College: Bethel brings it Day 1

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Andrew Canulette

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. — While most other college bass fishing teams were pulling 2 1/2-pound bass out of Cherokee Lake today, Cully Scroggins and Nathon Portch were catching 3 1/2-pounders.

Scroggins and Portch, members of the Bethel University Bass Team, seized the first-round lead in the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Eastern Tour presented by Bass Pro Shops with a five-bass limit that weighed 17 pounds, 7 ounces.

That was nearly 2 pounds better than the second-place team of Zeke Gossett and Hayden Bartee of Jefferson State (Ala.) Community College, who had a limit that weighed 15-9. Lee Mattox and Anderson Aldag of the University of Alabama are third with 15-7, and Lucas Murphy and Nolan Hitt of Grand Valley State (Mich.) University are in fourth with 15-1.

Behind those four tandems is a knot of teams that are wedged between 14-13 on the high end (good enough for fifth place), and 10 pounds (which is good for a tie for 108th place).

With so many teams within ounces of one another, competition should be heated as anglers try to get into the Top 32 here on Cherokee Lake. That’s the number of duos that will survive the cut and move on to the final round after Friday’s competition.

In all, 146 of the 263 teams competing in the College Eastern Tour event caught limits on Thursday. Many of the anglers keyed on a trifecta of largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass and the smorgasbord helped create that logjam on the top half of the leaderboard.

Scroggins and Portch said they went “junk fishing” on Thursday. Their bite came early in the morning, long before steady rain storms moved eastward across the Volunteer State. The duo weighed three largemouth bass (the largest of which weighed 3-13); two smallmouth rounded out the bag.

“We didn’t really have a plan,” Scroggins said. “We just went out there and fished. We’ll do the same thing tomorrow.”

Tyler Craig and Spencer Lambert of the University of Louisiana at Monroe continued their torrid season on the college tour with a 14-13 limit today. The duo leads the Team of the Year point standings, and their opening catch has them in good position to remain there when this event is complete.

The Eastern Tour stop on Cherokee Lake is the third of four regular-season events for college anglers this year.

Lambert said he and Craig will continue the methods they employed on Thursday, despite the fact that rainy weather is expected to give way to sunny skies and temperatures hovering around 90 degrees on Friday.

“I don’t think anything will change,” Lambert said. “We just have to go back out and catch them again.”

Lambert and Craig weighed a 3-14 bass which gave them the lead for the Carhartt Big Bass Award. The $500 Carhartt gift card will be presented to the duo that catches the biggest bass over the course of the three-day tournament.

The full field of 263 boats will compete again on Friday. After the cut, 32 teams will fish Saturday with the winning duo taking home $2,500 for their school’s fishing team.

Friday’s launch will begin at 6:30 a.m. ET at the TVA Dam Ramps in Jefferson City. Friday’s weigh-in will be held in the same location beginning at 2:30 p.m.