Zach Parker and Matthew Roberts started their Carhartt Bassmaster College Series off with a bang. They set not one but two records; an all-time single-day weight record of 29 pounds, 2 ounces and an all-time two-day total record of 54 pounds, 4 ounces. We asked them to walk us through their practice and tournament. Here is Zach Parker’s account of how they put the puzzle together.
Journal Entry 1: The Best Way to Start the Fishing Year
We rolled into Leesburg, Fla., on Dec. 28 to start preparing for our first event of the year, the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Regional on the Harris Chain of Lakes. Florida fishing can be very tough this time of year, and having never actually fished in Florida before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The only thing I knew for sure was that my partner, Matthew Roberts, and I had five full days from sun up to sun down to figure out the mystic Florida bass on the Harris Chain.
Practice Days 1-5:
From reading the fishing reports and gathering information months prior to my tournament, I decided to focus on four of the main lakes on the Harris Chain, and then narrow my search once I got there. We started our search on Lake Eustis mainly because it was the closest lake to our hotel, and we were excited to get out on the water. The primary vegetation on all of these lakes is Kissimmee grass, eel grass, pepper grass, lily pads, reeds and cattails. As soon as we dropped my Triton 21HP in the water, I was overwhelmed by all of this vegetation. It was everywhere! I had no idea where to even start, and since I still had to break in my new Mercury 250 Pro XS, we headed toward the far north end of the lake. Every bank I could see was swamped with Kissimmee grass and reeds, so we finally just put the Motor Guide down and started flipping. We kept flipping and flipping to no avail.
Finally, with about two hours left to fish, we found an underwater grassline that we fished with a Strike King Red Eye Shad. After ripping our Red Eyes through the grass for about 45 minutes, we finally found the sweet spot and caught a couple of 2-pound fish on back-to-back casts. We knew that this wouldn’t help us much in the tournament if we wanted to win, but it was a start. On the second day of practice, we went to Lake Griffin which is where Chris Lane blew away the field in the 2012 Southern Open event. The water on Lake Griffin was very stained, which is not what you want in Florida, and we came away from the second day of practice with only two bites. At this point, I was thinking we could be looking at a long three more days of practice and a rough tournament. On the third day of practice, we decided to put in at Lake Eustis and fish half the day on that lake and the other half on Lake Harris. Well, we ended up spending all day on Lake Eustis and found three more stretches of shoreline vegetation that each held loads of buck bass. Two of the stretches were Kissimmee grass, and the other was a stretch of isolated lily pads.