Top 10 baits from the College Fishing National Championship on Lake Toho - Major League Fishing
Top 10 baits from the College Fishing National Championship on Lake Toho
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Top 10 baits from the College Fishing National Championship on Lake Toho

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Glide baits made headlines, but Florida staples got it done in the end. Photo by Rob Matsuura.
January 17, 2024 • Jody White, Rob Matsuura • Abu Garcia College Fishing

KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Shortened by weather to two days, the Abu Garcia College Fishing Presented by YETI National Championship on Lake Toho was a heck of a tournament. Though it may not have quite lived up to the excitement of the final day in 2023, there were plenty of new-school and old-school Florida techniques on display and lots of big bass brought to the stage.

Check out what baits performed best for the top teams.

1. Florida staples take the win

Winning the whole shooting match, Braylon Eggerding and Lucas Washburn of Adrian College got it done with a big final day, which included an 11-pounder caught on a lipless crankbait.

Fishing shallow in Lake Kissimmee, the duo used a Zoom UltraVibe Speed Worm in Junebug with a 1/16-ounce weight, a Lucky Craft LV RTO 200 and a golden shiner-colored Z-Man Evergreen ChatterBait JackHammer with a Gambler Little EZ trailer in green pumpkin.

2. Campbellsville an ounce away from glory

Finishing second by an ounce, Carter Doren and Ryan Lachniet of Campbellsville University came about as close as can be to the win. To get it done, the duo relied on a key offshore area and carefully chosen baits.

A Strike King Cut-R-Worm was the team’s slower offering, while a modified pro blue Megabass Vision 110+1 Jr. did the rest of the work.  

“I upsized the hooks, and the bigger hooks made it sink, so I took a little bit of a Chick-fil-A cup and super glued it to the top of it,” Lachniet said. “It worked awesome; it was the best suspending action of a jerkbait that I ever had. Me and Drew Gill were rigging them up for three days. I made two or three — he made like 10.”

To top the contraption off, the Campbellsville crew tied the hooks on with braid to lose fewer fish and added a nifty feathered treble.

“We were in the south end of Toho the whole time,” Lachniet said. “We found a hole in the grass – we went in there the first day and caught some big ones. The second day we burned it to the ground.

“It was probably like 120 by 80 feet, it was a fairly big area. There was one stretch of grass on the edge of the hole that they seemed to relate to a lot. Then, there were also a lot just swimming around in the middle of it.”

3. Montevallo gives up the top spot after a tough Day 2

Finishing third, the Montevallo duo of Nicholas Dumke and Easton Fothergill knocked the lights out on Day 1 but couldn’t get their fish to commit on the second day.

Their key baits were a KGB Chad Shad and a Rapala PXR Mavrik 110 in pro blue.

Fishing in Toho, the conditions change on Day 2 proved too much to overcome.

“It was a breakline with hard bottom, and the big ones on Day 1 were cruising up and down it,” Fothergill said. “The wind changed on Day 2, and we were able to relocate them, but we just could not get them to go. They were following our stuff all day.”

4. Hatch provides for Emmanuel

Robert Miller and John Micheal Ortman of Emmanuel University swung for the win with a slightly offbeat location, heading down to Hatchineha to glide around offshore grass patches surrounded by hard bottom.

The duo used a SPRO KGB Chad Shad 180 and a Bull Shad Trick Shad – the Chad Shad being the backup to the Trick Shad.

“We had two Trick Shads, but there’s one at the bottom of the lake now,” Ortman said. “We lost one in practice to about a 10- or 11-pound fish. And then during the tournament, we cast a Chad Shad off.

“We were committed on the glide baits. It’s a national championship; we knew it was a hero or zero moment. Day 1, we got seven bites and got six of them in. Day 2, we got five bites on it and got four of them in – we lost about a 7-pounder at the boat.”

5. O’Steen makes the Top 10 solo

Bryson O’Steen of Florida Gateway College fished solo and crushed 24-7 on Day 2 to make the Top 10. Throwing a weightless Zoom Fluke in watermelon red and a 1/4-ounce Texas rig with a plum emerald Yamamoto Senko, O’Steen did it old-school in Kissimmee.

“I’m from Florida,” he said. “A lot of the guys LiveScoping were in Toho, but with that 79-degree day we got when it was canceled, I knew there would be some females that pulled up on the bank.”

