Jacksonville State take 2020 College Classic

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Zeke Gossett - Lucas Smith with Jacksonville State claimed the win with 17-4.
Gary Tramontina
Zeke Gossett - Lucas Smith with Jacksonville State claimed the win with 17-4.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Despite a slow start, Zeke Gossett and Lucas Smith capitalized on a morning flurry that yielded a five-bass limit of 17 pounds, 4 ounces, which led the Jacksonville State University bass fishing team to victory in the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops on Lay Lake.

Editor's note: See weigh-in and takeoff photos.

Gossett, a senior majoring in parks and recreation, and Smith, a freshman business management major, fished the lake’s south end and targeted main-current seams. Their first half hour was frustratingly fruitless, but then the bite ignited and the winners boxed their weight by 9:30 a.m.

“At one place where we actually caught three of our keepers, we ended up catching four more in a row and we had to stop fishing to cull,” Gossett said. “That kind of hurt us because the school was fired up, but we couldn’t figure out which one to cull.

“We hit a flurry — I caught two in a row, then he caught two in a row. It was crazy. Our biggest one today was a 3-13. Our smallest was barely 3 pounds.”

Gossett and Smith alternated between 1/2-ounce Z-Man Jack Hammer ChatterBaits with Reaction Innovations Little Dipper trailers and those same Skinny Dippers rigged on 1/2-ounce swimbait heads.

“Some places were better for the ChatterBait and some places were better for the swimbait,” Gossett said. “Anywhere the ChatterBait would get hung up a lot, we’d throw the swimbait.”

Smith said being at the right place at the right time was key. Strategic site selection was also an important element of their game plan.

“There were two feeding windows; one at 7 and one about 9:30,” he said. “After 9:30, we didn’t cull anymore.

“The current definitely played a role, for sure. We targeted spotted bass because the current was so strong and we knew we could catch them in the current breaks.”

Gossett said today’s victory was particularly gratifying, given its redemptive backstory. During his sophomore year, his team fell short in what he considered an ideal scenario.

“We had a tournament back in 2016 on Lay Lake in June, which is my favorite time of year, and we absolutely bombed,” Gossett said. “I put in a lot of hard work practicing for this tournament and it paid off.”