ANDERSON, S.C. — For the first time this season on the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, there will not be a wire-to-wire winner.
After weighing in 9 pounds, 11 ounces on Day 1 of the third tour stop at Lake Hartwell, Bethel University’s Brad Ableman and Wilson Smith jumped from sixth to first on Day 2 with a 9-5 three-fish limit for a two-day total of 19-0.
Meanwhile, Day 1 leaders Jeremy Dellinger and Nathan Smith from Catawba Valley Community College in North Carolina dropped to second with a limit of 6-14 and a two-day total of 18-7.
“It feels pretty good. I didn’t expect it,” Ableman said. “We caught what we caught and we thought it would get us into the final day and qualify us for the National Championship. We are probably going to have to catch the same (weight) if not more tomorrow.
“We are excited to just get back out there and see what we can end up with.”
It is the first time Ableman and Wilson Smith have secured a Top 12 finish as a team. Ableman said they went into this tournament searching for largemouth and have been able to capitalize on that bite for two days, specifically in one area where they have spent the majority of their time.
“We have stayed in our main area until about noon and then went and fished some new stuff,” he said. “We haven’t really found anything new. We have one area that we have been catching some fish in and we are hoping it can hold up.”
The Bethel duo has stayed in shallow water most of the tournament, using a Strike King Rage Bug and a Strike King KVD Sexy Frog to generate a few quality bites.
According to Ableman, the fish they have caught have been on a few key spots, and he believes if the water levels continue to slowly drop, more fish will funnel out of the backwaters close by and replenish those targets. However, if the water drops too much, he fears the fish will move out of the creek completely.
“We don’t really have a backup plan,” Ableman said. “It’s either we catch the fish and we are in position, or we aren’t.”
Meanwhile, the quality of fish decreased for Dellinger and Nathan Smith on Day 2, but the CVCC team remains in contention just 9 ounces behind Ableman and Wilson Smith. Dellinger and Nathan Smith returned to the same pocket they had success in yesterday but did not find the same success.
“There was a bunch of bait in there, and there was some schooling activity yesterday. Today our fish came up schooling and pushed all of the bait out of the pocket,” Dellinger said. “For that particular pocket, I think most of the quality is gone.”
Toward the end of the day, the CVCC team found another pocket with schooling fish, a potential tournament saver if the bass are fired up on Championship Saturday.
“If we can put three bites on those fish in the boat, it’s going to make it interesting tomorrow,” Dellinger said.
All six of the fish Dellinger and Nathan Smith have brought to the scales were caught on the same bait, and Dellinger said he doesn’t intend to change on the final day.
Jake Lee and Mason Cizek from Bryan College in Tennessee rounded out the Top 3 with a two-day total of 18-4, while Jacksonville State University anglers Zeke Gossett and Lucas Smith, who started the day in 30th with a Day 1 total of 6-3, rocketed to fifth place with an 11-7 limit, the heaviest of Day 2.
The Brewton-Parker College duo of Bryce Henley and Reese Kingston claimed the Carhartt Big Bass of the day with a 5-12 largemouth, just 2 ounces shy of the overall big bass of the tournament weighed in by Clemson University’s GL Compton and Matthew Sprouse on Day 1.
The Top 12 teams will take off Saturday from Green Pond Landing at 6:45 a.m. ET and return for the weigh-in at 2:45 p.m. The 12 teams have also already earned a spot in the 2020 Carhartt Bassmaster College National Championship presented by Bass Pro Shops on the Harris Chain of Lakes starting Oct. 29.
The event is being hosted by Visit Anderson.