LAKEPORT, Calif. — Tanner Cooper and Memo Nunez are likely to hold a record for a while as the only team to win a Carhartt Bassmaster College Series regional — in two separate regions.
The teammates from New Mexico State University got to choose to compete on California’s Clear Lake for the Western Regional because their regional, the Central, was more than 12 hours from home — the Ouachita River in Louisiana.
“We couldn’t pass up fishing on Clear Lake,” said Cooper. Both Clear Lake and Ouachita River were a 20-hour drive and are both great fisheries, but Clear Lake has the distinction of having been selected as No. 2 on the 2014 Bassmaster 100 Best Bass Lakes in America.
But the pair did compete in the Central Regional in 2013 on Texas’ Amistad Reservoir, and they won that one.
And today, they also won the Western Regional on California’s prized bass fishery.
“The Central was different,” said Cooper. “We led on the first day there. Here, we had to make up ground.”
Cooper and Nunez started Day 2 in fourth place with a 3-pound deficit. But they more than made up for it with a 25-pound, 3-ounce sack on the final day, the biggest bag of the tournament.
A spot the team found in practice proved to be key.
“We found this area in Konocti Bay on the southern end of the lake with lots of fish and clear water,” said Cooper. The pair found it three days before the tournament began. They kept an eye on it and left the fish alone until the tournament started.
It was an area full of reeds, grass and tulles, and the fish were completely visible.
“But the algae bloomed over the last few days and the visibility turned to about 2 inches,” said Cooper. “We ended up just blindcasting because we knew the fish were there even if we couldn’t see them anymore.”
Cooper and Nunez knew their spot was good, but they didn’t start thinking they had a shot at the win until Friday at 8 a.m. when Cooper caught a 7-pound, 15-ounce monster.
“We knew we were in contention then,” said Nunez.
Before that catch, they were just trying to make it into the Top 10 so they could qualify for the 2014 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship, July 31-Aug. 2 on Georgia’s Chatuge Reservoir.
Their lures of choice were a green pumpkin ChatterBait with a black blade using either a Skinny Dipper or a Swim Senko (green pumpkin with chartreuse tails) as a trailer; a Smallie Beaver with a Magic Craw punch skirt; and a wacky rigged Senko.
Their big catch earned the Carhartt Big Bass award worth $500. The rest of their limit earned them the Bass Pro Nitro Big Bag of the tournament award, which is worth $250. And for leading on Day 2 and ultimately winning the tournament, Cooper and Nunez also won the Livingston Lures Leader Award, worth $500 in Livingston products for each of them.
Cooper and Nunez will join nine other teams from the 2014 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Western Regional at the championship. The other schools that will represent the West will be San Jose State, Chico State, CSU Monterey Bay, Oregon State University and University of Oregon.
The Day 1 leaders, Adam McAndrews and Roberto Munoz of San Jose State, ended the tournament in second place after bringing an 18-12 sack on Day 2.
The next event for college anglers is the 2014 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Eastern Regional, June 12-13, on Tennessee’s Watts Barr Reservoir.
Stay tuned to Bassmaster.com/College to see what other teams qualify for the championship this summer, and keep up on Facebook at www.facebook.com/collegebass.