Four anglers advance in College Classic Bracket

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Chris Reynolds

SPRING CITY, Tenn. – Eight anglers started Day 1 of the Bassmaster College Classic Bracket here on Watts Bar Lake, but now only four remain to battle for a berth in the 2020 Bassmaster Classic.

No. 8 seed Trey Schroeder of McKendree University scored the “upset” of the day with a victory over No. 1 seed Cole Floyd of Bethel University. Schroeder had never fished on Watts Bar prior to practicing for this tournament, but he caught a limit of five bass that weighed 8 pounds, 9 ounces that advanced him to the semifinals of this winner-take-all, head-to-head tournament.

Bethel’s Carter McNeil, the No. 2 seed in the Classic Bracket, also advanced on Tuesday, as did No. 4 Conner DiMauro of Bryan College.

No. 6 seed Cody Huff, also of Bethel, earned a spot in the semifinals as well.

The Top 4 teams in the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Championship presented by Bass Pro Shops, held Aug.1-3 on Tennessee’s Lake Chickamauga, advanced to fish at Watts Bar. Those duos were divided and each of the eight anglers are competing individually this week.

At stake is a berth in the 2020 Bassmaster Classic on Alabama’s Lake Guntersville.

The fishing was difficult Tuesday on Watts Bar, with a slack bite that is not unusual in August on fisheries throughout the U.S. Steady rains fell across the Volunteer State Tuesday as well, though skies are expected to clear and temperatures to rise Wednesday.

Results from Tuesday’s matches were as follows: 

No. 8 Trey Schroeder, McKendree, 8-9, def. No. 1 Cole Floyd, Bethel, 8-2.

Schroeder, a 19-year old sophomore from St. Louis, edged Floyd, who paired with McNeil to win the college championship on Chickamauga earlier this month.

Floyd had previous experience in the College Classic Bracket, having fished the event in 2017, but his five-bass total on Tuesday was a few ounces shy of victory.

Credit Schroeder, who said he covered plenty water to pick up keepers wherever he could find them.

“It wasn’t easy,” Schroeder said. “It wasn’t that special of a pattern, but I was getting bit and they were keepers.”

Schroeder said he had an idea of how he would fish in Round 1, and he expects to do the same in Wednesday’s semifinals.

“I hit two spots two different times today,” Schroeder said. “I might make a very minor adjustment, but I’m doing what I want to be doing. And I’m not saving anything. When it’s head to head like this, you have to catch everything you can.”

Schroeder said he only had six or seven bites on Tuesday.

“It was tough, and it could get tougher,” he said. 

No. 2 Carter McNeil, Bethel, 9-11, def. No. 7 Tyler Christy, McKendree, 5-1.

McNeil, a 23-year old senior, had a miserable start on Tuesday, but he rallied with the heaviest fish of the day (a 5-6 kicker) and advanced.

“I had a pretty decent practice yesterday, and I thought I had couple good areas to get bit,” he said. “Then at 10 o’clock, I had two fish for 3-11.”

McNeil caught his big bass with only an hour remaining in competition Tuesday.

“That fish saved my butt, for sure,” he said. “When you only have two fish with an hour left, you’ve got all kinds of things going in your head. All I could think is that (Christy) is catching and upgrading. You have to keep your confidence up, but it’s hard.”

Christy, a 19-year old sophomore, caught two bass on Tuesday.

No. 4 DiMauro, Bryan, 10-8, def. No. 5 Garrett Enders, Bethel, 6-4.

DiMauro, a 20-year old junior, put a quick limit in the livewell and was able to upgrade at least five times in his match against Enders.

“I started on a spot I found yesterday, and I caught a quick five, but they were very small,” DiMauro said. “Then I ran my little milk run and I was able to pick up a few extra pounds.”

DiMauro, who is from Longwood, Fla., said homework paid off Tuesday.

“I’m targeting some specific stuff, and I marked everything that looked anything like that on Google Earth,” he said. “I got one here, one there. With only one day of practice, I’m learning on the go. It’ll be the same Wednesday. I know for a fact I’ll do some new stuff.”

Enders, who also fished in the 2018 Bassmaster Classic Bracket event, caught four bass on Tuesday.

No. 6 Cody Huff, Bethel, 12-2, def. No. 3 Cole Sands, Bryan, 11-6.

Huff and Sands caught the biggest bags on Tuesday, but the Bethel senior edged the hometown favorite by 12 ounces to advance.

Huff, 22, competed with Enders in the 2018 College Bracket.

Sands, a recent graduate who hails from nearby Calhoun, Tenn., had more experience on Watts Bar than any other angler in this year’s tournament.

“We’re seeded, but everybody here is real good,” Huff said.

Huff overcame boat troubles that left him stranded for nearly 90 minutes on Tuesday. He caught a keeper in that time, though, and had enough other quality bites to hold off a hard charge from Sands.

“I’m going to go back out tomorrow and fish the same stuff,” Huff said. “It worked today. We’ll see where I end up.”  

Schroeder and McNeil will square off in a semifinal on Wednesday, with DiMauro and Huff meeting on the other side of the bracket.

The anglers will take off from the Spring City Boat Dock at 6:50 a.m. ET with the day’s results revealed to them at 3 p.m. Fans can get instant results throughout the day by following BASSTrakk on Bassmaster.com

Wednesday’s winners will face off Thursday for the tournament title and the Classic berth.