UPCOMING EVENT: T-H Marine BFL - 2019 - Grand Lake

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The bark and the bites

The bark and the bites
The only team to reach 10 pounds, the University of Georgia's Randy Tolbert and Chase Simmemon took the day-one lead on Lake Harding.

AUBURN, Ala. - A recent cold front may have chilled the Lake Harding action, but the University of Georgia's Randy Tolbert Jr. and Chase Simmemon turned up the heat, sacked 10 pounds of bass and grabbed the day-one lead at the National Guard FLW College Fishing Southeast Regional presented by Evinrude.

With lake temperatures falling some 15 degrees to the low 70s this week, Harding's bass got a little squirrely today. However, the Chattahoochee River impoundment gave up seven limits, and a handful of teams caught kickers in the 3-pound range. Anglers reported catching fish offshore and on the shorelines. Today's mostly sunny skies seemed to pull the shallow fish tighter to cover.

Tolbert said that he and Simmemon started their day throwing topwaters over offshore points, but soon moved shallow to target largemouths along shorelines with a mix of grass and wood. The anglers wouldn't divulge their specific baits, but Tolbert confirmed that they fished slowly with soft plastics most of the day.

"We started off and caught three in the first 15 or 20 minutes in a little place we found to catch a limit,"Chase Simmemon and Randy Tolbert load their leading fish. said Tolbert, a senior fisheries and aquaculture major. "We didn't catch a limit there, though. We moved on to catch some bigger fish, and it was a grind all day long. But we managed to catch our five and even cull a couple of times."

Simmemon said that water clarity was less than optimal. Nevertheless, a diverse approach and diligent casting yielded the opportunities they needed.

"The water was kind of muddied up with all the recent rains, so you really couldn't see the fish, so we just targeted (certain) structure," Simmemon said. "We tried a mixture of colors. He'd throw one color, and I'd throw a different color just so we weren't throwing the same thing. We didn't really see that it made a difference. I think the key was just putting the bait in front of the fish's mouth."

Considering that the cold front was more or less an early fall transition, rather than the shivering After starting their morning deep,  Chase Simmemon and Randy Tolbert caught most of their weight when they moved shallow to target largemouths around wood and grass.declines that will start arriving over the next couple of months, Tolbert said he and his partner were able to reference some of his practice experience to track down the tournament bites.

"The sun actually helped today," he said. "We had sun in practice every day. It was a lot hotter, obviously, and the water temperature dropped. That didn't really move the fish around too much. We had to slow down a little bit, but the sun is definitely helping our bite."

Tolbert said his team caught eight keepers today, but they lost a couple that would have pushed their weight even higher and extended their current lead of 1 pound, 7 ounces.

"We caught quite a few fish and we could have caught more, but the numbers are obviously smaller fish," he said. "We had to do something different by going shallower to catch quality."

Clemson earns second

Clemson's Andy Wicker and Harold Turner caught a limit that weighed 8-9 and took the second-placeSecond-place Clemson spot on day one. Wicker said they fished shallow and deep, but found the latter offered greater opportunity.

"It was a little bit of reaction baits and plastics," Wicker said. "We're catching a few smaller ones on reaction baits, and then we'll go back through and upgrade after 11 or 12 o'clock."

Turner said he was confident that his team had the specifics of tackle and presentation dialed in correctly.

"We kind of left some fish alone, so we're going to go at them hard tomorrow. This is a marathon, not a sprint. We caught about nine or 10 fish, and then we laid off of them. We practiced on new stuff the last two hours."

Kennesaw's Ellis and Roland take third

Day one began with frustration for Kennesaw's Chris Ellis and Brinson Roland, but the anglers After a strong practice, Kennesaw Stateregrouped, sacked up a limit that weighed 7-12 and took the third-place spot.

"I didn't think we were going to make it (into the top five); this was a tough day," said Roland, who celebrated his 23rd birthday Thursday. "We whacked `em in practice and we had (incredible) weights in practice, but we went out today and couldn't get bit where we practiced. To not catch any fish off where you'd practiced for two days was tough."

Roland said that after working through the expected emotional letdown, he and Ellis shifted gears and got themselves back on track with a new game plan.

"I told myself not to get frustrated, so I cut off all my rigs, retied everything and ran to the opposite side of the lake and started over," he said. "That was like 1 o'clock. We had two fish in the first 30 minutes, and then it just shut off. At 1 o'clock, I said, `We have an hour and a half; we have just enough time to make something happen.'

"We ran around and made it happen, but it was a grind."

According to Roland's read on the day, their change of habitat was as important, if not more so than the bait change, which was not divulged anyway.

"We changed depths and went for a different part of the water column," he said. "That was the key for us. We found the bigger bites came shallow, whereas in practice we couldn't get bit shallow.

Frink and Marlow grab fourth for Kennesaw

Trailing their fellow Kennesaw team by 3 ounces, Thomas Frink and Justin Marlow took the fourth-Justin Marlow teamed with Thomas Frink to give Kennesaw State additional top-5 representation by taking fourth place.place spot with 7-9. Their day, Frink said, was defined by quantity over quality.

"We caught them with everything - reaction baits and plastics," Frink said of their junk-fishing day. "We caught at least 15 keepers today. We had a limit within an hour this morning. We fished downriver and upriver, and it didn't matter where we went - we were catching the same size fish."

Marlow said he and Frink made a concerted effort to weed out the smaller fish, but to no avail: "We were throwing baits that the smaller, cookie-cutters don't normally bite, and they still wanted it pretty badly. They had Napoleon complex - they thought they were big and bad today. I don't know where the big fish went."

University of Florida takes fifth

Mark Gipson hopes he and partner Travis Fledderman can continue the University of FloridaContinuing their school's tradition of Southeast Regional success (Gators won in 2009 and 2010), Travis Fledderman and Mark Gipson caught a limit that weighed 7-5 and earned the fifth-place spot.

"Obviously, I would like to have had more weight, but it's nice to be in the top five because I didn't think we (made it), to be honest," Gipson said. "But we're in position to stay in the top five and, more importantly, make a move for that first-place spot."

Fledderman said his team fared best with reaction baits in the morning, but a limit of keepers eluded them until late in the day: "We didn't fill out a limit until about 2:15 today and our check-in was at 2:35, so we were sweating it a little bit, for sure."

Gipson said that limit required just about all the crayons in the box: "We threw everything - topwater, jerkbait, crankbait, Texas-rigged worm. You name it, we threw it today. We did dial in on one bait, and that's probably what we're going to spend the majority of our time with."

Best of the rest

Rounding out the top 10 leaders at the National Guard FLW College Fishing Southeast Regional Championship:Georgia Southern

6th: Georgia Southern, Wesley Maples and Jed Thigpen, 7-4
7th: Auburn University, Jordan Lee and Matt Lee, 6-9
8th: South Alabama, Taylor Ramey and John McGraw, 5-1
9th: Lagrange College, Torre Pike and Ryan Wakenigg, 5-1
10th: UAB, Patrick Townes and Taylor Mardis, 4-6

Day two of National Guard FLW College Fishing Southeast Regional action continues at Friday's takeoff, scheduled to take place at 7 a.m. Central time at Po-Boy Landing located at 158 County Road 335 in Salem, Ala.

Tags: david-a-brown  headline-story  2011-09-08-southeast-regional-lake-harding 

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