November 21, 2009 by David A. Brown
SANFORD, Fla. - The start was neither tragic nor triumphant, and in fishing terms, that means we're right on track for an exciting ride at the National Guard FLW College Fishing Southeast Regional Championship.
If everyone whacks `em on day one, that potentially sets the stage for a day-two letdown. Conversely, if everyone struggles in the opening round, the mood's kind of somber going into day two. Fortunately, the University of Central Florida's IOA Plaza, where the weigh-in was held, saw a good mix of results today. Only two teams caught limits, and there were a handful with only one fish, but several teams brought in fish over 3 pounds with a couple in the 4 1/2 range.
Frequent were the reports of tough conditions, and several teams noted that their better action came later in the day. Overcast conditions set in early and lasted most of the day, but the sun started burning through around 1 o'clock, and that usually finds bass abandoning their low-light roaming and moving tighter into cover.
One of the teams experiencing an afternoon rally was the University of Florida, comprising Matthew Wercinski and Jake Gipson, who topped the field with 12 pounds, 12 ounces. They missed their limit by one bass, but averaging about 2 1/2 pounds per fish is solid - enough so to give them a 2-pound, 9-ounce margin over their nearest competitors.
Noting that they're fishing in close proximity to other boats, the leaders were understandably mum on the details of a specific little "something" that they discovered late in the day. Gipson did say that their lead did not come easy - they put in their time and got to know Lake Monroe.
"We literally fished the entire lake today - we ran from off-limit (northern boundary) to off-limit (southern boundary)," he said. "We caught fish that were schooling, we caught fish flipping, we caught fish throwing topwater baits, and we caught fish on plastic worms. We did a little bit of everything today.
"This afternoon, my partner got on a really good bite with a very specific tactic that people probably wouldn't think to do. He probably should have had a couple more that just came off. If that bite is still there tomorrow, I think that we can come in with close to a limit."
"This lake can be hit or miss," Wercinski said. "We hit some of them today, and we left some of them swimming for tomorrow."
Gipson added: "We're happy to be where we are, but we have to keep it up. There are a lot of good teams behind us."
As long-time fishing buddies who founded the University of Florida's bass club, Gipson and Wercinski have polished their routine and strengthened their competitive relationship by learning to appreciate their similarities and differences. Of the latter, Gipson notes: "I'm right-handed and Matt's left-handed, so we can stand on the front of that Ranger, shoulder to shoulder, and fish. He doesn't have to fish used water all day."
Kennesaw State takes second
Jake Akin and Thomas Frink brought in five fish on day one and put Kennesaw State in second place with 10-3. Both anglers caught kicker fish, with Akin's going about 4 pounds.
In third place, the Auburn University team of Dennis Parker and Shaye Baker caught one of the day's limits - a bag weighing 9-13.
Clint McNeal and Brad Rutherford of Young Harris College placed fourth with 9-0, while Richard Peek and Caleb Rodgers of Auburn caught the day's other limit and finished fifth with 7-4.
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top-10 pro leaders at the Western College Regional Championship:
6th: Cameron Shouppe and Josh McDermott of North Florida University, 6-12
7th: Matthew Norman and Dustin Lauer of UCF, 6-12
8th: Nick Cupps and Cody Braden of North Alabama, 5-15
9th: Erin Schumpert and Andy Wicker of Clemson University, 4-15
10th: Kyle Tindol and Brandon Vaughn of Faulkner University, 4-3
Day two of FLW National Guard College Fishing Series action continues at Sunday's takeoff, scheduled to take place at 7:00 a.m. (Eastern Time) at Monroe Harbour, located at 531 N. Palmetto Avenue in Sanford.