KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Cole Sands and Bailey Fain got ahead of today’s unfavorable weather conditions, sacked up a five-bass limit that weighed 13 pounds, 11 ounces and won the Carhartt Bassmaster College Classic presented by Bass Pro Shops on Watts Bar Lake.
The event was held in conjunction with the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.
A passing cold front left the typical “bluebird” day — high, bright skies and light wind — in its wake, so the winners were happy to secure a limit by about 9:30 a.m. After that, the day grew brighter and the bite became more difficult.
“We thought we’d upgrade the rest of the day,” said Sands, a senior business management major. “We upgraded three times, but they were little upgrades.”
Targeting main-channel banks, the Bryan College anglers caught most of their bass on a Rapala DT6 crankbait and a Strike King KVD 1.5 squarebill, both in crawfish colors. Fain added the duo’s biggest bass on a YUM Yumbrella Flash Mob Jr. umbrella rig with Zoom swimbaits.
“Bailey threw the [umbrella rig] because it catches big fish, and I kept a DT6 in my hand all day because I caught some good fish on it in practice,” Sands said. “It seemed that when I did get a bite it was a decent fish.”
The winning performance bested the second-place Tusculum College team of Grant Cordell and Caleb Lafleur by a margin of 2-5. Essential to the win was the right shoreline composition.
“There was a certain type of rock we were looking for and when you saw it, you’d think you were going to get bit,” Sands said. “It seemed like there was a little current deal too, but our main strategy was just covering water.”
Fain, a sophomore also majoring in business management, said channel-swing banks proved most productive. Most of their bites were shallow, but proximity to deep water was clearly attractive.
Also important to the winning performance was the right tackle. Sands, who did most of the cranking, used a 7-10 medium Witch Doctor Kahuna cranking rod, which provided the right flex.
“When you’re cranking, you lose a pretty good amount of fish, but we landed every single fish that bit today,” he said. “It’s a glass rod that lets them load up. That makes a difference.”
The tournament was comprised of nine teams, five of which were Tennessee programs currently active within the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series. Also included were the defending 2018 National Championship team, the defending 2018 Carhartt Bassmaster College Classic winning team, the reigning Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Team of the Year and the Classic Bracket Championship school.