Eastern Washington wins Western Regional

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — It came down to the last cast for Laj Tripp and Kyle Sittman, when a catch in the final four minutes of competition landed them victory in the 2015 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Western Regional presented by Bass Pro Shops. Their final weight was 33 pounds, 15 ounces.

“We had been working on that fish since we found it on Wednesday,” said Tripp, a freshman at Eastern Washington University, referring to one of their practice days earlier this week on Folsom Reservoir.

“She was locked on that bed,” said Sittman, who’s a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering. “We tried everything to catch her but just couldn’t get her to bite.”

That is, until the very end of the tournament, when the two were beginning to accept that they may lose the tournament, based on a 4-pounder they lost earlier in the day. They were giving the bedding bass one last try, this time with a Missile Baits Baby D Bomb in California love color. And that was the trick.

“We tried Missile Baits Drop Craws and D Bombs and swimbaits, too,” Tripp said, “but I think it was the smaller profile and the little more action it gives in the water that made her bite.”

The last-cast bass weighed 2 1/2 pounds, and it was enough for them to cull up a pound. That pound was crucial; the Eastern Washington team won by only 15 ounces.

Tripp and Sittman ran all over the lake all three days. They were looking for isolated bushes off banks and boulder rocks.

“We found those areas in pre-fish,” Tripp said, “but they weren’t bedding on them then.”

They were by the time the tournament started. The bass were bedding in flats that were 10 feet out, extending about 50 yards.

“It was a solid depth all the way out, then they dropped off,” Tripp said.

Tripp and Sittman led the first day of the tournament with a 13-pound limit, but their weight on Day 2 was down to 10-5 and they lost the top spot to Kevin Chen and Koulton Westbrook of Chico State. That turned out to be a good thing.

“It took the pressure off,” Sittman said. “We were 9 ounces back, and we knew we had the fish to make up that gap.”

Tripp and Sittman advance to the 2015 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship, July 9-11, on Wisconsin’s Lake DuBay. The rest of the Top 10 teams do as well, including two other teams from Eastern Washington, two from Chico State, and one each from San Jose State, Cal Poly, University of Oregon, Oregon State and Sacramento State.

Jarid Gabbert and Taylor Throop, also of Eastern Washington University, won two big prizes based on their Day 2 catch. Their bag on Friday was the biggest of the tournament at 13-15 and it included the biggest bass of the tournament, a 6-15 bass. The pair won the Nitro Big Bag prize of $250 and Carhartt Big Bass for $500 in Carhartt gear.

Kevin Chen and Koulton Westbrook of Chico State won the Livingston Lures Day 2 Leader Award of $250 in Livingston gear for leading the tournament on Friday.

Many of the competitors thanked their parents for helping them get to where they are. Among them were the winners, Tripp and Sittman.

“We wouldn’t be able to do this without our parents’ support,” Tripp said, “and my dad is such a good role model as a fisherman. I’ve got good people around me, pushing me to do well.”

“We could never do this without our families’ support,” echoed Sittman.

Their parents couldn’t be at the weigh-in because of the distance separating them, but they were all watching online back home.

The next Carhartt Bassmaster College Series events are the Midwest Regional, May 28-30, on the Missisissippi River in La Crosse, Wis., and the Wild Card, June 3-5, on Lake Barkley in Paris, Tenn.

Keep up with the College B.A.S.S. program at Bassmaster.com/College and at www.facebook.com/collegebass.