Bryan College rides fast start to College Classic victory

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.

Thank you, Jordan Card

If the guy in the photo looks a lot like Elite Series angler Brandon Card, there’s a good reason for that. This is Jordan Card, Brandon’s older brother by two years.

“I’m the better-looking brother,” he said with a smile.

Jordan owns a landscaping company in Knoxville, and during Classic week he has served as a media boat driver for Bassmaster.com. He’s even managed to stay on Steve Bowman’s good side.

Like his brother, Jordan fished the Bassmaster Opens. But once he and his wife had kids, he paired back tournament fishing to local events.

Unlike his brother, who graduated from the University of Kentucky, Jordan is a Tennessee Vols fan.

Jordan, thanks for your service!

Zaldain with first keeper

Chris Zaldain just put his first keeper of the day, a largemouth bass, in his livewell. He’s got about an hour of fishing left in Day 3. He’s in Fort Loudoun now near Friendsville, throwing that big albino colored MegaBass swimbait. We’re looking at an air temp of 55 degrees, bluebird skies and no wind. Maybe this is the start of something good for the native  Californian. 

Wheeler scrapping everything

Day 2 leader Jacob Wheeler knew this was a possibility today. In a tournament where he's basically been running and gunning every day, looking for particular sloping banks with particular cover, like gravel and chunk rock, it's now time to look elsewhere.

"I don't have an issue with scrapping everything and doing something completely different," he said in last night's post-weigh-in press conference.

With 90 minutes left to fish, Wheeler has gone searching in pockets off the main river, looking for largemouth bass, instead of the smallmouths, which have surprisingly taken him this far. Wheeler still has time. BASSTrakk shows him trailing leader Ott DeFoe by 4 pounds, 5 ounces.

Wiggins movin'on up

The sun is beating down and Jesse Wiggins has finally removed his heavy clothing. After a short fish he hooked up with something bigger. From our distance, it is hard to tell how big, but we'd guess certainly over 3 pounds. He is putting those spacious Bass Cat livewells to good use.

Check-in time is 3:40 p.m.

There are only about two hours of fishing time left if anyone is going to push Ott DeFoe for the 2019 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK'S Sporting Goods trophy. Check-in time for all 25 Day 3 competitors is 3:40 p.m.

DeFoe recently capsuled his tournament on "Bassmaster LIVE," a tournament in which he led on Day 1 with 20-0, faltered and fell to 4th place on Day 2 woth 10-5 and now has a 4-pound lead heading down the home stretch with 16-14 on the day.

"The first day was magic," he said. "The second day was humbling. Today has been special. Sometimes it takes a little humbling to realize how special the special ones are."

Zaldain still in search of first keeper

Chris Zaldain caught the biggest bag of the tournament yesterday with 21-12. Today at 1:00 he’s sitting at zero. Zaldain expected his bite to turn on about 10:30, but it has not. We’ve seen him catch a couple of short fish, but that’s it. “It’s brutal with less current today,” he told us. Zaldain is now trying different spots. He ran down to the canal that connects Tellico to Fort Loudoun. That stretch had plenty of current, but again no bites. Now he has moved back into Loudoun. He has a 40 minute run back to the ramp in Knoxville, which gives him about two hours of fishing time left. 

Wiggins burning fuel

Jesse Wiggins is keeping the Knoxville-area Pilot stations happy this week, burning gas by making long runs. We just followed him for 10 minutes down the river, passing Jacob Wheeler's flotilla along the way. Jesse lost some of his spectators along the way, dragging eight boats along for the haul.

DeFoe’s state of mind

“I know I am going to need about 20 pounds today to have a shot,” Ott DeFoe said. “But even that’s not a given.”

He’s not able to look at BASSTrakk, so he doesn’t know where he’s at. Twenty pounds would lock this derby up, and he’s one big bite away from it. A 6-pounder would be his golden nugget.

“I’m feeling good, not satisfied, and certainly not over confident,” he said. “I just want to catch another one. And that’ll never change whether I’m about to win the Classic or a weekend event at home. I love it, I just want to catch one more—and that’ll never stop.”

He said that the fish living under the dock are fat and weighing more than he was expecting.

“They’re feeding heavily, and it shows,” he laughed. “The river fish aren’t as fat, so these are helping me out tremendously.”

He caught a 6-pounder on Day 1, so we know they are available.

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