November 23, 2009 by David A. Brown
SANFORD, Fla. - The American alligator - Alligator mississippiensis - is known for grabbing and holding its prey with a relentless grip. The Florida Gators - Matthew Wercinski and Jake Gipson - are applying this tactic at the National Guard FLW College Fishing Southeast Regional Championship on Lake Monroe. After taking the lead on day one with 12 pounds, 12 ounces, the University of Florida anglers added 9-9 in their second outing and maintained their top position with a 22-5 total. Resuming their day-one success, Wercinski and Gipson went back to work with a yet-undisclosed tactic involving soft plastics. Wercinski had his limit by 9 a.m., but Gipson's didn't come until after 1 p.m. Wercinski said the difference was twofold: "I'm using the same bait (Gipson) is, but I'm just rigging it a little bit differently. Also, I'm fishing scattered grass; he's fishing matted grass." Today's weather also bore some influence on their day. A storm system moving across central Florida delivered mostly cloudy skies and winds that puffed up to 20 mph. "The wind was really ripping our spots, and that made it really tough to fish." Wercinski also said that most of his strikes were light: "They were barely biting, and I could barely feel them. I set up once or twice, and there was nothing there. I set up three times, and there's three little fish." Like day one, the UF anglers spent a lot of time in their seats. "We ran across the lake four times today and covered a lot of water," Gipson said. "It's a result of how tough the fishing is. We've been fishing this place like a river - it's a run-and-gun deal. You have to cover as much water as you can, and eventually you'll hit a spot where the fish are. You can't just sit there and keep pounding a spot if the fish aren't there." Auburn moves into second Improving from third place on day one, the Auburn University team of Dennis Parker and Shaye Baker added 9-10 to yesterday's 9-13 and gained one spot, from third to second, with a 19-7 total. Both anglers caught their three-fish limits, with Parker contributing a couple in the 2-pound range. "I knew from practice that we were both going to need three fish a day," Baker said. "Dennis has been doing a good job each day of catching those 2- to 3-pound fish." Throwing weightless Texas-rigged finesse worms, Baker and Parker caught their fish in a narrow canal where a natural spring fed its clear water into the lake. Downsizing to 10-pound fluorocarbon line and maintaining a distant, stealthy presentation was the key to fishing this area of high visibility. When another tournament boat approached their area, Parker said he was most appreciative for the way his competitors handled the encounter. "We had (Nick Tate and Phillip Hopper from the University of Tennessee) come back in there on us, and they were wanting to pass us by, but the canal is so small, they knew that passing us would disturb our fish," he said. "They actually turned around and respected our spot." Baker added: "That was a great sign of sportsmanship. That was really big of them because they didn't have much weight yesterday. I told them, `This is all we have, and if you come by, we're done.' Nick said, `Well, I'm not going to do that to you.' "I caught a fish right as he turned around, and had he come by, I wouldn't have caught it. In this crystal-clear water, if the fish see a boat, they're done for an hour and a half." Young Harris advances to third Clint McNeal and Brad Rutherford of Young Harris College placed fourth on day one with 9-0. They added 8-14 on day two for a 17-14 total that moved them up a spot to third. The anglers caught most of their fish by dragging Carolina rigs over shell beds in about 6 feet of water. When they encountered schooling fish, they threw flukes and topwaters. McNeal said the day's windy conditions necessitated a little more boat control than the previous day: "We were fishing in the St. John's River, and there was a little bit of current. We thought we might have to anchor, but we didn't have to the first day because we could just use the trolling motor. But today the wind was bad enough and it was moving the same way as the current, so we had to pull out the anchor. That ended up helping us a lot." UCF jumps into fourth place The day-one crowd had a lot of leftover enthusiasm from the University of Central Florida football game that ended shortly before the weigh-ins, so it was no surprise that the hometown team of Matthew Norman and Dustin Lauer drew huge applause and shouts of school pride when they took the stage and weighed a seventh-place catch. Flash forward 24 hours and a smaller audience erupted with even greater fervor when the local boys jumped three spots and earned a final-round berth with the day's biggest catch - a 10-pound, 10-ounce effort that yielded a 17-6 total. Another Auburn team makes it to final round Auburn's Richard Peek and Caleb Rodgers held their fifth-place position and secured their school's dual representation in the day-three finale. They added 7 pounds to their day-one effort of 7-4 for a 14-4 total. Best of the rest Rounding out the top 10 college teams at the Southeast College Regional Championship: 6th: Kennesaw State University, Jake Akin and Thomas Frink, 14-3 7th: Faulkner University, Kyle Tindol and Brandon Vaughn, 12-8 8th: North Alabama University, Nick Cupps and Cody Braden, 11-2 9th: North Florida University, Cameron Shouppe and Josh McDermott, 9-7 10th: Clemson University, Erin Schumpert and Andy Wicker, 7-14 Day two of National Guard FLW College Fishing action continues at Monday's takeoff, scheduled to take place at 7 a.m. Eastern time at Monroe Harbour, located at 531 N. Palmetto Ave. in Sanford. The art of the chest bump On day one, National Guard pro and College Fishing commentator Justin Lucas brought up the topic of celebratory chest bumps with Auburn's Dennis Parker. At about 6 feet 3 inches tall and about 220 pounds, Parker is the tournament's biggest competitor, at least in terms of stature. So when Lucas persisted, the big Tiger politely declined and expressed his concern over accidentally knocking Lucas down. Apparently, Lucas really wanted to chest bump someone, because Parker again found himself the target of a good-natured challenge on day two. After he and partner Shaye Baker moved into second place, Lucas not only insisted on a chest bump, he enlisted enough audience support to persuade Parker. The Auburn angler gave it a polite little hop, while Lucas, who is not 6-3ish and nowhere close to 220, displayed his cat-like agility with a 24-inch vertical leap and a good 2.3-second hang time. Overall, it was an impressive effort. But what defines a good chest bump? For that, we turned to hometown favorites, Matthew Norman and Dustin "D-Rock" Lauer, who not only earned a berth in the day-three finale, but they demonstrated their patented five-star chest bump. Grabbing big air, the likes of which one might expect at a Winter Olympics snowboarding event, the Knights wowed the crowd and clearly impressed Lucas with their aerial artistry. Perfectly timed and flawlessly executed, it was a thing of beauty. According to Lauer, an effective chest bump depends on one fundamental rule: "The most important thing about a chest bump is your head position. If my head is facing left and his is facing right, we're going to hit our faces. That's inappropriate and it's going to hurt both of us. He needs to look right and I need to look right - or left. It's a judgment call. You just make eye contact like two seconds before. It's like rock-paper-scissors - you just have to know what (the other guy) is throwing." Parker shared his perspective: "You have to take into consideration the size of the other guy you're chest bumping. I didn't come off the ground, because if I would have, I think I would have knocked the poor fellow down. Either that, or I would have flown directly over his head." Baker added, "You would have leap-frogged him." Ultimately, Parker said that when chest-bumpers of significant size difference approach one another, it is the duty of the larger bumper to accommodate his smaller counterpart: "You have to watch the other guy and wait for the exact moment when his chest reaches yours. When it does, you kind of rise up on your toes so you meet chest to chest." A few other pointers: Wear shoes with nonskid soles, allow sufficient overhead clearance, stay well away from the edge of the stage, and always make sure your chest-bumping partner is aware of the role they are about to play. Also, gentleman should pay close attention to large belt buckles and awkwardly positioned cell phones.