College: Clemson's Clayton and Dimaio take the lead

RUSSELL COUNTY, Ky. — Sean Clayton and Owen Dimaio of Clemson University caught a five-bass limit Friday that weighed 9 pounds, 15 ounces, taking the overall lead with a two-day total of 22-7 at the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series at Lake Cumberland presented by Bass Pro Shops.

They hold a mere 3-ounce advantage over Day 1 leaders Nolan Minor and Casey Lanier, despite a lower weight than their Day 1 total of 12 pounds, 8 ounces.

“It’s awesome (to be in the Top 12),” Clayton said. “We’ve been middle of the pack pretty much all season. To come here and just try and survive this tournament and then be in contention to win is pretty awesome.”

Similar to Day 1, Clayton and Dimaio found success targeting wood on rocky banks. The pattern produced five smallmouth bass.

“We looked for the same thing, timber on rocks, and ran that pattern in the same creek (we had been in),” Dimaio said. “We tried to expand on it and caught a couple of fish. The pattern held, which is what we were really nervous about.”

The duo was able to catch a couple of breaks as well, netting several bass as they jumped and threw the bait at the boat. Clayton said he and Dimaio covered a lot of new water throughout Day 2, and he hopes some of those spots will produce a couple of quality bites Saturday.

“We ran a lot of new water today, some stuff we hadn’t seen before, and it had what we needed,” Clayton said. “I’m hoping we have enough stuff to hold up for tomorrow.”

Minor and Lanier started the day with the same pattern they used to boat 13-10 on Day 1 and generated bites. But many of those bites did not make it to the boat.

With two fish in the livewell as check-in approached, they abandoned the shallows and pulled up on the deep-water area that saved their tournament.

“We ran through the same stuff and got bites. We had some pull off here and there and didn’t have but two fish until about 10 minutes (before check-in),” Lanier said. “We pulled out on a spot, a last-shot hope. (Minor) hooked up on the biggest fish we had, about a 3-something smallmouth, and I hooked two fish quickly, and we ended up having four. I’m still a little shook we even had close to a limit.”

Despite giving up the lead, Minor and Lanier’s two-day total of 22-4 keeps them within striking distance of the lead. While he is excited to head back to the water tomorrow, Lanier said he doesn’t know if the areas he and Minor have will produce for one more day.

After starting the day in 15th place, the team of Cole Thompson and Benson Dowler jumped into the Top 3 with a five-fish limit of 11-13 on Day 2 and a two-day total of 21-5.

While they weighed in the third-largest bag of the day, the day did not start out well, Thompson said. 

“We missed our first few keepers of the morning, and I actually forgot to put the plug in the boat,” Thompson said. “Instead of running back, Benson volunteered to jump in the water in about 40 degrees this morning. After he did that, it sort of got things going in the right direction.”

Thompson and Dowler caught all of their fish in one area using a jig and a Ned rig, fishing the baits as slow as they possibly could.

“It’s been a heck of a grind out here. I’ve never fished so slow in my life, but it’s been fun,” Thompson said. “We are getting about six bites a day that are keepers, and we have been capitalizing on them.”

Griffin Phillips and Ethan King from the University of Montevallo (Ala.) finished Day 1 tied for 55th but jumped up to fifth place with a 14-6 bag on Day 2 for a total of 20-15. Their Day 2 bag is currently the Nitro Boats Big Bag of the tournament.

Jack Long and Brock Bila of Drury University took control of the Carhartt Big Bass of the tournament with a 6-0 largemouth, unseating the previous big bass of 5-4 caught by Tristan McCormick and Stevie Mills on Day 1. 

The Top 12 will take off at 7 a.m. CT Saturday from Halcomb’s Landing, and the weigh-in will be held back at the Landing at 3 p.m.