October 24, 2010 by Rob Newell
ORLANDO, Fla. - Who are the first stars to rise out of FLW Outdoors National Guard College Fishing? Undoubtedly, Jake Gipson and Matthew Wercinski of the University of Florida. For the second year in a row, Gipson and Wercinski have brought the Southeast Regional Championship purse - $50,000 - home to the University of Florida. Last year the team won the Lake Monroe event wire-to-wire. This year they did it again with daily weights of 21-5, 11-6 and today's closing effort of 5-15 for a three-day total of 38-10. "This is the last College Regional Championship I'll ever fish, so it's nice to go out on top," Gipson said. "This is unbelievable," Wercinski added. "This is what we came here to do, defend our title. We fished for the bigger fish all week and it paid off with another win." Gipson and Wercinski's stats as College Fishing anglers have been impressive, starting with their first Divisional win on Santee Cooper in 2009. From there they went on to win the College Regional Championship here on Lake Monroe last November. In May 2010 they went to the College Fishing National Championship on Ft. Loudoun-Tellico and won that as well, which qualified them for the Forrest Wood Cup in Atlanta. And this week, well it's been another storybook ending for the Gators. From the beginning Gipson was barely able to contain his excitement. On the first morning of competition, he eluded to big bites the team had in practice and estimated that the weights would be better this year. And better they were as he and Wercinski set the bar with a 21-pound, 5-ounce catch on day one. Since then, they never looked back. Each morning the team would start their day reeling Skinny Dippers and Speedworms over shallow grass to get a bonus keeper or two in the box before they headed out to the river to flip mats the rest of the day. "All of our bigger fish came flipping matted vegetation in the river," Gipson said. "It seems like these Florida fish like something over their heads so any matted vegetation - no matter what kind - was good." The team's key lures included Gambler Flapp'n Tail worms (junebug) rigged with a ¾-ounce tungsten weight from bulktungsten.com and 50-pound test Fins Original Braid. They "punched" any matted stuff they could find with the Flapp'n Tail. "The low water was a key," Wercinski added. "We were targeting mats that had a little deeper water underneath them; the falling water seemed to concentrate the big ones a little better than last year." With this win, Gipson and Wercinski's winnings for the University of Florida's bass club now surpasses the $200,000 mark. The team now has one last chance to extend their domination: the College Fishing National Championship to be held on Kentucky Lake April 7-9. In addition, Gipson will be giving the American Fishing Series a try for his pro debut next year. Frink and Akin go big on final day Thomas Frink and Jake Akin of Kennesaw State University made a serious run at the University of Florida's dominating lead on the last day by sacking up six fish for 16 pounds, 14 ounces. After missing the top-five by a single ounce last year, Frink and Akin got revenge this year, finishing second with a three-day total of 35-3. The team used their fishing experience from the Coosa River and Lake Neely Henry where they target floating debris piles that are created by current and laydowns. "The hyacinths and floating vegetation out on the St. Johns River hang up on laydowns here just like the floating debris back home," Frink said. "So that's how we approached this tournament, pitching to those mats of vegetation trapped by current against laydowns." Their primary weapon was a Zoom Speedcraw (junebug) with a 5/16-ounce Kanji tungsten weight tied to 22-pound Sunline Shooter fluorocarbon. Today, the team ducked into the Wekiva River to try Zoom Flukes in a golden shiner color and the move paid off with a limit. After that, the team began casting and pitching 10-inch Net Bait worms to the same trees they had been flipping and caught two of their biggest fish in the closing minutes. "What a way to end the year with a day like that," Frink said. "We probably ended up catching 13 keepers. This place owed us and today we got paid." Baker-Lee grab third Shaye Baker and Jordan Lee of Auburn University brought in a six-bass limit today for 13 pounds, 2 ounces to end the week on a strong note with a three-day total of 31-8, good enough for third. Baker and Lee finished second in this event last year. "One thing I'm proud of is that we have fished this lake for six days of competition between this year and last year and each day we've brought in a six bass limit," Baker said. "A lot of this sport is about consistency, that's what we strive for and we've accomplished it here." Baker and Lee spent the week in the Wekiva and Debary rivers, fishing eelgrass and wood. Their go to lure for the week was a Net Bait T-Mac worm rigged weightless on a 5/0 offset hook. The worm was tied to 20-pound test fluorocarbon line. "The T-Mac worm was our best lure but we also caught some on a Net Bait lizard, B-Bug, Paca Craw as well as a Roboworm," Baker said. "We went with lighter colors in the morning and then as the sun got up we went to darker colors. The black T-Mac probably caught most of the fish the first two days and today we upgraded by flipping the Paca Craw." This is also Baker's last Regional Championship in College Fishing. Along with the College Fishing National Championship in April, he also plans on fishing the American Fishing Series as pro in 2011. Croyle-Gates bring home fourth Dennis Croyle and Travis Gates of the University of Florida finished in fourth place with a three-day total of 27-6. During the first two days, Croyle and Gates fished the South River, relying mostly on Zoom junebug Horny Toads tied to 65-pound test braided line. "The fish would bite the toad as soon as it left the pads and hit the open water," Croyle said. "And we keyed in on that as our pattern, looking for the right casts where we could buzz the toad off the pads into open water." Today their buzzing pattern died and they abandoned it and went flipping with small craws and 1-ounce bulk tungsten weights tied to 65-pound Power Pro. That move netted them three fish on the day weighing 6 pounds, 12 ounces. Gordon-Miles take fifth Home town anglers Len Gordon and Miles "Sonar" Burghoff of UCF finished fifth with a three-day total of 18-12. The team spent most of the week in the river catching schooling bass on a 4-inch Tru-Tungsten Weight Shad tied to 15-pound Power Pro. Burghoff threw the Weight Shad on a Colmic Black Weapon 7-foot spinning rod. Today the team decided against the schoolers and went flipping for big fish.