Chico State takes College lead

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Craig Lamb

LAKEPORT, Calif. — Carson Leber and Tyler Bounds continued a hot streak on Clear Lake today, moving from fifth place into the lead at the Carhartt College Western Tour presented by Bass Pro Shops.

The team from Chico State University added 22 pounds, 1 ounce to a Wednesday catch of 17-1 for a total weight of 39-2. The Californians hold a slim lead over second place anglers Caleb Gibson and Tyler Winn of Northeastern State University, who led after Wednesday’s opening day. Today, the Oklahomans caught 16-4 for a two-day total of 38-3. Nick Klein and Mike Klemm, also of Chico State, rank third with 36-10. Joey Price and Bobby Fralix of Clemson University are fourth with 35-14. Levi Wittrock and Gunnar Stanton of Northern Arizona University are fifth with 35-8.

Sunny skies gave way to cloudy conditions for much of the competition day on Thursday. The cloud cover improved the fishing as the bass roamed between shallow spawning areas and deeper water in search of food.

“We definitely have it dialed in if the bass react how they should on Friday,” said Bounds, 20, a business management major.

How they should react, according to the game plan, is move farther away from the shoreline. With the largemouth population in all spawning phases the team is choosing the more reliable option of targeting postspawn fish. Under ideal conditions, that requires intercepting bass moving in the same direction — out into deeper water, where they are vulnerable to moving lures.

With even more cloudy conditions and rain in the forecast, that could make the game plan even better.

“If the reaction bite holds up, then we should be in good shape again,” added Leber, 21, a concrete industry management major.

Wittrock and Stanton were among four teams catching limits weighing at least 20 pounds. The 22-5 caught by the pair was vital, because it moved them from 12th place into fifth.

“We caught about 14 pounds each day during practice, so we weren’t expecting to catch over 20 pounds,” said Wittrock.

After the team boated a 5-pound largemouth and lost another, Stanton suggested a change would make the day even better, and it did.

“It was really neat to see a gut feeling pay off,” explained Wittrock. “During the afternoon we upgraded four times.”

Like the leaders, the Northern Arizona team is targeting postspawn bass.

“Our bass are chasing shad, so it’s most definitely a reaction bite,” said Stanton.

Collegiate teams representing 24 colleges with anglers from 13 states are competing on Clear Lake, the largest natural lake in California.

The big day for the event is Friday when the overall team winner is declared and the bonus awards are handed out. The Nitro Big Bag of the tournament goes to the team weighing the heaviest single-day catch. The team earns a Bass Pro Shops gift card valued at $250. The limit weighing 24-9 caught today by Klein and Klemm rank as the heaviest catch.

The Carhartt Big Bass Award worth a $500 gift card goes to the angler catching the biggest bass of the tournament. Frontrunners for the award are teammates Chad Sweitzer and Matthew Featherston of Chico State, who weighed an 8-3 largemouth.

This is the fourth and final collegiate regional tournament of the season. Toledo Bend Reservoir, Louisiana; Cherokee Lake, Tennessee; and Pickwick Lake in Alabama were the previous tournament sites. Those events advanced top finishers to the 2018 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship presented by Bass Pro Shops. The tournament is July 19-21, on Lake Tenkiller near Tahlequah, Okla. Top teams from the Western Tour also advance to the championship.

Teams depart Konocti Vista Resort Marina at 6 a.m. (PDT) and return to the same location for the weigh-in at 2 p.m.