the biggest of the event) were caught off hard cover as well. All in all, it was a mixed week of very good fishing on the Potomac.

The Murray State team of Adam Puckett and Blake Albertson flipped and wound and pretty much stuck to one creek to get the W. The same basic patterns, as well as some other fun stuff, worked for the rest of the top teams.

Murray State’s winning pattern

Top 10 baits

Complete results


Tristan McCormick, Dakota Pierce

2. Bethel sticks to grass

Finishing behind Murray by just 3 ounces, the Bethel team of Tristan McCormick and Dakota Pierce caught 17-plus each of the first two days, but only managed 16-7 on the final day.

Fishing grass flats exclusively, McCormick and Pierce focused their efforts in Chicamuxen, Aquia and Quantico, typically starting in Chicamuxen and moving from there.

“We just made a milk run and kept going around and around and around,” says Pierce. “The tide was different. It seemed like the little fish would bite at low tide, and when the tide was high we’d get some better bites.

“We didn’t do anything wrong. I’d go out and do the exact same thing that we did,” adds Pierce. “We just had a little one we couldn’t cull out today [the final day], and we couldn’t get it done.”

Bethel used a Z-Man ChatterBait Jack Hammer some, but did most of its damage with a 1/2-ounce Strike King Thunder Cricket trailered with a Berkley Havoc Pit Boss. Throwing some shad colors and some black and blue and green pumpkin, the most productive Pit Boss color was green pumpkin with purple flake.


Jarrett Martin, Nickolas Marsh

3. Adrian sticks to hard stuff

Fishing almost exclusively docks and the like, Adrian College’s Jarrett Martin and Nickolas Marsh nearly pulled off the W, and were really only held back by the bad weather on day two.

They started out in practice with an attempt to fish grass, but it never developed for them.

“There wasn’t enough of it to go around and last three days from what we had found,” says Marsh. “Some of the guys in the top 10 did well on it this week, but after day two of practice we focused on the docks and hard cover, and there were less people, less pressure, and the fish were positioned right where they were supposed to be.”

Rough and cloudy conditions stymied their flipping bite on day two, but they crushed on the other days.

“When you come to a tidal fishery, vertical cover is always important,” says Marsh. “When you have vertical cover like dock posts and pilings the bass can just move up and down in the water column very easily to feed. We knew that going into it, so we focused on docks with certain types of pilings on them. The ones that were bunched together with three or four pilings tied together were the best current breaks, and they would sit around the backside and feed on those.”

In addition to targeting a specific type of piling, Adrian was also looking for a specific type of area.

“The other thing was the bottom content,” says Marsh. “It was a little harder than the rest of the river, and it had a lot less grass than the rest of the river. If it was a cleaner bottom with very sparse grass that’s where we were getting bit.”

Martin and Marsh weighed just about all their fish on Missile Mini Flip jigs matched with either a Missile D Bomb or a Zoom Z-Craw Jr. on the back. 


JT Russell

4. Russell goes solo up a creek

Fishing alone for the University of Montevallo, JT Russell weighed the biggest bag of the final day and had a shot to win pretty much throughout.

Russell says he fished some offshore grass in Quantico Creek on day one, but caught all the rest of his fish way up Pomonkey Creek, a half-mile or so past where the Murray State boys earned the win.

“Flipping was the deal whenever it was complete high tide or low tide, and in between it the ChatterBait was the deal,” says Russell. “There were little cuts coming off the creek, and when the current was moving you could take that ChatterBait and throw it in those cuts and catch three or four at a time.”

Russell flipped a Zoom Brush Hog with a 1/2-ounce weight. His vibrating jig of choice was a 3/8-ounce Z-Man ChatterBait Jack Hammer.


John Coble Garrett, Brian Pahl

5. Pahl and Garrett go hard

John Garrett and Brian Pahl of Bethel comprise one of the more longstanding and successful duos in college fishing. This year’s championship was their last ride together.

The anglers essentially had a full day of practice bookended by two partial days, and Garrett and Pahl split time between prospecting grass and hard cover.

“We came into the practice period wanting to fish grass,” says Garrett. “We actually found some good grass, but it’s so hard to find a sweet spot in grass with a short practice. We ran hard cover for a day to see how it goes, and found three or four spots and it worked.”

Their hard stuff was twofold. The first section was just the rock at Leesylvania State Park. The rest was up the river more. 

“Yesterday [Wednesday], we caught all of them in the mouth of a slough flipping trees and stumps,” says Garrett. “That was a good area for us. We also had a marina right there close by. We stayed in two general areas that we had seen big fish come from in practice. We knew we needed those big bites.”

They flipped swampwater blue-colored Strike King Rage Bug and cranked with a SPRO Little John 50 and a Strike King 1.5 in chartreuse and black as well as shad colors. 


