Bethel dominates in record-setting fashion

TAVARES, Fla. -- Bethel’s Zach Parker and Matthew Roberts brought in 25-1 on Day Two to dominate the competition by a 9-9 margin of victory in the Carhartt College Series Southern Regional on the Harris Chain. 

Bringing in the two heaviest bags of the event, Bethel set the All-Time One-Day and Two-Day Heavyweight records at 29-2 and 54-3 respectively for the Carhartt College Series. Their Day One kicker of 9-11 briefly held the All-Time Big Bass record until it was broken by the event’s Carhartt Big Bass, weighing 10-7 and caught by Cody Spears of FSU on Day Two.

The Southern Regional on Harris Chain was earmarked as the tournament where records would be broken. Harris Chain and the 79-boat field did not disappoint.

Parker and Roberts’ 29-2 catch on Day One was the heaviest of the event earning them the award of the Bass Pro Nitro Big Bag for the tournament.

The dynamic duo started Day Two precisely where they left off on Day One, running to the same grass line where they caught their entire Day One catch. Almost immediately they started extracting big fish after big fish from the grass.

“The fish were still in the exact same spot,” said Roberts.

“The spot” consisted of a ridge bordering a shallow flat with vegetation all over it. The team worked their way up and down the ridge throwing lipless crankbaits up onto the flat and ripping them through the grass.

“Fish were moving on and off of that flat all day,” said Parker.

A sharp cold front came through on Day One, pushing a lot of the fish that were trying to spawn from the shallows out to whatever deep water they could find. This set Bethel up perfectly as their ridge proved to be a textbook staging ground.

“The cold front brought them out of that shallow water and pushed them out on that drop,” said Parker. “I think the cold weather actually helped us out.”

Taking advantage of the cold front secured most of the Top 13 teams their spot in the 2013 National Championship. Teams had to finish in the Top 13 to advance, and only a handful of them were able to do so sight-fishing with the majority of the qualifiers catching pre-spawn fish on lipless crankbaits.

With nearly a 10-pound margin of victory, you wouldn’t expect the winning team to have a “one that got away” story, but Roberts stubbed his toe on the fish of a lifetime on Day Two.

“It happened on his second-to-last cast,” said Parker. “The big one that he had on was bigger than that 9-11 (Parker’s day one kicker).”

Parker estimated the fish was in the 12-plus-pound range.

“I’ve never seen a fish that big in person in my life,” said Roberts. “It was sickening but at the same time we had a great week.”

In their humble manner both admitted that they never reached a point in the day where they thought they had the win secured.

“I never thought it was over,” said Parker. “We fished that spot hard until we had about an hour and ten minutes left. Somebody could bust a 30-pound bag out here like it’s nothing.”

Daytona State College’s Thomas Oltorik and Scott Heaberlin finished second with an impressive two-day total of 44-10.

For a full list of the tournament results including the Top 13 National Championship Qualifiers, click here.

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