CORNELIUS, N.C. — With more than 250 boats to send through takeoff one at a time, it can take a long while for those drawing a high boat number in this week’s Carhartt Bassmaster College Series tournament presented by Bass Pro Shops to get a lure in the water.
That happened to Jacob Moore and Gilliam Tharpe of North Carolina State in the first round on Lake Norman, but they were able to take full advantage of an early morning bite today, when the boat order was reversed, and they were among the first to head out.
Moore and Tharpe, who were in 17th place after weighing four bass on Thursday, vaulted to the top of the leaderboard Friday with a limit of five bass that weighed 15 pounds, 10 ounces. The Wolfpack anglers have a two-day total of 27-1 which is nearly 2 1/2 pounds more than Oklahoma State’s Taylor Hamburger and Tristen Turley, who have 24-11.
The top 12 teams will compete Saturday in the final round of the tournament — the first of four regular-season Bassmaster College Series events scheduled this year. The dozen remaining teams will win a share of $8,500 in cash for their respective bass fishing teams, with the winning twosome earning a $2,500 prize for their school.
The heaviest largemouth bass for most teams came during the first few hours of fishing Thursday, and the trend continued today. But unlike the first day, when the rain eventually slacked and the sun shined for the first time in a week, the showers started overnight and didn’t relent through weigh-in today at Blythe Landing. Temperatures stayed in the high 40s all day, too, which made conditions especially rough on the anglers.
Saturday’s weather is expected to be just as wet, with temperatures hovering in the low to mid-40s all day.
Moore and Tharpe haven’t let the dismal conditions rattle them, though. They had a limit weighing about 13 pounds by 11 a.m. Friday, and they made slight upgrades twice in the afternoon to add heft to their haul.
“I think a lot of people are trying to catch these bigger (largemouth bass) by cranking,” Tharpe said. “That was our bread-and-butter technique yesterday. But today, the fish were just not eating a crankbait. Whether it’s because of the fishing pressure, the weather changing, whatever… we had to adjust throughout the day. We’re doing a little bit of everything.”
Moore caught the biggest bass of the tournament on Thursday. The 6-13 largemouth anchored his team’s Day 1 catch of four bass that totaled 11-7. Though that’s easily the biggest bass of the tournament so far, having a catch of that caliber builds confidence.
“You can’t really target something like that,” Moore said. “But we’re in an area with a bunch of largemouth. We’ll catch whatever bites and hope we get one that big again.”
Tharpe said once he and Moore had 15-plus pounds onboard Friday, they vacated their best spot and scouted a few other areas for potential keepers. They won’t have to be as conservative on Saturday.
“That’s the difference,” Tharpe said. “There’s no reason to conserve anything tomorrow. We can just fish our spot until it’s empty if we need to.”
Hamburger and Turley caught a 15-14 limit on Friday; the biggest bag of the day. They caught two spotted bass in the 3- to 4-pound range early, and targeted largemouth later in the afternoon, with the heaviest weighing approximately 5 pounds.
Hamburger said he and his teammate had found a good area for largemouth bass, and they have tried to conserve it by minimizing their time there. “I didn’t want to lean on it too hard,” Hamburger said. “Once we got the good bag today, we backed off a little bit. We hope to find a limit early tomorrow and then go for largemouth again.”
Also fishing in the finals Saturday are Benjamin Hager and Noah Shaver, University of North Carolina-Charlotte, third with 24-10; Isaac Duncan (fishing solo), Blue Mountain College, fourth with 24-9; and Cole Breeden and Cameron Smith, Drury University, fifth with 24-0; Jacob Louis and Nathan Doty, McKendree University, sixth with 24-0; Chandlar Ellis and Gil Senn, Lander University, seventh with 23-9; Garrett Warren and Eric Lampkin, Snead State Community College, eighth with 23-7; Louis Monetti and Andrew Weaver, UNC-Charlotte, ninth with 22-12; William Nichols and Jamon Phillips, Jacksonville State University, 10th with 21-13; Justin Barnes and Adam Carroll, University of Montevallo, 11th with 21-10; and Miller Spivey and Trey Dickert, University of Montevallo, 12th with 21-7.
Moore and Tharpe remain in the lead for the Carhartt Big Bass Award and the $500 Carhartt gift certificate that goes to the tandem with the heaviest bass of the tournament. Ellis and Senn, the Day 1 leaders with a 16-10 limit, remain in the lead for the Bass Pro Shops Big Bag Award and the $250 Bass Pro Shops certificate that accompanies it.
In all, 256 college tandems from around the U.S. started the three-day tournament on Lake Norman. The top 10 percent of those duos (26 teams in all) automatically advance to the college national championship tournament to be held at a yet to be disclosed fishery later this year.
The Bassmaster College Series tournament presented by Bass Pro Shops is sponsored by Visit Lake Norman, Mecklenburg County and the City of Charlotte.
The Day 3 launch will begin at 7 a.m. ET at Blythe Landing. Weigh-in will start at 3 p.m. The weigh-in can be seen on Bassmaster.com.