St. Lawrence set for big college weights

WADDINGTON, N.Y. — The St. Lawrence River is about as far north as a bass angler can fish in the contiguous 48, but the distance traveled looks like it will be well worth it to those competing in the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series at St. Lawrence River presented by Bass Pro Shops.

The three-day tournament began today here in upstate New York with 149 college tandems from 27 different states entered. Early reports indicate that some truly big bass could be pulled from the river running a border between the eastern U.S. and Canada.

“We’re going to see so many 20-pound bags, it’s going to be unbelievable,” said Hank Weldon, senior manager of college, high school and junior fishing for B.A.S.S. “Some teams have said it could take 75 pounds to win this thing, and for a three-day tournament, that’s really incredible.”

The bass season opened here only five days ago (June 15) and B.A.S.S. selected this fishery on this week in particular for that reason. So not only will the bass be less likely to spook, but they also are in the throes of the spawn.

“It’s full on,” Weldon said. “We’re coming off a full moon. The water temperature is 60 degrees. The conditions for catching are perfect.”

If so, that should add an additional element of excitement to what already was expected to be a hotly contested tournament. This is the fourth and final Bassmaster College Series tournament to be held this regular season, followed by similar derbies on North Carolina’s Lake Norman in February, Alabama’s Smith Lake in March and Arkansas’ Bull Shoals Lake in April.

The top 10 percent of teams here (15 boats) will qualify for a spot in the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Championship presented by Bass Pro Shops when it is held Aug. 1-3 on Lake Chickamauga in Tennessee.

If one of those teams already has earned a berth, B.A.S.S. officials will work down the field until they have 15 “new qualifiers.” Teams also can qualify for the year-ending tournament through their individual state tournaments or by being in the Top 25 in the Bassmaster College Series Team of the Year (TOY) standings.

The TOY standings will be determined not long after tournament on the St. Lawrence River is complete. Weldon expects about 110 college pairs from across the U.S. to qualify for the championship at Chickamauga.

Many of the top teams in the current TOY standings are competing on the St. Lawrence River this week, some with a chance to solidify a TOY title and others with a shot to make a move upward in the standings. Spencer Lambert and Tyler Craig from the University of Louisiana-Monroe won approximately $8,000 in cash and prizes by winning the 2018 TOY race, so there’s added incentive to perform well.

“We have a Team of the Year race going on here, there’s cash and prizes to be won and there’s a chance to catch some really big bass too,” Weldon said. “But with all that said, I don’t know how many times I heard the phrase ‘Bucket List’ the past couple days.

“This is a ‘dream’ fishery for tournament anglers or for people who just want to go fish. And we’re here at the perfect time to see just how good the St. Lawrence River can be.”

All 149 boats will compete Wednesday and Thursday, with the field being cut to 12 boats on Friday. The top 12 teams all will earn cash prizes on Friday. Also, the Carhartt Big Bass Award will earn a $500 certificate for the team with the heaviest bass this week, and the team with the heaviest overall one-day catch (of up to five bass) will win the Nitro Big Bag Award and a $250 gift certificate.

Anglers launched Wednesday morning at 5:30 a.m. from Whitaker Park in Waddington. Weigh-in both Wednesday and Thursday will begin at 1:30 p.m. The Day 3 weigh-in will be held at Clarkson University in Potsdam.

Follow all the action on