He cast the Fluke between targets, but his bread and butter was the Senko, and he credited his rod choice for some of his success.

“It was a 7-3 heavy St. Croix Legend Tournament Series,” he said. “It’s called the power finesse. It has a really soft tip, so I can make accurate presentations, and the heavy power allows me to get them away from the cover. They were all in the arrowheads and reeds, so it was really hard to get them out quickly.”

6. Braddy and Arnold head to Tiger

Neal Braddy and Merritt Arnold of the University of Montevallo put up consistent bags each day with Florida staples.

“It was our last tournament together, and we didn’t want to spend it LiveScoping,” Arnold said. “We went to Tiger, and we had an area with spatterdock, Kissimmee grass, flat reeds, pencil reeds and arrowhead. In practice they were in the spatterdock and the Kissimmee grass, and in the tournament they pulled back into the farther back spatterdock and the arrowheads. By Day 2 they had almost all pulled into the arrowheads. We caught almost all our fish on Day 2 on a 50-yard stretch of arrowheads in the last hour. I’m not gonna lie, it was pretty cool.”

The duo threw three baits – a Bitter’s Mega Sling, Bitter’s Salty Sling and a Bitter’s Vibe. They used 3/16-ounce weights all around. They chose watermelon gold for the swimming worm. For the Sling, they used emerald blue, which they dipped in red dye, then dipped in clear JJ’s Magic and soaked overnight in BaitFuel.

7. Cully and Gaddis go offshore in Toho

Staying in Toho and scoping around offshore grass, Ben Cully and Hayden Gaddis of Carson-Newman University sacked up bags in the high teens both days to finish eighth.

They relied on four baits – a swimbait on a 6/0 Owner Flashy Swimmer, and Megabass Vision 110, a MM26 Herring Glide and a 7-inch NetBait Flex Worm on a 1/4-ounce drop-shot.

“There was a big hydrilla field with big clumps, with clean channels cut all the way down to the bottom,” Gaddis said. “We had one hole on Day 2, and it went down pretty quick. They’d stay in that one little area, and they’d shoot up off the bottom to the glide, and if they didn’t eat that, they’d eat the drop-shot about every time.”

8. Tarleton State makes the run to Kissimmee

Garett Cadenhead and Jared Mizell of Tarleton State – Stephenville said they did their best work in Kissimmee, fishing a few Florida staples.

The Texas duo leaned on a Zoom UltraVibe Speed Worm in blue sapphire and Junebug and a 1/2-ounce BOOYAH One Knocker in gold and copper shiner.

“The lipless was our primary way of catching fish this week, and we’d drag the worm when the bite got slow,” Cadenhead said. “The 7-pounder the second day came on the worm, which was definitely a key fish.”

The teammates ended up really believing in their lipless choices after practice.

“The One Knocker was a noticeable difference over the traditional rattle,” Cadenhead said. “During practice, Jared was throwing a silver lipless, and I was throwing the BOOYAH, and I was getting bit and he wasn’t getting a sniff. We figured very quickly that gold was the color to go with.”

9. Hatch also pays out for Brumbaugh and Straffon

Also repping Adrian College, Gerald Brumbaugh Jr. and Mitchell Straffon put jerkbaits to work in Hatchineha for their Top 10.

Their main baits were a Berkley Stunna 112 and a big Megabass Kanata.  

“We were using both,” Brumbaugh said. “That gold, flashy color seemed to be best – something that would dive around 4 feet.”

10. Nutt brothers blast ‘em along the river

Finishing 10th, Dylan Nutt and Carter Nutt of the University of North Alabama fished grass and current-washed shell bars in Cypress, Hatchineha and Kissimmee.

“One of the main players for us was the Scottsboro Tackle Company Top Hook Swimbait,” Dylan said. “We were using the 1/2-ounce version in grass, and one of our key areas was a deeper place, and we used the 1-ounce version there.”

Throwing the natty light color of the swimbait, the duo also relied on a Strike King 5XD in TN shad 2.0, a Rapala DT 14 in citrus shad and a Damiki bait.

“We fished some grass, and we also focused on some current that was narrowed down in those canals,” Dylan said. “It was slow the second day, but the first day, it was lights out.”