Brady Waits, Liam West

6. Grass is the ticket for Clemson

Camping out in Chicamuxen got the job done for Brady Waits and Liam West of Clemson.

They fished one stretch of grass near the bank as well as a flat farther off the bank. West and Waits averaged more than eight keepers per day and stayed right around the 15-pound mark in each round.

Out on the flat, they got fairly dialed in, and it was where they caught all their bigger fish.

“We had two sweet spots where 90 percent of our bites came from on that flat,” says West. “I haven’t done a lot of grass fishing, but you hear people talk about finding the openings and the ditches and this and that, and so I was kinda looking for that. One of the practice days I was able to graph and find a shelf in the grass. That’s kind of the line we were fishing. The first day, when we actually got a good low tide, I think that’s why we caught so many more fish out there. They were able to position where they were easier to catch.”

Unlike some teams that pretty much stuck with one bait, Clemson took a two-pronged approach. The first bait of choice was a 3/8- or 1/2-ounce Z-Man Project Z Weedless ChatterBait with a Yamamoto Zako, and the second was a swimming worm – either a  Zoom Magnum Ultra Vibe Speed Worm or a Berkley PowerBait Wind Up worm.


Julian Suero, Anthony Vintson

7. Pad bite works for Auburn

Finishing seventh, one place above the other Auburn team in the top 10, Julian Suero and Anthony Vintson got the most out of a somewhat limited pattern to put up a 15-pound average.

“We spent all of our time in the back of Quantico,” says Vintson. “We found it on the second day of practice, we went in and caught four fish in like 100 yards, and they were all pretty good. So, we decided to spend the majority of the time there, and every day we would leave there with pretty much all our weight.”

Eschewing grass or hard cover, the two instead targeted pads with a pair of swim jigs – a 3/8-ounce Strike King Hack Attack Heavy Cover Swim Jig and a 5/16-ounce Gambler Southern Swim Jig. They trailered them with Strike King Rage Swimmers and Gambler EZ Swimmers.

“When the tide was high we would slow-roll the swim jigs over the top of the flooded pads,” says Vintson. “When the tide would drop and the pads would lay over, we’d go to lighter swim jigs and run them over the top of the pads, and the bass would just come right through them.”


William Phillips, Sean Murphy

8. Mattawoman also works for Auburn

Limited by mechanical issues, the Auburn team of Sean Murphy and William Phillips spent basically the entire tournament in Mattawoman. But for a run over to Quantico on day one, they probably made thousands and thousands of casts over one flat near Marsh Island.

“We found a sweet spot. It’s probably the size of two tents put together,” says Phillips. “So that’s what we fished the last two days. It was very monotonous, just throwing to the same hole over and over again, but you’d hook up every once in a while.”

That sweet spot produced all their good fish, and had they been able to run around they might never have spent enough time for a top 10 on it. Murphy and Williams used a 3/8-ounce SpotSticker casting jig with a Zoom Super Speed Craw, a junebug-colored Zoom Magnum Ultra Vibe Speed Worm with a 3/16-ounce weight and the ever-popular combo of a Z-Man ChatterBait Jack Hammer and a Yamamoto Zako.


Nolan Minor, Thomas Raines

9. Mountaineers fish docks for big catch early

Leading the whole shooting match on day one with 18-5, the West Virginia University team of Nolan Minor and Thomas Raines never managed more than 12 pounds a day the rest of the way to fall to ninth.

On days one and two the pair fished docks and wood from Broad Creek up into Washington, D.C., but they ditched that plan for the final day.

“We didn’t go back because that was obviously not working for us,” says Minor. “We really were not on anything, and whatever we did on the first day was special. We tried to duplicate it on the second day, and it didn’t work.”

One of the highlights of day one was a “unicorn” that weighed nearly 6 pounds, which they caught off a laydown on a Z-Man ChatterBait Jack Hammer. Besides the vibrating jig, they also flipped a junebug-colored Zoom Brush Hog and worked a Zoom Trick Worm on a shaky head around docks and wood.

On the final day they fished close, caught fish on big swimbaits and a glide bait, but still couldn’t connect with the right size.


Brady Waits, Liam West 

10. Sam Houston State keys on laydowns

Catching nearly 17 pounds on day one put the Bearkat squad in the top 10, but after that, Dillon Harrell and Taylor Harp could never manage to replicate their kicker bites.

Starting in Aquia each day, they focused on hard cover, hitting docks and one particular stretch of laydowns.

“It was a little deeper, and there were a lot of laydowns coming off the bank farther,” says Harrell. “Every single day of the tournament we caught a limit off that bank.”

Like many others in the top 10, they also dabbled in some grass in Chicamuxen, which produced a kicker on day one. They used a menagerie of baits, including a SPRO Bronzeye Frog, a V&M J-Bug, a finesse jig with a Berkley PowerBait Chigger Craw trailer and a Z-Man Project Z ChatterBait with a Yamamoto Zako.