College: Drury duo secures win on Norfork

MOUNTAIN HOME, Ark. — Dropping a big bag on Day 1 helped Drury University’s Beau Browning and Jake Peck get their “vibe” back heading into Day 2, and with a two-day total of 30 pounds, 3 ounces they’ll be taking home a whole new vibe and the winners’ trophy from the Strike King Bassmaster College Series at Norfork Lake presented by Bass Pro Shops.

Despite a Day 2 weight of just 11-2, they edged the second-place team of Kaleb Brown and Chad Mrazek from Lander University by 1-1. Browning and Peck took home $2,699 ($1,349 apiece).

“This just feels so good,” said Browning, a Hot Springs, Ark., native. “I told Peck yesterday that we just needed an event to get our vibe back and this event did just that. I feel like we’ve been so close all year to making it happen, so this is just rejuvenating.” 

“All those days where you were just one bite away or you get your teeth kicked in makes days like today so worth it,” added Peck, who hails from Tulsa, Okla.

Sharing water with a pair of teammates from Drury — a small school with an enrollment of about 2,600 in Springfield, Mo. — Browning and Peck targeted specific sweet spots on offshore flats that were 2 to 4 feet deep. They estimated they caught nearly 100 bass a day. However, catching keepers was not that easy on Day 2, as the duo only boated eight.

“We ran straight to the same little offshore school that we banked on during Day 1 and, as soon as I dropped the trolling motor in the water, I could tell on my Active Target that they were not set up the same,” said Browning. “We knew we were going to have to switch it up a little and try to expand on what we had.”

Rotating baits: The Drury teammates noted that rotating lures was key. They covered water on the flat until they were able to get bites. Then, once they found an area where there was a group of fish, they would slow down and fish a number of different baits before leaving.

“A lot of the areas that would hold fish were little depressions, ditch bends or stumps,” Browning said. “As soon as we’d get bit, we would Power-Pole down and really pick apart the area with a different bait.”

A 1/2-ounce Z-Man JackHammer ChatterBait and a 1/2-ounce jig were two of their key lures.

White River history: Although neither of the Drury anglers has spent much time on Norfork Lake, they both said their experience on other White River lakes such as Table Rock and Bull Shoals helped them tremendously.

“White River lakes are really unlike any other lakes in the country,” Browning said. “Being so close to Table Rock and fishing there so much really helped us out a lot.”

B.A.S.S. baby: Watching his father, Stephen Browning, fish the Bassmaster Elite Series during his childhood made the win that much sweeter for Beau Browning.

“I’ve grown up in the Bassmaster family since I was born, and I’ve always wanted to win on that stage,” Browning said. “I guess you could say I’ve grown up as a B.A.S.S. baby.”

Second place: After weighing 13-0 on Day 1, Brown and Mrazek of Lander University, which is located in Greenwood, S.C., came back with an impressive 16-2 on Day 2 to finish in second with 29-2. Practicing for the conditions played a huge role for them.

“We practiced for different conditions because we knew the fish we were on were changing by the hour,” said Mrazek. “We knew early on this morning that we were going to have to make some adjustments and the adjustments worked out.”

“We targeted typical prespawn areas with a jig and a ChatterBait,” Brown added. “It was kind of a junk-fishing pattern on secondary points and hard cover.”

Third place: Weighing in 17 pounds, 14 ounces on Day 2 (the biggest bag of the day), Ryan Thomas and Solomon Glenn of the University of Montevallo (Ala.) jumped from 35th place all the way to third. A couple of key bites late in the day helped jolt them up the leaderboard.

“We didn’t really make too many adjustments from yesterday to today,” said Glenn. “We had a couple of big ones pull up late in the day which helped out a lot.”

With limited practice time, the Montevallo team ran new water most of the tournament.

“We just started running new water yesterday and ended up finding one key area where we caught most of them today,” Glenn said. “We just went fishing and ran into them.”

A Megabass Magdraft and a wacky-rigged worm were two of the key baits for Glenn and Thomas.

Competition will continue Sunday with the Abu Garcia Bassmaster High School Series at Norfork Lake presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors and the Bassmaster Junior Series at Norfork Lake.

The events are being hosted by the Norfork Lake Chamber of Commerce.