November 7, 2010 by David A. Brown
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - When you make a big promise, you'd better deliver the goods. Well, Indiana University's Dustin Vaal and Jesse Schultz did just that en route to capturing their second consecutive National Guard FLW College Fishing Central Regional Championship title - this one on Lake Monroe. At the end of the day-two weigh-in, with IU sitting a pound and 12 ounces behind Truman State, Vaal confidently proclaimed that his team had figured out a pattern that would definitely deliver the victory. There was no question, no uncertainty. According to Vaal, it was a done deal. Gutsy statement, but the fine line separating conceit from confidence is paved with the assurance that only comes through diligent effort. Clearly, a winning margin of 7 pounds, 9 ounces justified the big talk. In summary, Schultz and Vaal caught 8-3 on day one, an even 12 on day two and finished with 11-4 in the final round. Their tournament total of 31-7 earned $25,000 for IU and a Ranger 177TR and an outboard engine for the school's bass club. "Not only to win this in our hometown, but to repeat at this tournament is amazing," Schultz said. "It really shows what we can do together. "We have a team mentality. There's a lot of clubs out here that get on the boat together and they're constantly arguing and bickering. That's one thing we never do. It's all about working with each other, bouncing ideas off each other and following through with those ideas." Vaal said the key pattern was deep cranking over standing timber in 2 to 15 feet of water. He and Schultz had been throwing Team Supreme spinnerbaits and Rat-L-Traps for day one and most of day two. Switching to a Bomber Fat Free Shad at the end of day two flipped on the light switch. "I switched to that deep diver, and it was on," Vaal said. "They started biting it like crazy. It was just slow, slow cranking over those trees." IU's win was particularly impressive because the final day's short schedule - teams were off the water by 1 p.m. - presented a major challenge for teams that had been banking on afternoon bites. For the first two days, Schultz and Vaal went fishless until after noon. Day three, however, delivered a trio of quality fish by 10:30. "It was just figuring out that pattern," Vaal said. "Once we figured that out, we could have caught 18 pounds today." With such a dramatic turnaround in how their day played out, the IU anglers were pleased with their work, but they made no assumptions. "We try to let the suspense roll up," Schultz said. "We knew we had a good chance after we put those three fish in the boat, but you never know until you walk up on that stage. "Dustin put his rod down around 10:30 and said, `Jesse, you have to go catch `em.' It got closer and closer to the 1 o'clock (cutoff), and we kept saying, `If we can get one more - one more - it will kind of guarantee this thing.' But that fish never came, so we were in question until the final weigh-in." Acknowledging that his partner caught all of the team's day-three fish, Schultz joked: "I wish I could have brought a net up here. That Frabill net was slinging fish left and right." Vaal was quick to note the importance of the team effort that got IU to the top spot: "He was a great net man, and he encouraged me. We were encouraging each other all day - even when Jesse was up there (on the bow) by himself, I was saying, `You're gonna get `em.' When you can encourage each other and keep a positive attitude throughout the whole day, even when you're not catching them, that builds camaraderie, and it makes you a tough team to beat." With the weather changing from partly cloudy and windy on day one to overcast and cold on day two and then sunny and calm today, the tournament saw several teams zero and many others plagued by low productivity. The first day saw IU nearly lose their shot at contention, but perseverance rewarded them with two big fish. "We won this tournament not because we brought in three fish today, but because we brought in fish every day," Schultz said. "We were 45 minutes from blanking (on day one) when we caught those two fish. That was a total game-changer." Slow bite drops Truman State to second Truman State's Spencer Clark and Mike McCarthy led the field into day three after sacking up the event's only limit and the largest weight, 14-2, on the second day. They had done their damage by cranking riprap and windy points, but the high, bright skies and light winds of day three changed the game, and they ended with only one fish (1-15) and a final weight of 23-14. "Today we started out on the riprap where we caught a lot of fish yesterday, and we thought we could do it again today," Clark said. "The biggest change was we didn't have the wind and we had sunshine instead of cloud cover. The fish were up on the riprap yesterday, roaming and eating those shad. That's why we caught them yesterday. "If we had a longer day, it might have played out differently. We probably would have caught some fish if we would have made a run. We had some spots down lake too, but it's one of those things - you don't know if you should stay and keep doing what you're doing or leave your fish to go find new fish." Clark had been throwing a Lucky Craft RC 1.5, but with today's calmer conditions, he decided the more subtle presentation of a Rapala Shad Rap would be a better call. His lone keeper hit a natural shad-colored bait. Despite their low bass turnout, the Truman anglers weren't bored. McCarthy reported catching a 20-pound drum, while Clark couldn't get away from the toothy fish. "If this was a walleye tournament, I'd be making a living on this lake," Clark joked. Stout stays in third For two days, UW-Stout's Jeremy Anibas and Ryan Helke made their presence known by catching big fish. Day one saw them claim the eighth-place spot with a single 5-pounder. The anglers followed up a day later by improving to third with three bass that totaled 12-4. Unfortunately, the shifting conditions of day three hid the big ones, and they settled for two keepers whose weight of 2-11 kept them in third place with a total of 19-15. Anibas caught both of his team's keepers by slow-rolling a ¼-ounce white spinnerbait with tandem willow blades over the tops of lay-downs and standing timber. He and Helke returned to the same cove that produced heavy bass on days one and two, but time was their enemy. Anibas lamented the short day: "Yesterday, we didn't catch our fish until after 12:15. Also, I think some of our big fish started moving out, because the ones we did catch were smaller. When the big fish move out, that gives the little ones time to get to our baits." EKU zeros, finishes in fourth Holding the No. 4 spot since day one, Eastern Kentucky's Jonas Ertel and Kyle Raymer came up empty on day three and finished the tournament in fourth at 16-9. Notably, Ertel was the event's oldest competitor at 24, while 19-year-old Raymer was the youngest. UW-Whitewater remains in fifth Day-one leaders Tyler Netzer and Jordan Truttschel also struggled with the day's tough conditions and short time limit. They managed only a 1-pound, 6-ounce fish and ended in fifth place with 14-8.