CORNELIUS, N.C. — Logic dictates that two sticks are better than one when you’re competing in a team tournament.
But Isaac Duncan of Blue Mountain (Miss.) College is proving logic wrong so far this week as a solo competitor in the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series tournament presented by Bass Pro Shops.
Duncan, a 20-year old sophomore, was in fourth place Saturday when the final day of action on Lake Norman began. And his two-day total of 24 pounds, 9 ounces has been consistent (he caught a limit of five bass weighing 11-13 on Thursday and followed with a 12-12 bag on Friday.)
The Summit, Miss. native competed for Bethel University as a freshman, but transferred to Blue Mountain for his sophomore year. His addition to the college squad gave the Toppers nine anglers on the roster, meaning one of them would have to fish alone in two-person competitions.
That role fell to Duncan, but he’s made the most of what could have been a tough situation. He finished 22nd in an FLW college event on Lake Seminole two weeks ago and made the cut to 12 this week on Lake Norman.
He trailed tournament leaders Jacob Moore and Gilliam Tharpe of North Carolina State by exactly 2 ½ pounds after Friday’s weigh-in.
“You talk to yourself a lot,” he joked about fishing alone. “But seriously, I’m executing good. You don’t rely on anything, just your own gut feeling.”
Duncan said though Lake Norman is well north of the southern Mississippi and Louisiana lakes he knows well, he noticed similarities on the first day of practice. For one, he’s found muddy water which is a trademark of waterways at the tail end of the Mississippi River. He’s also targeting docks, which remind him of structure he grew up fishing near Summit (a small town 75 miles west of Hattiesburg, Miss.)
Still, it took Duncan some time to get find his comfort zone on Lake Norman.
“I went about five hours on the first day of practice here without a bite,” he said. “I got down on myself. So I went looking for some muddy water and picked up a clean-water jig. It’s green pumpkin with green flake. It’s my confidence jig and I just went to flipping it.
“When I did, it was like magic. All of a sudden I was getting bites, shaking fish off. It gave me confidence. I’m doing what I grew up doing and I’m feeling really good about it.”
Duncan said he studied maps on Google Earth to target his prime spots.
“The bends in the lake or something like a bridge give the water a chance to be stained,” he said. “I’m focusing on largemouths and of the 10 fish I’ve weighed, only three have been (spotted bass.) And all those have come out of what I’d call largemouth holes.”
Despite his success on Lake Norman, Duncan said there have been times the past two days when he wished he had a partner on board.
“I’ve been flipping that jig and I’ve thought about how nice it would be to have someone throw something else behind me,” he said. “I had four fish at 8:30 (a.m. on Friday) and didn’t haven another bite until 12 o’clock. It ran through my mind that it would be great to have one more guy on the boat to…catch that fifth fish.”
Duncan finally got his limit though and he’s well within striking distance of a win on 32,000-acre Lake Norman.
“I haven’t fished a lot by myself previously, but thankfully my coach (Shane Cox) has enough confidence in me to go out there alone and get the job done,” he said.
Saturday’s weather is supposed to be tough on the 23 remaining anglers (11 tandems and Duncan.) Consistent rain is predicted throughout North Carolina and temperatures that began in the high 40s are supposed to drop throughout the day.
The field was cut to 12 boats after Friday’s weigh-in. In all, 256 teams from throughout the U.S. started the event.
Moore and Tharpe lead the tournament with a two-day total of 27-1. Trailing them are, second place, Taylor Hamburger and Tristen Turley, Oklahoma State, 24-11; third, Benjamin Hager and Noah Shaver, North Carolina-Charlotte, 24-10; fourth, Duncan; fifth, Cole Breeden and Cameron Smith, Drury University, 24-0; and sixth, Jacob Louis and Nathan Doty, McKendree University, 24-0.
Also, seventh place, Chandlar Ellis and Gil Senn, Lander University, 23-9; eighth, Garrett Warren and Eric Lampkin, Snead State Community College, 23-7; ninth, Louis Monetti and Andrew Weaver, UNC-Charlotte, 22-12; 10th, William Nichols and Jamon Phillips, Jacksonville State University, 21-13; 11th, Justin Barnes and Adam Carroll, University of Montevallo, 21-10; and 12th, Miller Spivey and Trey Dickert, University of Montevallo, 21-10.
The Bassmaster College Series tournament presented by Bass Pro Shops is sponsored by Visit Lake Norman, Mecklenburg County and the City of Charlotte.
The final weigh-in, which can be seen live on Bassmaster.com, is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. Saturday.