Bethel University’s Jacob Hardy and Jake Lawrence brought in 40-14 over two days on Pickwick Lake to win the Carhartt College Series Wild Card and advance to the Carhartt College Series National Championship along with 12 other teams.
The National Championship field is set as the Wild Card comes to a close and the final 13 qualifying slots have been awarded. But it was Hardy and Lawrence who best some 75 other teams on Pickwick Lake by adjusting where others were unable.
“We were catching several 4-pounders on a Strike King Shadalicious Swimbait in practice but they wouldn’t connect with it during the tournament,” said Hardy.
Several anglers had this issue on days one and two. The majority of the top contenders threw some variation of a swimbait and caught most of their fishing using it. In the end, it was the fish that others were unable to catch that made the difference.
“They would just slap at it during the tournament,” said Hardy. “Jake stuck with a Sexy Spoon all day both days and ended up catching us all of our fish.”
The connection still wasn’t automatic for Lawrence.
“There were several times where I might get 10 of 15 bites before one would finally get it,” said Lawrence.
The lack of commitment from the bass was likely due to the heavy amount of boat pressure that anglers were forced to deal with on Pickwick this week. In practice, teams would leave a school of fish after one or two bites so as not to hook a bunch of fish and also not be a floating waypoint for a passerby to mark.
Once the competition began however, anglers had to milk their areas for all they were worth and that’s when the bite started to change. That amount of pressure changed how the fish would commit to the bait and changed how the fish would position on the ledge.
“You just had to be persistent,” said Lawrence. “There were little bitty places you had to hit: schools inside of schools. The school would be 50 or 75 yards long stretched down a ledge but there would be one cast that the big ones were on.”
Current was key as always this time of year on Pickwick. Once it picked up around 11:00 Saturday, the schools started to ignite. That first 30 minutes proved to be the difference maker for Bethel.
“We had one fish at 11,” said Lawrence. “We made a run to a school we hadn’t fish this week and culled everything we had in 20 casts.”
Andrew Nutt and Zachary Wiggers of the University of North Alabama finished 2nd with a two day total of 40-3. The local powerhouse capitalized on their knowledge of the lake and their understanding of ledge fishing to clinch their National Championship berth along with the following teams.
Jordan Lee and Shane Powell of Auburn University, Brad Rutherford and Matthew Peeler of Young Harris College, Drew Long and Cody Garrison of Mississippi State University, Tanner Parker and Trent Palmer of Georgia Southern University, Nick LaDart and Brian Eaton of La Monroe, Ben Freeman and Dillon McGee of Bethel University, Blake Deron and Brett Preuett of La Monroe, Nathan Martin and Robb Young of the University of North Alabama, William Shipes and Alan Horwatt of Clemson University, Logan Shaddix and Ethan Flack of Wallace State CC Hanceville, Byron Kenney and Brian Rosso of the University of Georgia.
Winning the Carhartt Big Bass prize, a $500 Carhartt gift card for the largest bass caught during the tournament, was Brad Rutherford for his 6-3 on Day One.
The Bass Pro Shops/Nitro Big Bag award for the largest bag weighed in during the tournament went to Andrew Nutt and Zachary Wiggers of UNA and Brad Rutherford and Matthew Peeler of Young Harris College. The two teams tied for the Day One lead with 22-8. The teams received a $250 Bass Pro Shops gift card.
Winning the tournament’s Livingston Lures Leader award of a $500 gift card were Jacob Hardy and Jake Lawrence of Bethel University.