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Gators throw down gauntlet at Monroe

Jake Gipson and Matthew Wercinski are back to defend their title. The University of Florida team took a commanding lead in the College Fishing Southeast Regional event on Lake Monroe with five fish weighing a whopping 21-5.

ORLANDO, Fla. - Lake Monroe and the St. Johns River are full of gators - the kind that catch fish with their toothy jaws and the kind that catch fish on a rod and reel.

Today the University of Florida represented their home state in a big way as three of their school's collegiate fishing teams took up spots in the top five of the National Guard College Fishing Southeast Championship being held at Lake Monroe.

And leading the way is none other than Jake Gipson and Matthew Wercinski, the defending FLW College Fishing National Champions and winners of this event from last season.

Gipson and Wercinski stole the show today with an aggregate catch of five bass weighing an astounding 21 pounds, 5 ounces to take a commanding lead with just over a 6-pound margin.

Behind them is another Gator team of Dennis Croyle and Travis Gates with six bass for 15 pounds, 4 ounces.

In fourth place is yet another team from the "swamp," Travis Fledderman and Rhett Rampi with 13 pounds, 3 ounces.

With so much orange and blue in the top five, one could only assume that all three teams are working together and sharing information on key patterns and baits, but surprisingly, that's not the case at all. All teams confirmed that they have had very little communication with the other teams and have no idea how they are catching their fish.

Gipson-Wercinski coax a pair of giants

Before takeoff this morning, Gipson predicted that the fish were biting better this year and that it was going to take more weight to win this year - looks like he called that one right.Jake Gipson and Matthew Wercinski show off their big bass on day one.

Consider that Gipson-Wercinski won with a three-day total of 30 pounds last year. This year they caught over two-thirds of that weight in a single day.

The team had a great practice but when they went to their best spot this morning, it yielded no fish.

After going fishless for a while, Wercinski was the first to strike with a keeper. Then Gipson got hot and boated three in a row in about an hour, including a giant. Wercinski then cued off Gipson's lure and ended the day by boating another giant bass.

The duo says they fished both the river and the lake with a run and gun approach.

"We're covering a lot of water and staying on the move, fishing each spot for about 15 to 30 minutes," Gipson said.

"We probably fished 12 to 15 different places today," Wercinski added. "And we'll probably do the same thing tomorrow."

Croyle-Gates run and gun
Travis Gates and Dennis Croyle laid claim to the second place spot for the University of Florida with 15-4.
As mentioned, the University of Florida team of Dennis Croyle and Travis Gates took the second place spot after day one with 15-4.

Croyle and Gates also said that staying on the move and covering new water in both the lake and the river as quickly as possible was part of their strategy today.

"The fish are in a fall pattern and in order to keep up with them we have to stay on the move," Croyle said. "We probably hit 20 to 30 places today. We're keying on something specific and when we see what we're looking for we fish it; when we don't see it anymore we keep moving to find more of it."

Kennesaw State University steps in
Thomas Frink holds up a monster bass to put Kennesaw State University in third place with 14-6.
Just when it looked like the Gators were going to pull the hat trick with the top three spots, the Kennesaw State Team of Jake Akin and Thomas Frink stepped in and rained on their triplet parade by splitting the Gator teams up and claiming the third place spot.

Akin and Frink weighed in six bass for 14 pounds, 6 ounces.

After the practice period, the team decided to stick with the river over the lake today based on their fishing background.

"Back home we fish the Coosa River and Tennessee River so we just felt more comfortable in the river that at least has current to help pattern the fish," Frink said.

Run and gun figured heavily into their strategy as well.

"We kept covering new water until we caught one," Akin added. "You don't have to finesse these fish. If there's one around and you get a lure in front of it, it's going to bite, so there's no need in fishing slow - staying on the move worked better for us."

University of Florida, again
Rhett Rampi  and Travis Fledderman have the Gators in fourth place place as well, with 13-3.
University of Florida's Fledderman and Rampi are giving up valuable fishing time to fish the river and the lake and it's paying off with a fourth place day-one showing.
Both team members said that they have not communicated with the other two Florida teams for fishing information at all - each team has worked its own plan.

USC Upstate rounds out the top five

Michael Smith and David Scruggs of USC Upstate round out the top five teams with four bass weighing 11 pounds, 8 ounces.
Michael Smith and David Scruggs of USC Upstate round out the top five teams with four bass weighing 11 pounds, 8 ounces.
Smith and Scruggs are the only ones in the top five who noted that they are staying put in one area for their catch.

Day two of the National Guard College Fishing Southeast Championship will begin Friday at 7:30 a.m. from Monroe Harbor in Sanford, Fla.

Tags: rob-newell  headline-story  2010-10-21-southeast-regional-lake-monroe 

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