September 3, 2011 by David A. Brown
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - When Ramapo College anglers Jeff Voss and Joseph Zapf launched on day one of the FLW National Guard College Fishing Series Northern Regional Championship on Sayers Lake, they knew they wanted to put themselves on the road to success - literally.
The plan worked and with a clean sweep of this three-day event, the Ramapo team tallied a tournament total of 27 pounds, 2 ounces and took home equal prizes of $12,500 for their college and their school's bass club, along with a Ranger boat and engine for the latter. Now, after two days of understandably covert operations, the New Jersey duo revealed that they spent the majority of the tournament fishing a roadbed that Voss had located during practice.
"We were fishing a roadbed in the middle of the lake and anybody who fishes knows that's a highway for fish," Voss said. "It's going to replenish every day. We were fishing little baits on the bottom and dropshotting here and there when the bite stopped and the fish just loaded up every day.
"We had two spots that along the roadbed and two spots that we would run to and give the (roadbed) a break," Voss said. "We'd come back in 20 minutes and there would be one or two there. Today, we stayed in one spot the whole day."
After experimenting a little on day one, the winners quickly determined that a 3-inch black Senko was the key bait that Sayers Lake smallmouth can't resist. They occasionally fished dropshots, but they did most of their damage by working their baits slowly across the hard bottom on jigs. Voss fished a 3/16-ounce jig and Zapf used a 1/8. Both produced equally
"That was definitely the key bait - they wouldn't bite anything else," Zapf said. "You just had to fish it really slow on the bottom and take your time. We each caught them on (the black Senko) and once we homed in on that, it was game-on. It was awesome."
As with the previous two days, the winners found their bites early today. Zapf said: "It was definitely a morning bite. I don't think we caught another keeper after 10 a.m."
Statistically, it's no surprise that Voss and Zapf had the heaviest bag on all three days. (It's not unheard of for a team that leads day one to hold their position without bagging the most weight on subsequent days.) However, the stats tell an interesting tale. After catching the event's heaviest bag on day one (12-10), their productivity steadily declined with days two and three yielding 9-4 and 5-4. Of course, Voss and Zapf would have preferred an upward trend in daily catches, but the leads they built increased from 1 pound, 12 ounces on day one to 5-8 on day two and ultimately a winning margin of 7-12 in today's final round.
Considering that this stingy little lake of a modest 1,730 acres had most teams struggling from the start, Voss and Zapf were definitely on one the few sweet spots. Entering day three with a significant advantage on an increasingly difficult fishery buoyed their confidence, but they made no assumptions.
"We knew coming into this day that a 5 1/2-pound lead was pretty good for a lake like this, but we knew we couldn't blank," Voss said. "We just needed to get a couple of fish and each fish was just one more (mark) on the board, so we were feeling pretty good after every fish."
Fairmont ends with second
Fairmont State University's Wil Dieffenbauch and Brent Dodrill were the only other team to post a single-day weight of over 10 pounds. Their 10-14 on day one put them in second place and with subsequent bags of 5-8 and 5-4, they remained in that position to finish with a tournament total of 19-6.
On days one and two their strategy was to start shallow with reaction baits and then go deep with plastics by mid-morning. Today, they decided to forego the shallow game and commit their day to working isolated rocks in 12-14 feet.
The anglers caught two keepers today on 3 1/2-inch pumpkinseed tubes on 1/8-ounce jigheads. This was the most consistent bait they used all three days.
"We ran spots where, in pre-practice, we caught both largemouth and smallmouth, but it seemed like the smallmouth have been biting (better) the last three days and that's what we caught again today," Dieffenbauch said.
Dodrill said that he was pleased with his team's overall performance. "All-in-all, we stayed consistent, we did what we needed to do, we're in the top-5 and that was our main goal - to get back to the (College Fishing Series National Championship)," Dodrill said.
Virginia Tech takes third
Virginia Tech's Wyatt Blevins and Carson Rejzer also finished where they started by keeping the third-place spot throughout the tournament. They caught a limit that weighed 8-13 on day one but struggled on day's two and three. They ended with a total weight of 17-6.
"It's a really tough lake and we just grinded it out," Rejzer said. "We had a great first day and that really set us up for the rest of the week. So we just held it right there."
Today, Blevins and Rejzer ran up Bald Eagle Creek and caught their fish on green pumpkin tubes. Pushing a little farther, Rejzer said, allowed them to catch a pair of nice keepers when the action was dwindling elsewhere in the lake.
"We didn't see anyone else where we were all week long," he said. "You have to go past a really shallow spot and that deters a lot of people. But we went another 500 yards up the river to where it was moving, clear water, there were a lot of smallmouth. They're very hard to catch because it's such a small area. It's so narrow and so clear that they see you and they're spooky. But we were able to get a couple of them to bite and that helped out a whole lot."
Ramapo's Danza and Rieder rise to fourth
As the founder and president of Ramapo College's bass club, Bob Rieder was thrilled to see his school's double representation in the top-5. He and Charles Danza came on strong in the final round, sacking up four keepers for 4 pounds 13 ounces and moving up one spot to fourth place with 16-1.
Both anglers caught two keepers. Danza used a black shad Kitech swimbait rigged on 1/8-ounce weighted swimbait head. "I was ripping it through the weeds and when it got stuck, the fish grabbed it when I pulled it through. It was like a reaction strike."
Rieder caught his fish on a 3/8-ounce green pumpkin Kitech jig with a green pumpkin Reaction Innovations sweet beaver. "I was pitching it through the weeds, trying to get whatever fish wouldn't hit Charles' bait."
Danza added: "We were trying to cover the most amount of water. On the third day, with all the pressure on the lake, we just thought it was best to cover a lot of water and try to find them."
Christopher Newport finishes fifth
Ryan Ingalls and Derek Berhalter of Christopher Newport caught one keeper that weighed one pound and slipped a notch to fifth with a tournament total of 12-6. Ingalls caught his team's lone fish on a dropshot with a 4-inch finesse worm.
"I think the short fishing day hurt us, we only got to fish six hours and we were catching them later in the day (on days one and two)," Ingalls said.