CULLMAN, Ala. — While most of the field struggled to find the same success they enjoyed on Day 1, Ethan Jones and Andrew Althoff from McKendree University increased their lead to more than 10 pounds on Day 2 of the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series at Smith Lake presented by Bass Pro Shops with a two-day total of 37 pounds, 15 ounces.
After taking the lead on Day 1 with a nearly 20-pound bag, Jones and Althoff sacked five largemouth bass for 18-2 Friday, the largest bag of the day by over 3 pounds.
With his mother in the crowd on her birthday, Althoff also showed off the 5-14 largemouth that he caught for the lead for Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the week.
“I don’t think there is a better birthday present I could give her than to win this event,” Althoff said.
Jones and Althoff did not change anything from their first day, using the same key areas to catch four fish in the first two hours.
“I caught one the first hour and put it in the livewell and made a few more casts before Andrew caught that big fish,” Jones said. “Andrew caught one and I caught another over 3. We were looking good. We just need one more fish and six hours to go.”
The duo once again suffered a lengthy lull that started mid-morning and lasted until an hour before weigh-in. In that time, Jones said he lost a spotted bass at the boat that would have been their fifth keeper.
After losing that fish, they moved back to their most productive area and filled out their limit with a 4-pound largemouth.
“We kind of stopped fishing after that and relaxed a little bit,” Jones said. “We figured we should save a few fish for tomorrow.”
Althoff said he believes their most productive area, a place only a short distance from takeoff, will continue to produce fish. He added if it doesn’t, they have a couple other areas ready to fish.
If Jones and Althoff hold on, it will be the second wire-to-wire victory on the 2020 College Series. Cody Huff and Dakota Pierce from Bethel University led all three days at the first Carhartt Bassmaster College Series event on Toledo Bend in January.
While first place remained the same, the rest of the field shuffled as conditions on Smith Lake continued to change. While 41 of the Top 42 teams caught a limit on Day 1, only 19 of the Top 25 teams caught a limit Day 2 and only 43 limits were caught.
The second-, third- and fourth-place teams from Day 1 failed to catch a limit on Day 2 and dropped below the cut line.
The lower weights from a few of the top teams benefited Michael Childers and Landon Nelson from Calhoun Community College, who caught a limit and secured 14-15 of spotted bass to jump from 22nd to second place with a two-day total of 27-4.
Nelson and Childers did most of their practice three weeks before the event — and when they arrived back for the tournament, the fish were exactly where they anticipated.
With 12-5 after the first day, Nelson and Childers caught most of their weight early.
“We started pretty intense this morning,” Childers said. “We had a limit by 8:45 and had some we needed to cull. We went through a pretty long dry spell. About 2 this afternoon, when it started getting to crunch time, we made a couple key culls.”
Nelson said they have found around 12 areas they are confident in and rotate between them throughout the day. Within 10 casts, they said, they know if the fish are biting and if they aren’t, they pick up and move to the next place.
“If they are there, they will bite it,” Nelson added.
Brian Linder and Nathan Thompson from Minnesota State Mankato jumped from fifth place to third on Day 2 with a 12-8 limit for a two-day total of 25-15. The duo sifted through many short fish to catch their limit.
“Practice started off really tough, but the last day of practice we found something and we have rolled with that spot all two days,” Linder said. “Yesterday we probably caught 30 fish and then today we probably caught 50 fish.”
The Top 12 teams will return to the water Saturday to crown a champion on Smith Lake. Takeoff is scheduled for 6:30 a.m. CT at Smith Lake Park and weigh-in will be held at Wallace State College in Hanceville at 3:30 p.m.
The tournament is being hosted by the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce.