DAYTON, Tenn. — Bryan College anglers Cole Sands and Conner Dimauro dipped into their vast knowledge of Lake Chickamauga once again on Friday and maintained their lead in the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship presented by Bass Pro.
Sands and Dimauro caught a limit of five bass on Friday that weighed 19 pounds, 11 ounces. Added to Thursday’s weight of 24-9, they have a two-day total of 44-4. That gives them a narrow, 12-ounce lead over Bethel University’s Carter McNeil and Cole Floyd who have 43-8 heading into the final day of fishing on Saturday.
Bryan College is located only a few blocks from Lake Chickamauga and Dayton Municipal Park where take-offs and weigh-ins are being held this week. The Bryan team practices and competes on the lake year-round, which provides its anglers an edge no others in the championship field enjoy.
Still, no team (including the four other Bryan College tandems entered in the tournament) have produced quite like Sands and Dimauro so far. The leaders didn’t catch a 7-15 lunker like Sands did on Thursday, but Friday’s catch was consistent — a quintet of 4-pounders that puts the duo in prime position to clinch a national title on home water.
“We’ve got hundreds, if not close to a thousand waypoints on this lake,” Dimauro said. “We had a decent practice, but we’ve been able to narrow things down and target some key areas. We have to keep our heads down and not get psyched out. We’re not spending too much time running. We’re just fishing a lot, which I think is the right thing to do.”
Sands and Dimauro have utilized a variety of techniques and lures to boat their best bass. They didn’t divulge their methods, but they noted that clear skies over the Volunteer State have aided their cause.
“We were with a camera guy today and we told him ‘Get ready, we’re about to catch a big one,’” Sands said. “When that sun got out, it was right (for us.) We’re praying for one more day with conditions just like this.”
McNeil and Floyd stayed in second place with a 21-2 limit on Friday to go with the 22-6 they weighed a day earlier. Despite the similar weights, the Bethel duo said they found conditions to be vastly different on Friday.
“We started out a lot slower than we did the first day,” Floyd said. “We ended up getting one of the right bites we needed with a 6-pounder early. We caught another good one, but then we were stuck on two for a long, long time. It was a grind…We wound up having four of the right ones and a little one.”
McNeil said one more big bite on Friday could have been enough for the tournament lead. They believe they found an area late in the day that could produce quality bites, and they’ll target that spot to begin the final round on Saturday.
“There definitely are big fish (at Chickamauga,)” McNeil said. “Right now, it’s just getting the number of quality bites (to catch them.)”
Dalton Combs and Jack Rankin of Missouri’s Drury University weighed the heaviest bag on Friday (22-11) and are in third place overall with a two-day total of 38-0. Their Day 2 limit was buoyed by an 8-9 kicker bass that Combs said he caught on his last cast of the day.
“I caught a 9-6 in practice and I thought this fish today was bigger,” Combs said. “It was close. I caught it doing the same thing on the same bait.”
They’ll target more big bites and hope to close the gap on the top two teams.
“This is Chickamauga,” Rankin said. “Anything’s possible.”
Just ask Michigan State angler Riley Welch, who didn’t weigh a fish on Thursday, but rebounded on Friday with the Big Bass of the Tournament to date — a 9-14 lunker that was a personal best.
“I caught a bunch of 14-inch fish yesterday,” Welch said. “That was disappointing. Today, I was just chucking a big swim bait and I got that one to bite. It’s a nice way to end my tournament. I’ll drive home with a smile on my face.”
The field of 116 teams was cut to 12 after Friday’s weigh-in. The top four of those dozen teams (eight anglers in all) will advance to the Bassmaster College Classic Bracket event to be held August 27-29 at Watts Bar Lake, also in Tennessee. They will compete individually in a head-to-head format there with a berth in the 2020 Bassmaster Classic at Alabama’s Lake Guntersville going to the winning angler.
The Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship presented by Bass Pro resumes Saturday with take-off from the Dayton Boat Dock at 6:40 a.m. ET. The final championship weigh-in is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. at Point Park.
Bryan College, the City of Dayton and Fish Dayton are hosting the event.