November 13, 2010 by David A. Brown
RALEIGH, N.C. - You know you've had a great tournament when your winning margin is greater than the combined final-round weights of your two nearest competitors. Such was the case for NC State's Jeff Bumgarner and Will White, whose stellar performance earned them a first-place finish at the National Guard FLW College Fishing Northern Regional Championship on Jordan Lake.
Racking up a three-day total of 47 pounds, 6 ounces, the duo entered the final round in first place with a 7-pound, 8-ounce lead, but when the dust settled on day three, they had more than doubled that margin to 16-3. By comparison, the second- and third-place teams generated a total of 16-2 on day three. For their accomplishments, Bumgarner and White won $25,000 for their school and a Ranger 177TR with an Evinrude engine for their bass club.
The victory was the second consecutive CF Northern Regional title for NC State. Kevin Beverley and Ben Dziwulski, who finished third this year, won in 2009. White acknowledged the high level of competition he and Bumgarner faced with the other top-five teams.
"These guys are some of the best fishermen in the country," White said of his competitors. "To win against them and to do this on our home lake in front of everyone makes this extra-special."
White said he and Bumgarner had a slow start on day one, as the Texas- and Carolina-rigged plastics they fished over humps in 20 feet produced five fish for 9-13 and put them in fourth place. Day two delivered much greater results, as they sacked up a limit catch of 22 pounds, 4 ounces - the tournament's largest and the only 20-pound-plus bag. A light-bulb moment at the end of day one set them on course for a runaway victory.
"We didn't have any morning bite, so (on day two) we decided to run up (to the north end of the lake) and crank the Highway 64 Bridge for an hour and see what's up," White said. "We fished it for 20 to 30 minutes, and we were about to leave, and Jeff catches a 6-pounder, and while he's down there unhooking that 6, I catch a 4. I said, `This is what we need to do.'
"Today, we went right back to that spot, and immediately he caught his big fish. We came right back to the same spot and, `Bow!' I caught my big fish. They were just loaded on that bridge."
As White explained, the bass favor the riprap bridge embankments because the rocks, especially the dark ones around the 64 Bridge, hold heat and offer more comfortable habitat for shad and the bass that seek them. Also, as the main-lake bridge, there's plenty of deep-water access, and that allows fish to continually come and go so the area replenishes daily.
Bumgarner said a Rat-L-Trap in orange with black stripes produced a couple of his day-one fish, but a Strike King Series 3 crankbait in a red-crawfish pattern was their top producer for days two and three: "Basically, all we did was crank it 6 to 9 feet down and bang it off of rocks. A lot of times our bigger fish came in about 5 feet deep."
White, who sported a new Mohawk hairdo after day one, said the fish were very picky in their color preference: "It was really specific on that color. I threw the same crankbait in other colors, but they really wanted that one. I think finding that color is what made the difference."
With countless hours on Jordan Lake, the winners were well aware of its potential. However, the final tally surprised even them.
"We didn't think we had that kind of fish, but we both fish out here a lot and we know - Jordan's got `em," White said. "We went to where we've caught them in the past. Going into practice, we expected to win, but we didn't expect to win like this."
UNC Charlotte stays at second
Tyler Teer and Joe Kinchen of UNC Charlotte got off to a strong start by taking the day-one lead with a limit catch of 15-3 and, despite waning productivity - 9-6 on day two, 6-10 on day three - they held on to finish second with 31-3.
The anglers used a combination of crankbaits, wacky-rigged Senkos and shaky heads to catch their fish on days one and two. Day three found them using crankbaits and weedless-rigged floating worms. They fished the Senkos and shaky heads over deeper spots, and Teer worked his floating worm like a topwater bait over shallow grass and logs.
Crankbaits got the call when fishing windy points with a mix of sand and rocks, and boat positioning proved crucial.
"Staying off the points was the key," Kinchen said. "We were staying farther off the points than most (other teams). We were casting (at distances) where some other people were fishing. They were sitting over the fish."
The UNC Charlotte anglers found most of their quality fish later in the day, and on day three, they tried a strategy intended to put some weight in the boat earlier.
Kinchen continued: "We went to our afternoon spot first thing in the morning to try and get a topwater bite on buzzbaits. We only had one swirl on it, but we thought it would be a good idea to shoot for a hog.
"It got rough for us because there was less wind today and we had an hour less of fishing time. If we had had another half-hour, we would have had a much bigger sack. I missed one that was about 4 or 5 pounds in the last 20 minutes of the tournament."
NC State's Beverley and Dziwulski improve to third
Beverley and Dziwulski may have missed their chance to repeat as regional champs, but their work ensured a double shot of top-five exposure for NC State. Five fish on day one put them in second place with 11-11. On day two, they slipped to fourth with four fish for 9-12. Day three brought a trio that weighed 9-8 and raised them to third with a final weight of 30-15.
Beverley said that he and Dziwulski stuck with their pattern of cranking over wood and rocks. They started out using chartreuse baits, but switching to white with black backs appealed to the bigger fish.
Dziwulski, who blanked in the final round, said his partner's final-round average of over 3 pounds was well within the realm of what they realistically expected. Practice yielded several large bass, but the cold snap that plagued the tournament days had their fish unsettled.
"It wasn't really surprising to catch fish that size; it's just the number of fish we've been catching has been the problem," he said. "I know the fish are still there, but we just couldn't get (more) of them to bite today."
One of today's fish turned frustration into jubilation. As Dziwulski recalled: "When Kevin caught his biggest fish, he was snagged on a stump, and when he popped it off the stump, the fish ate it. That was the third fish we've caught doing that, so whenever we got snagged, I said, `Sweeeet!'"
Virginia Tech limits, moves up to fourth
Catching the day's only limit helped Carson Rejzer and Jody White of Virginia Tech improve from fifth to fourth with 30-13. Using mostly lipless crankbaits, jigs and shaky heads, they caught 9-12 on day three to go along with their 9-9 and 11-8 on days one and two, respectively.
"It was slow today, but we made a good move that paid off, and we got our limit for the first time in the tournament," Rejzer said. "All of our quality fish (from days one and two) came from one spot, so we decided on the last day we were going to go there and camp out the entire day."
At 19 years old, White was the tournament's youngest competitor. He said the experience has sharpened his angling skills and raised his awareness.
"I learned a lot just fishing with Carson," he said. "I never would have looked at those baits because they didn't appeal to me. It was cool that we could pull all of our fish off of one spot. It was fun fishing a tournament that FLW and the National Guard did such a good job on."
Lack of wind leaves Christopher Newport in fifth
They were the only team to catch their six-fish limit on both of the first two days, but after two windy days generated consistent action, a calmer day three was unkind to Christopher Newport's Ryan Ingalls and Joe Wilkerson, who slipped from third to fifth with four fish that weighed 5-15. Added to their first two bags of 11-8 and 10-5, their final-round effort netted a 27-12 total.
"We caught our fish on shaky heads, but we couldn't get them on Rat-L-Traps without the wind," Ingalls said. "That threw us off, so that's why we didn't come in with a limit today."