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University of Texas-Tyler claims lead at 2011 FLW College Fishing National Championship

University of Texas-Tyler claims lead at 2011 FLW College Fishing National Championship
Matthew McClellan of the University of Texas-Tyler shows off part of his team’s 15-pound, 4-ounce catch during the opening round of competition on Kentucky Lake. Texas-Tyler boasts the overall lead at the 2011 FLW College Fishing National Championship after the first day of tourney action.

MURRAY, Ky. - Although a host of teams struggled to decipher the intricate fishing puzzle that is Kentucky Lake, the University of Texas-Tyler team comprised of Matthew McClellan and Tyler Fisher had no such trouble. Using a total catch of 15 pounds, 4 ounces, the duo was only one of three teams to record a five-fish stringer during Thursday's competition - an indication of just how tough the fishing was today.

"We only caught five keepers all day, so it was a real grind out there," said McClellan. "We actually thought we only had 13 pounds today, so we're a little surprised by our total weight. I hope the fishing is better tomorrow because it was pretty stressful today. But obviously we're very pleased with being in first place. And we'd love to do it again tomorrow."

Although McClellan and Fisher didn't want to divulge their bait presentations of choice, they did acknowledge that their style was all about "running and gunning."

"We're keying in on some stuff, and we're not fishing very deep," he said. "We don't really have one secret spot - we're just kind of running a pattern."

The team said that it was nice that all of the hard work they put in prefishing on Kentucky Lake over the past few months was finally yielding dividends.

"While everybody was at sunny locations enjoying spring break, we're out here in 40-degree weather, fishing here," said Fisher.

"And it definitely paid off today," answered McClellan.

As far as tomorrow's competition is concerned, the team said they don't plan on making too many major changes.

"We really feel good about tomorrow," said McClellan. "We felt good coming into this tournament, and I feel great right now. Honestly, I know it sounds weird, but I'm zero-percent nervous about the next two days even though I know it's going to be tough."

However, the team did acknowledge that they won't exactly complain if the weather takes a turn for the worse.

"Sunny days aren't really the best for our style of fishing. Hopefully it will rain tomorrow," said McClellan. "Then I hope we can start thinking about a national title."

LSU-Shreveport keeps close tabs on the leaders

Bolstered by a catch of 14 pounds, 14 ounces, the LSU-Shreveport squad of Zach Caudle and Joe Landry pulled out a nice second-place finish in today's competition. And to think, they did it all with just three keeper bass.

"We caught a big fish early, but that was pretty much it as far as good keepers were concerned," said Landry. "We definitely had to change up our game plan today. In the end we didn't have enough time to today to catch a limit, but we will tomorrow."

"Overall, it was awesome," said Caudle. "It's my last college tournament, and you couldn't have asked for anything better. What we're really looking for is a good two-day weight, so we're not too worried about it."

The team said that versatility is going to be the key to having success on Kentucky Lake for the remainder of the week.

"In practice we had one pattern, but today we really had to mix it up," said Landry. "We wound up fishing both deep and shallow, anywhere from 2 to 25 feet of water, with two different techniques. As far as tomorrow is concerned, if it looks good, we're going to fish it. We have a later flight tomorrow, and that's going to help as well."

Like the Texas-Tyler team, LSU-Shreveport is also hoping for a change in the weather going forward.

"The worse the weather gets, the better it'll be for us," said Landry. "We're shooting for 12 to 14 pounds tomorrow, but I think it'll take about 22 to 24 pounds to make the (top-five) cut. But I'm hoping we get some nasty weather tomorrow, because if we do, it's going to be a lot of fun."

Christopher Newport holds down third

As it turns out, Christopher Newport University just might be the best angling college that nobody has heard about. On the strength of a total catch of 14 pounds, 11 ounces, CNU teammates Joe Wilkerson and Ryan Ingalls stormed their way into third place overall and made everyone aware that they will be a force to be reckoned with throughout the tournament - despite the relative anonymity of their school.

"I actually thought we had a little more weight than we did, but, overall, I'm satisfied," said Ingalls, whose team claimed only one of three five-fish stringers in today's competition. "Hopefully we can go out there and catch the same thing tomorrow."

Virginia Tech in fourth

Although the Virginia Tech team of Jody White and Carson Rejzer finished in fourth place overall with a total five-fish catch of 13 pounds, 5 ounces, it wasn't their finish that had everybody talking; it was their one big catch, which literally turned heads.

"We put our boat in the water, got to our first spot, and then (Rejzer) smokes me in the side of the head with a Rat-L-Trap. I fell to the floor right away and bled a lot, but it worked out."

"I had to put the young guy in his place," joked Rejzer of the incident. "But seriously, I felt bad all day. He was bleeding pretty good, but he wound up pulling his weight. He caught two of the biggest fish of the day."

"Going forward, I think that's going to be our pattern," joked White. "Get injured early in the day and catch a good limit later on."

On the fishing front, the duo said they learned a thing or two about Kentucky Lake during today's competition - in addition to ducking when your partner heaves a heavy Rat-L-Trap.

"We found a pattern in practice, but it didn't really work out today," said White. "But towards the end of the day, we finally found something out that will work. So hopefully we'll be able to bring back a good limit tomorrow."

University of Florida lurks in fifth place

The 2010 FLW College Fishing National Championship team of Jake Gipson and Matthew Wercinski made sure to keep their repeat title hopes alive after recording a total catch of 12 pounds, 8 ounces - good enough to again be in the top five.

"We just put in our time and fish hard, and there's been a couple of times where that has really saved us," said Gipson. "The lake really isn't living up to expectations so far. But I think that's more the TVA's fault than the lake's fault."

Wercinski says his team learned some things as well today that could position them for yet another title run.

"We have some good ideas where to fish tomorrow," he said. "And that will help."

Tourney format and event logistics

The entire FLW College Fishing National Championship field will compete for two days with the top-five college teams advancing to the third and final day of competition based on their overall accumulated weight. Teams are permitted to bring as many as five fish to the scales during each weigh-in. After the conclusion of Saturday's weigh-in, the tournament title will be awarded to the college team that has recorded the most combined weight over all three days of competition.

The national championship winning team will receive $50,000 cash, a Ranger 177TR with a 90-horsepower engine wrapped in school colors for their school's bass club and $25,000 for the school they represent - for a total prize package valued at $100,000.

However, a tournament trophy and a lucrative prize package aren't the only things at stake this week. The winning team in the National Guard FLW College Fishing National Championship will also qualify for the Forrest Wood Cup - one of the most prestigious bass-fishing championships in the nation which boasts a top prize of $600,000. The winning team member with the heaviest total weight in the National Guard FLW College Fishing National Championship will compete in the pro division and the other member of the winning team will compete in the co-angler division of the Forrest Wood Cup - scheduled to be held Aug. 11-14 on Lake Ouachita in Hot Springs, Ark.

2011 National Guard FLW College Fishing National Championship action resumes at 7 a.m. Friday morning at the Kenlake State Park Marina, located at 888 Kenlake Marina Lane in Hardin, Ky.

Related links:

Event schedule
Meet the 2011 FLW College Fishing National Championship teams
College Fishing Festival
National Guard FLW College Fishing rankings

Tags: gary-mortenson  headline-story  2011-04-07-national-championship 

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