Bethel University leads Day 2

MANY, Louisiana – The weather changed dramatically on Friday, but Cody Huff and Dakota Pierce remained consistent on Day 2 of the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series at Toledo Bend presented by Bass Pro Shops.

The duo from Tennessee’s Bethel University caught a limit of five bass on Friday that weighed 19 pounds, 13 ounces and maintained their lead on this 185,000-acre reservoir straddling the Louisiana/Texas border. The haul came under sunny skies and it followed the 19-11 limit they sacked on a cold and dreary Thursday.

Huff and Pierce have a 39-8 total heading into the tournament’s third and final day, which gives them nearly a four-pound lead on the second-place team. The Top 12 of the 248 duos that entered the derby survived the cut and will compete for the tournament championship on Saturday.

Huff and Pierce were confident the shift from rain to sunshine wouldn’t affect the quality of their bites, and they were right. Their bag on Friday was the heaviest of the tournament to date, and the bulk of it came from the same general area where they staked their Day 1 lead. The bass they’re weighing at Cypress Bend Park are consistent too, each in the 3 to 4-pound range.

“The sun helped our bite a lot today,” Huff said. “We didn’t have to lean on them at all. A lot more fish moved into the area we’ve been fishing. Hopefully that’s the same deal tomorrow.”

The Bethel tandem hasn’t said much about its strategy this week, but both Huff and Pierce acknowledge they’re covering a lot of water on the vast Toledo Bend Reservoir. They said a strong wind would be the only thing that might prevent them from maneuvering as frequently as they have during the first two days of competition.

“It’s just a mixture of the right depth, the right bait and the right bottom contours,” Huff said. “It’s kind of a special spot.”

Huff has been finding plenty of those recently. He won the Bassmaster College Series Classic Bracket event last fall, and qualified for the 2020 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk, which is scheduled for March 6-8 on Alabama’s Lake Guntersville with weigh-ins taking place in nearby Birmingham.

That’s the biggest tournament in professional bass fishing, but Huff is focused on nothing more than winning this week on Toledo Bend.

“I think we can go do the exact same thing (tomorrow) we did today,” he said.

Pierce agreed, and said he’s not feeling pressure with a tournament title within reach.

“We’re from the same hometown and we’ve been fishing together our whole lives,” he said. “(Tomorrow) is just another day.”

Joining Huff and Pierce in the Top 12 are, second, Brett Clark and Cody Ross, East Texas Baptist University, 35-11; third, Charles Norris and Braxton Resweber, Louisiana-Lafayette, 34-6; fourth, Tanner Ward and Rory Franks, Kent (Ohio) State, 33-2; fifth, Ty Cox and Fisher Overton, Blue Mountain (Miss.) College, 33-1; sixth, Austin Carr and Justin Carr, Illinois State, 31-4; seventh, Thad Simerly and Ethan Shaw, Bryan College (Tenn.), 30-15; eighth, Grant Lesage and Zach Davis, Southeastern Louisiana, 30-13; ninth, Jacob Pfundt and Emil Wagner, Ole Miss, 30-13; 10th, Brett Fregia and Jack Tindell, Lamar State College-Orange (Tex.), 30-8; 11th, Austin smith and Maddux Walters, Carson-Newman University (Tenn.), 30-1; and 12th, Griffin Philips and Ethan King, University of Montevallo (Ala.), 29-9.

In all, schools from 26 different states were represented this week in the first Bassmaster College Series tournament of the year. Additional college series tournaments are scheduled for Feb. 27-29 on Smith Lake in Alabama, March 26-28 on Lake Hartwell in South Carolina and May 6-8 in Lake Cumberland in Kentucky. The series championship will follow, with the date and location of that derby yet to be disclosed.

Stevie Mills and Baylor Howell of Bethel kept the lead for the Carhartt Big Bass Award with the 7-8 largemouth they caught on Thursday. Huff and Pierce lead for the Bass Pro Shops/Nitro Boats Big Bag Award with their limit on Friday.

The Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School Series at Toledo Bend presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors will take place Sunday, as will the Junior Series event.

All three events are presented by the Louisiana Office of Tourism, Toledo Bend Lake Country, the Sabine River Authority, Desoto Parish Tourist Commission and the Vernon Parish Tourist Commission.

Saturday’s action begins with a 7 a.m. take-off. Weigh-in will begin at 3 p.m.