Bobcats maintain their game


Ronnie Moore

CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. — Sam Stone and Evan Coleman of Texas State University managed only 8 pounds, 5 ounces on Day 2 of the 2016 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship, but they maintained their lead on Kentucky's Green River Lake.

"It was definitely tougher today," Stone said, after the pair caught an impressive 20 pounds, 13 ounces on Day 1. "And we only caught three today."

Still, no one else in the 89-team field could catch up to them.

"The pressure ruined everything," Coleman said. "There are so many boats on this lake right now and have been for days. We're looking forward to tomorrow when there are fewer boats to worry about."

Coleman is referring to Day 3 of the championship, when only the Top 12 boats in the competition will take to the water.

The anglers' performance on the final day is extremely important. The Top 4 teams at the end of Saturday's weigh-in advance to the 2016 Carhartt Bassmaster College Classic Bracket presented by Bass Pro Shops, Aug. 4-6, on Kentucky Lake in Tennessee. The best angler in that head-to-head competition earns a berth in the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic.

Just mentioning the potential of a spot in the Classic brings a big smile to Coleman's face.

"That would be a dream," he said. "I've been wanting to fish it my whole life. That's the reason we're here is to have a shot at that."

To remain in the Top 4, the pair will have to reassess their game plan.

"We spent a lot more time moving around today," Stone said. "We've got to adjust a little bit tomorrow to have another really good day."

However, a penalty for fishing in an off-limits area will shorten their fishing time on Day 3.

"The Texas State team crossed into an area that is designated for handicap fishing and no boats are allowed," said Hank Weldon, manager of the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series. "They called me as soon as they realized their error. They did not catch any fish in the off-limits area."

Stone and Coleman will start Day 3 two hours later than the rest of the Top 12.

Right behind the Texas State team on the leaderboard is Hunter Louden who, like them, had a 20-pound-plus bag on Day 1 followed by a much smaller catch on Day 2. Louden, who fishes for Bethel University, brought in only one bass on Friday for 4 pounds, 13 ounces. He's holding down second place with 25 pounds, 3 ounces.

In third place is the Kansas State University team of Kyle Alsop and Taylor Bivins with 25 pounds even. They remain in the lead for the Carhartt Big Bass prize of $500 for their Day 1 big bass that weighed 6-13.

The biggest bass caught on Friday weighed 5 pounds, 14 ounces, and there were two of them. Mitch Swanson and Thor Swanson, brothers who fish for Bemidji State University, and Luis McMurphy and MJ Vihnanek of University of South Alabama caught the same-size big bass.

The hot, muggy weather and overcast skies made for another tough day for much of the field. Of the 89 teams who are competing, 35 of them posted zeroes, compared to 14 for Day 1. The quality of fish was the same, averaging 2 pounds per bass, but the numbers were way down from Day 1, with half as many teams posting limits as the first day.

Many competitors in the field were planning to overhaul their game plan after a poor showing on Day 1. Some were able to make major jumps up the leaderboard, while others couldn't make the progress they needed.

"On this lake, you can be the bug or the windshield," said Justin Cooper of Northwestern State University. "We were the bug." He and his partner, Johnny Ledet, finished in 38th place with 7 pounds, 11 ounces.

Those words reflected how several other competitors felt. For Maurice Hudson and Sean Cummins of Penn State, they were the 'bug' on Day 2 following a 'windshield' performance on Day 1. The pair zeroed on Day 2, but their Day 1 catch of 16-8 held their position in the Top 12, and they will advance to the final day of fishing on Saturday.

On the other hand, a couple of teams had big bags on Day 2 that moved them much farther up in the standings.

Austin Handley and Caleb Wozniak of Auburn University moved into fourth place from 17th on Day 1 with a 17-pound, 2-ounce bag on Day 2. That's the same weight brought in by Luis McMurphy and MJ Vihnanek of University of South Alabama — a team that zeroed on Day 1 but moved into ninth place going into the final day.

The college championship brings together the best college anglers in the country, as determined by their performance in any of five regionals or a single Wild Card event. More than 500 teams from 200-plus colleges competed for a chance to qualify for this tournament.

Campbellsville University is hosting the tournament on its campus in Campbellsville, Ky.

"The staff and volunteers here have been so amazing," said Weldon. "If we need it, they make it happen. Campbellsville has really showed out."

As the leaders on Day 2, Stone and Coleman of Texas State win the Livingston Lures Day 2 Leader Award worth $250. They are also in the lead for the Bass Pro Shops Nitro Big Bag for $250, for their 20-13 bag on Day 1.

Schools represented in the Top 12 competing on the final day are Texas State, Bethel University, Kansas State, Auburn, Daytona State, Nicholls State, University of South Alabama, LSU Shreveport, Penn State and University of North Georgia. Bethel has three teams vying for the top spot on Day 3.

The tournament resumes Saturday at 6:30 a.m. ET when the Top 12 take off from Green River Marina, located at 289 Lone Valley Road, in Campbellsville. The weigh-in will be held at 3:30 p.m. ET on Stapp Lawn on the Campbellsville University campus. A fan expo will open at 1 p.m. and will continue through the weigh-in.

All events are free and open to the public.