College: Carson-Newman University duo take the Day 1 lead on Hartwell

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Dalton Tumblin

ANDERSON, S.C. — Thanks to a morning flurry, the Carson-Newman University duo of Aidan England and Braden Perry caught five bass that weighed 18 pounds, 11 ounces to lead Day 1 of the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series at Lake Hartwell presented by Bass Pro Shops.

England and Perry hold an 11-ounce lead over the second-place team of Nate Lesch and Will Schibig from Tennessee Tech. The Carson-Newman team of Ben Cully and Hayden Gaddis placed third with 17-13. 

Throughout their college careers, England and Perry have learned where spotted bass like to group up during the early prespawn. They have ridden that information to successful finishes across multiple venues, including a second-place showing at Smith Lake in Alabama during the 2020 season. 

“This is our junior year. We found over the last three years at every spotted bass lake we’ve been to, all these spots like to load up on one area this time of the year,” Perry said. “They are all feeding up and getting ready to go drop their eggs off. They like to load into one area and we milked one area for what it is worth and we are going to do the same tomorrow.” 

Coming off their worst day of practice and drawing a later flight, England expected the bite to be tough. But when they arrived at their spot, it only took Perry and England about 20 minutes to land a limit. 

While they caught predominantly spotted bass, two largemouth also made the trip with them back to the weigh-in at Green Pond Landing.

“We really didn’t know what we were sitting on and hopefully there are still some sitting down there tomorrow,” England said. 

After highs in the upper 60s on Day 1, a cooldown is expected for Saturday’s final round. England said he isn’t sure what that will do to their bite.

“With conditions changing, you never know what is going to happen, and I think the high tomorrow will be in the upper 50s,” Perry said. “It's not going to get nearly as hot as it did today. I think we are just going to go back to the same area and try to fill our limit and see how it goes from there.

“If we don’t have some big bites in the first few hours, we may run and scramble. We know there are some big ones there.”

Lesch actually fished by himself on Day 1 while Schibig interviewed for a job. Lesch managed five largemouth that lifted him into second place in his first Bassmaster College Series event.

“I still can’t really process (being at the top of the leaderboard),” Lesch said. “Over the summer I bought my own boat and it’s all coming together in a way I could have never hoped for.”

Building on what he found in practice, Lesch focused on shallow areas with moving baits. 

“I had no idea what to expect. We found a lot of really good spots, but we didn’t know what the creeks were going to look like. The first creek I went to there were three people,” he said. “There is a ton of pressure right now. I went really far up the lake and found a really good pattern.”

After a consistent practice, Cully and Gaddis made about a 15-minute run up the Tugaloo River to start the morning and filled their limit quickly. A 4-8 largemouth anchored their bag and kicked off an important morning flurry. 

“We got on one little stretch of bank and we caught three big ones back to back to back,” Gaddis said. “It was a grind after that. We pulled into another area and I lost a key fish that would have put us well over what we had today.” 

Mechanical issues shortened their day, but Gaddis said he expects the fishing will continue to heat up.

“I thought people were going to catch them this week and I still believe they are,” he said. “Things are fixing to get right.” 

The team of Brady Harp and Jordan McCaleb currently hold the lead for Carhartt Big Bass of the tournament with a 6-7 largemouth.

The full field will compete Saturday for a chance to not only win the tournament, but also earn a spot in the 2021 College Series National Championship. Teams will launch from Green Pond Landing at 6:45 a.m. ET Saturday, with weigh-in set for 2:45 p.m. 

The tournament is being hosted by Visit Anderson.