UPCOMING EVENT: Costa FLW Series - 2019 - Lake Mead

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Lake Monroe morning

College teams prepare for takeoff on day one of the National Guard College Fishing Southeast Regional Championship on Florida's Lake Monroe

SANFORD, Fla. - Twenty College Fishing teams took to the waters of Lake Monroe this morning to kick off the National Guard College Fishing Southeast Championship.

Some of the qualifying students are fishing Lake Monroe for the first time; other teams, however, have had this course in Florida fishing before.

Last November, the National Guard College fishing Regional Championship was held on Lake Monroe in East Central Florida.

University of Florida's Jake Gipson and Matthew Wercinski won that event with a three-day total of 30 pounds, 1 ounce. The duo then went on to win the College Fishing National Championship, earning them berths in this year's Forrest Wood Cup where they became College Fishing's first celebrities.

This year Gipson and Wercinski have returned to defend their Southeast Regional Championship title on Lake Monroe, but they contend the lake is much different than last time.

For starters, this year's event is being held a month earlier, meaning water temperatures are some 10 degrees warmer. Also, Lake Monroe is about a foot or so lower than last year and given the flat, featureless nature of Florida's natural lakes, that makes for a lot of dry ground.Jake Gipson hopes that he and teammate Matthew Wercinski can defend the University of Florida

"The low water is probably the biggest difference, for sure," Gipson said before takeoff this morning. "Some of the places where we caught our fish last year I could now walk across and hardly get wet. So the low water has taken some of the more productive places away."

But it's the warmer water and stable weather that makes Gipson believe that fishing will be much better this year.

"Last year, we fished after a nasty cold front had blown through Florida," he continued. "These Florida fish don't do well after bad fronts like that and they were kind of recovering. But we're here earlier this year, the weather has been stable, the water is still warm and as a result I think we're going to see more fish caught. I think the winning weight and top-five qualifying weights will be at least 3 or 4 pounds more this time around."

Another big difference this year is that part of the St. Johns River has been opened to competition; last year the college anglers were restricted to Lake Monroe only.

With some five miles of the river open that could sway some strategy to put rely on the river more than the lake. Word is there are bigger fish in the river, but the trade-off is the time it takes to get there in terms of the number of idle zones.

"The river might play a role for some of these other teams," Gipson said. "We're not as comfortable in the river as we are in the lake, but I think there are bigger fish in the river. If we were to get a limit early in the lake we might go to the river looking to upgrade."

Auburn University's Shaye Baker finished second in this event last year. He is back again this year with a new team partner - Jordan Lee.

Baker, too, was hoping his history from last year would help him, but the low water has left some of his productive areas high and dry as well.Auburn University

"A foot of water may not sound like much on a lake that actually has some contour to it, but on these Florida lakes, it's a big factor - that leaves a lot of real estate out of the picture," Baker commented. "I'm not seeing as much schooling activity as I did last year. And even though the weather has been stable, I still think 8 to 10 pounds per day will have a shot."

One team to keep an eye on this week is the hometown crew: University of Central Florida's Miles "Sonar" Burghoff and Leonard Gordon.

Not only will UCF have the home-lake advantage, Burghoff recently showed off his mad fishing skills by winning the two-day BFL Super-tournament on Lake Okeechobee. He did not just win it either, he dominated it with nearly a 10-pound winning margin.

"We're feeling the pressure of being the `locals,'" Burghoff said. "Hopefully we can do our job and meet the expectations."

"The way I like to fish is to get in one big area and fish it all day, but I don't think that's going to work here," he continued. "It's going to take a more run and gun approach - hit a small place, run a few miles, hit another small place and run again. And I really believe that having new water to fish all three days will be a big key. Trying to milk one or two spots for the whole event is not part of our plan."

Event details, times and locations

Anglers in the Southeast Regional Championship will take off from Monroe Harbour located at 531 N. Palmetto Ave. in Sanford, Fla., at 7 a.m. daily.

Weigh-ins will be held at UCF-IOA Plaza: Bright House Networks Stadium beginning at 4 p.m. on Thursday and Friday.

On Saturday, weigh-in will begin at approximately 6:30 p.m. Saturday (following the football game). Takeoffs and weigh-ins are free and open to the public.

The University of Central Florida also is hosting the College Fishing Festival throughout the three-day tournament. Students and fishing fans alike will be treated to live music, the National Guard Warrior Challenge, a Ranger Boat simulator, tailgate games, a sports zone along with contests for cash and several prize giveaways. The festival will take place at UCF-IOA Plaza: Bright House Networks Stadium from 2-4 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturday.

The top five teams from the Southeast Regional Championship will advance to the 2011 National Guard FLW College Fishing National Championship that will be hosted by Murray State University on Kentucky Lake, April 7-9. The National Championship is a three-day televised event. Teams will be provided jerseys and wrapped Ranger boats towed by Chevy trucks for this competition. The first-place team will win $100,000 with $50,000 of that for their school and $25,000 cash and a Ranger 177TR bass boat for their fishing club along with a berth in the 2011 Forrest Wood Cup.

FLW Outdoors provides boats and drivers for each competing team along with travel allowances. All participants must be registered, full-time undergraduate students at a four-year college or university and members of a fishing club recognized by their college or university.

Thursday's conditions

Temperature at takeoff: 68 degrees
Expected high temperature: 85 degrees
Water temperature: 78 degrees
Wind: N 8 mph
Day's outlook: sunny and warm

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

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