LEESBURG, Fla. — The Bryan College team of Cole Sands and Conner Dimauro opened the Carhartt Bassmaster College National Championship presented by Bass Pro Shops at the Harris Chain of Lakes with a 28-pound, 7-ounce bag to lead the field of 119 boats.
“We had a really blessed day,” Sands said. “It is Day 1 and you can’t win it on the first day, but we didn’t lose it. We had a really good bag and we will be in contention. We have to look forward to tomorrow and catch them then.
“Last year, we came in second in the National Championship and that stung. We are going to do everything in our power not to do that again.”
Their five-fish limit was anchored by a 7-5 largemouth, and the duo did not weigh in a fish that weighed less than 4 pounds.
“In practice, we did a whole lot of scanning. The last day we made like 10 or 15 casts total,” Dimauro said. “So, we really didn’t know what we were on, but we knew we found a bunch of fish.”
The duo started on their best spot in Lake Dora and caught all of their weight by 11:30 a.m. At that point, they left the area to practice other sections of the tournament waters.
Sands added that they had even bigger fish on the hook throughout the day that never made it into the livewell.
“Believe it or not, we lost some really big fish and that cost us from having over 30 (pounds),” he said.
Dimauro is from Florida and has plenty of history on the Harris Chain, and that has helped the duo find some high-percentage areas.
For this time of the year, Dimauro said he was surprised by how big of a bag they were able to catch.
“This place turns out bags like that day in and day out,” Dimauro said. “This place is a little tough right now. I feel like we did really well for today with the conditions. We saved a lot of fish hopefully.
“Being from here helps a lot because we were able to narrow our practice down quickly.”
Sands and Dimauro said execution will be their main adjustment heading into Friday.
“I would have hated to see what would have happened if we connected on everything today,” Dimauro said. “It would have been really nasty.”
The team of Tyler Lubbat and Calvin Landsberg brought a limit of 25-1 to the scales, lifting them to second place after Day 1. Lubbat and Landsberg had a productive practice, catching a 7-pounder and a couple of 4-pounders out of a specific area.
On tournament day, the big bites showed up again, this time with a 7-3 largemouth and another fish close to 7 pounds that anchored their bag.
“We went in there this morning and had our weight by 9:30,” Lubbat said. “We sat there the rest of the day, Taloned down, and tried to keep as many people off of it as we could.”
One bait produced most of their bites on Day 1, Lubbat said, adding that he hasn’t seen any of the other competitors throwing the bait.
While a lot of the other teams near the top have locked into different lakes, Lubbat and Landsberg are fishing shallow on Lake Harris this week, although Lubbat has tried to find some deeper fish.
Trevor McKinney and Blake Jackson from McKendree University secured third place after Day 1 with 20-8. McKinney and Jackson had just four hours of practice after Jackson’s boat was totaled the first day of practice in an off-the-water incident.
In those four hours, however, the duo did catch a 6-pounder that sent them in the right direction on tournament day.
With a good bag in the boat, McKinney and Jackson were able to use a lot of their time on Day 1 as a sort of practice day on Lake Griffin, making up for some of the time they lost during official practice.
“We are blessed. Our goal going out today was 16 or 17 pounds and we felt like we would be up there with a chance at a big bag tomorrow to make it (to the Top 12),” Jackson said. “We had a few good bites today and we executed well. We are definitely happy with what we have.”
Noah Boyett and Ty Garlington hold the Carhartt Big Bass of the tournament with a 7-13 largemouth. More than half the field weighed a limit, while only two teams zeroed.
The full field will return to the Harris Chain Friday with takeoff at 7:30 a.m. ET from Venetian Gardens. The weigh-in will start at the same site at 3:30 p.m.
After Friday’s weigh-in, the Top 12 teams will advance to Championship Saturday.
The Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Championship presented by Bass Pro Shops is being hosted by GO Sports, Visit Lake and the City of Leesburg.