Montevallo’s Dumke, Fothergill stack up 27-3 for Day 1 lead at College Fishing National Championship - Major League Fishing
Montevallo’s Dumke, Fothergill stack up 27-3 for Day 1 lead at College Fishing National Championship
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Montevallo’s Dumke, Fothergill stack up 27-3 for Day 1 lead at College Fishing National Championship

Image for Montevallo’s Dumke, Fothergill stack up 27-3 for Day 1 lead at College Fishing National Championship
The University of Montevallo team of Nick Dumke and Easton Fothergill will carry a nearly 4-pound lead into the final day of competition at the College Fishing National Championship. Photo by Rob Matsuura. Anglers: Nicholas Dumke, Easton Fothergill.
January 10, 2024 • Mitchell Forde • Abu Garcia College Fishing

KISSIMMEE, Fla. – When Nick Dumke and Easton Fothergill pulled up to their first spot on Wednesday morning — the best area they’d discovered during practice on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes — they found nothing. No keepers, no bites, no activity on forward-facing sonar.

That might not seem like an ideal start to the Abu Garcia College Fishing Presented by YETI National Championship, but it didn’t take long for the University of Montevallo duo to relocate some of Lake Toho’s big bass.

With the high winds and storms that resulted in the cancelation of the first scheduled day of competition having moved their fish, Dumke and Fothergill located another school of baitfish and bass on what Fothergill called “a wind-blown corner.” They stayed in the area for the rest of the day, and it paid off in the form of a 27-pound, 3-ounce limit. The massive bag has Dumke and Fothergill nearly 4 pounds ahead of second place going into the second and final day.

“It was a pretty wild day, definitely something I won’t ever forget,” Dumke said. “There was definitely some key windows that we just were fortunate to be in the right place at the right time.”

Fothergill and Dumke discovered during practice that the biggest bass on the Kissimmee Chain could be finnicky, only willing to eat during a few key “bite windows” each day. So, once they found some quality fish, they hunkered down, targeting the bass using forward-facing sonar. 

The action came in flurries. Dumke said the duo caught all their weight within three 30-minute periods. A 7-inch glide bait provoked the biggest bites, including a 7-11 brute caught by Fothergill that anchored the team’s limit and took home Berkley Big Bass honors.

“Our main deal is LiveScoping, so we’re throwing at fish every single cast we make,” Fothergill said. “So, we can tell how the fish are reacting to our baits. And what we’ve seen from practice is they’ll just kind of react, kind of react, and then all of a sudden, they’ll just explode on your baits. It’ll be like that for about a half hour, and then things will die off again. So, we found that we really have to capitalize when the bite windows open up. When we noticed that happen today, we just made sure we were around where the big ones were, and it worked out.”

Dumke and Fothergill also competed in the 2023 National Championship on the Kissimmee Chain last February, finishing 22nd. While Dumke said that experience helped them get a feel for how the lakes in the chain set up and which areas to focus on, they’ve found the fishing to be quite a bit different this time around, largely due to the amount of aquatic vegetation they’ve had to work through.

“Last year, there wasn’t much grass; any grass you did find was pretty good,” Dumke said. “But this year, there’s grass absolutely everywhere.”

The Adrian College duo of Gerald Brumbaugh and Mitchell Straffon sit in second place after sacking up 23-4. Brumbaugh has experience pulling off a comeback on a national stage — he and then-teammate Hunter Klotz came from second to win the 2021 High School Fishing National Championship on Lake Hartwell. Tarleton State’s Garrett Cadenhead and Jared Mizell are third with 22-15.

Heading into Day 2

Dumke and Fothergill hope to replicate their Day 1 pattern on Thursday. But they also know that, if there’s one place where things can shift overnight, it’s Florida. Wednesday’s results illustrate the boom-or-bust nature of the Kissimmee Chain in early January. While seven teams topped 20 pounds, more than half the field failed to reach double digits. No lead is safe, especially with the full 135-boat field taking the water again in the weather-shortened event.

“I’m guessing things are going to change,” Dumke said. “It’s kind of that time of the year, plus it’s Florida. That’s just kind of the magic recipe for things completely flipping on you. A cloud goes in front of the sun, and all of a sudden magically things are really good or really bad.”

If Dumke and Fothergill can hold on, it would mark the second straight title for Montevallo. Peyton Harris and Dalton Head took home the trophy in 2023. The Falcons qualified 11 teams for this year’s National Championship, more than any other school.

It would also put an exclamation point on a strong season for Dumke and Fothergill. Not only did they place sixth at a College Fishing event on Lake of the Ozarks in March, Fothergill won the Bassmaster College Bracket to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic.

Fothergill admitted that adding a trip to Wheeler Lake for the Toyota Series Championship — where he and Dumke would duke it out for a berth to REDCREST — to his 2024 schedule has crossed his mind. But he’s learned by now not to get ahead of himself. His focus Thursday will be “catching the fish that’s in front of us” and enjoying the moment.

“I’m super excited,” Fothergill said. “I had a blast today. It was actually some of the best glide bait fishing I’ve had. I’m not expecting them to hit it as good tomorrow with less sun, but we’ll just keep an open mind, and hopefully we can run into a couple more.”

Top 10 teams:

  1. University of Montevallo – Nick Dumke and Easton Fothergill – 27-3 (5)
  2. Adrian College – Gerald Brumbaugh and Mitchell Straffon – 23-4 (5)
  3. Tarleton State University – Garrett Cadenhead and Jared Mizell – 22-15 (5)
  4. Campbellsville University – Carter Doren and Ryan Lachniet – 21-15 (5)
  5. Emmanuel University – Robert Miller and John Michael Ortman – 21-11 (5)
  6. University of North Alabama – Carter Nutt and Dylan Nutt – 21-7 (5)
  7. Northeastern State University-Tahlequah – Levi Juby and Cooper Park – 20-7 (5)
  8. Lander University – Kaleb Brown and Cole Moulton – 19-7 (5)
  9. Erskine College – Lane Clark and Adam Seagle – 18-12 (5)
  10. Carson-Newman University – Ben Cully and Hayden Gaddis – 18-11 (5)

Complete results