Tanner Ward and Rory Franks have plenty to smile about after starting off their 2020 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series season with five Toledo Bend bass weighing 17-lbs 10-ounces. The Kent State Golden Flashes currently sit near the top of the leaderboard in 3rd place out of a full field of 248 boats.
It would have been easy for Ward and Franks to come into this tournament with a negative mindset as they towed their well-used 17-foot Stratos with a 115-horsepower Yamaha Outboard over eighteen hours from Northeast Ohio to the behemoth fishery that is Toledo Bend Reservoir. But that’s not really their style.
They know some of their southern competitors might have a leg up on them in terms of time on the water, but instead of looking at where they live and the equipment they own as a hindrance, they see an opportunity.
Franks, a sophomore studying Early Childhood Education and Ward, a senior Engineering major are staples at Carhartt Bassmaster College Series events, and in a way they embody college bass fishing. They are great young men who work hard on the water whether or not they feel like they are on a winning pattern, they’re usually sporting big grins, and they simply have FUN.
“We love to fish and to compete, but the best thing about these tournaments is just hanging out with our buddies,” Ward said. “We’ve made friends from all over the country, so these College B.A.S.S. events are like a big reunion to us.”
Ward is looking to go four-for-four and qualify for the 2020 Carhartt College Series National Championship this week, while Franks looks to make it to the Natty for his second straight year.
“This week we rented a big VRBO house with like 15 of us,” Franks added with a laugh. “There are teams from West Virginia University, Liberty University, and Kent State all piled in there. It’s pretty much a fishing frat house – it’s awesome!”
Franks had never been to Toledo Bend before this week and Ward finished 72nd here two years ago, but the duo made the long drive down to the Texas-Louisiana border with confidence. Though they hadn’t been on the water since November of 2019, the Kent State anglers came into the event with a game plan.
“We knew we wanted to build upon what Tanner learned back in 2018,” Franks explained. “We are fishing a lot of the same areas, but we aren’t over thinking it. Honestly, we’re fishing the same way we would in the summertime back home (in Ohio).”
After putting their hands on some big bass during practice, including saving the life of a 7+ lb. bass that was choking on a crappie (both fish swam away fine), Ward and Franks knew they were onto something.
“We are primarily fishing offshore, so my Humminbird Helix 10s and Minn Kota Ultrex have been really helpful,” Ward said. “Slow is an understatement for how we are fishing, so being able to use Spot-lock has been key. Hopefully we can stay on them tomorrow.”
Whether or not day two yields similar results for these two road warriors, you can bet they’ll still be enjoying their time out on the 185,000-acre reservoir. Making the most of the cards they’re dealt and having fun along the way. Which, at the end of the day, is what college fishing is all about.