OSAGE BEACH, Mo. — Jacob Louis and JT Russell of McKendree University jumped from third place to take the title of Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Midwest Conference Regional presented by Bass Pro Shops on Lake of the Ozarks with a three-day total of 61 pounds.
“We found an area on the final day of practice and we caught a 4-pounder,” Louis and Russell said. “We left right after we caught it and when we looked at our graph idling away, it was loaded with bait.”
The Bearcat duo decided to start the tournament there and it paid big dividends as they caught 22-10 on Wednesday to take the tournament lead. They did most of their damage with jerkbaits and swimbaits in the shad-filled pocket. Fish were schooling at the surface and it helped them follow the pods of bait as they roamed around the pocket.
That night, the weather took a turn for the worse as a massive rain and hailstorm cooled off the water temperatures and stained parts of the lake.
Their Thursday weight suffered as a result, and they dropped to 3rd after catching 15-11. They made the trip to their magic area on the final day, but they knew right away it would be tough to stay all day.
“As soon as we got there we didn’t see much shad and with the temperatures in the low 40’s they just weren’t grouped up like early in the week,” Louis said.
After landing four fish, which included a 4- and a 5-pounder, their spot dried up and they had to scramble. They made their way back toward Osage Beach and finished their limit with a 5-pounder and culling with a 6.
They won by 4 pounds, 10 ounces over Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Louie Dazzo and Collin Cropp, who stayed in 2nd place throughout the event. After daily weights of 19-12 and 21-3, the duo managed 15-7 on the final day for a total weight of 56-6.
Dazzo and Cropp also found success with a jerkbait and crankbait at Lake of the Ozarks. They boated plenty of keepers on the final day, but these were smaller than the bass caught by Dazzo and Cropp on Wednesday and Thursday.
“We definitely had a slower morning than prior days, but we kept adjusting spots and we started catching them,” Dazzo and Cropp said. “We saw some other teams catch some big ones in our same areas, but they seemed to be positioned deeper than we were, so I’d have to believe our quality just moved slightly deeper.”
Jacob Harris and Tyler Smith of Southeast Missouri State University jumped from 12th place to 3rd on Friday with the Bass Pro Shops Nitro Big Bag of the Tournament weighing 23-9, which was anchored by the 7-13 Carhartt Big Bass. They finished with a three-day total of 55-3.
McKendree’s Brock Wilke and Brady Faust caught 22-2 on Friday to move into 4th and Hunter Mills and Hunter McKinley of Murray State rounded out the Top 5 after catching 17-14.
The Day 2 leaders, Nic Rand and Keegan Russell of Lake Superior State, only managed one fish on the final day, but their 7-1 keeper certainly kept them in the Top 10 with a 9th place finish. For leading after Day 2, Rand and Russell claimed the Livingston Lure Leader award.
Hunter Scharphorn and Jake Dorony of Lake Superior State took the final qualifying spot for the national championship with a three-day total of 41-11.
The Top 19 teams move on to the 2017 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship, which will be held later this summer.