UPCOMING EVENT: YETI College Fishing - 2019 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Swing hard on Harding

The top-5 teams pause for the national anthem prior to their final launch in the College Fishing Southeast Regional on Lake Harding.

AUBURN, Ala. - Five teams will carry five unique game plans onto Lake Harding for the final round of FLW National Guard College Fishing Series Regional Championship presented by Evinrude. However, it's safe to say that all share the objective stated by the University of Georgia's Robert Tolbert and Chase Simmemon: Go big or go home.

Leading the event since day one, the Bulldogs admittedly fished somewhat conservatively for two days to make sure they did not flame out by going too hot too soon. All top-5 teams have earned their place in the College Fishing National Championship and the team that tops that event advances to the 2012 Forrest Wood Cup at Georgia's Lake Lanier.

With that course now firmly set, Tolbert said he and Simmemon will step on the gas and fish for the big bites that could help them blow up their 15-pound, 12-ounce total and seal the deal.

"When you're fishing for a top-5 (spot), you know you have to catch a limit," Tolbert said. "We had a pound and a half lead after the first day and catching a limit was our main priority yesterday. Today, (aAfter leading for two days, Randy Tolbert and Chase Simmemon will fish for the big bites that could seal the win for the University of Georgia. limit) is still a big deal, but it's more about fishing for the win. If you fish for the win, sometimes you have to swing for the fence. That's what we're going to do this morning."

After sacking up 10 pounds on day one, the Georgia struggled yesterday, but scraped together a limit of 5-12. They caught three of their fish dropshotting finesse worms offshore and added two more by flipping creature baits in shallow cover. Today, they're headed to water they've not touched during the tournament in hopes of finding the quality largemouth they need.

The first two days saw Tolbert and Simmemon focusing mostly on main lake structure, but today they'll poke into the backs of creeks to hunt those big green fish. Tolbert said they're going to change their bait selection, at least initially, to entice quality bites.

"The bite got a lot tougher yesterday but we're going to do something a little different today and fish an area we fished in practice and saw a few big fish," Tolbert said. "If they bite, that'll be the deal and I feel like we can win. I think we can catch a limit after that and if we do, I think we have a shot."

Holding in second place for two days, Clemson's Andy Wicker and Harold Turner closed the distance Trailing the lead by 4 ounces, Clemsonon day two and now trail the leaders by only four ounces. They've done a lot of their damage by throwing chrome lipless crankbaits and Wicker said he's optimistic that these reaction baits will produce again today.

"We're definitely going to try them out," he said. "They were really strong in practice and it was strong on the first day so we're definitely going to give it a shot before we let it go."

Starting the day in third with 14-6, Kennesaw State's Thomas Frink and Justin Marlow, are certainly within striking distance. They caught their day-two fish by teasing bass with a topwater frog and then following up with a subsurface plastic presentation to catch those that missed the frog. Frink wouldn't discuss specifics, but said his team will switch things up today in hopes of finding bigger bites.

Georgia Southern duo, Wesley Maples and Jed Thigpen are also hog hunting today. They'll repeat their day-two strategy of throwing Texas-rigged worms around shallow grass.

Brothers Jordan and Matt Lee earned a final-round berth for the hometown school after moving up from seventh on day two. Matt said lake current will be a key factor, as evidenced in the full field's overall decline in productivity from day one (moderate current) to the second day (minimal current).Representing the hometown school, Auburn Today he and Jordan are hoping that, with the weather stabilizing after a cold front earlier in the week, they might have a shot at the kicker fish that can move them up in the pack.

"On the first morning, the bite was a lot better because (the dam) was letting some water out," he said. "That's why a lot of people caught fish early and caught a lot more keepers. Yesterday, everybody caught fewer keepers. Maybe this morning, they'll pull a little bit of water and that spotted bass bite will be on. With a shorter day, I think a limit is going to go a long way.

"We're four pounds behind, but if we can catch a limit early and then go upriver and get a 3- or 4-pounder to bite a frog - and they're up there - we might have a chance to win. We're just glad to be here (in the top-5) but it's reasonable."

The Lee brothers will expect to catch a limit on a dropshot and a shaky head and then turn to a frog for the big bites.

Tournament logistics

 Third-place Thomas Frink and Justin Marlow will be looking to improve Kennesaw StateWeigh-in will be held at Ag Heritage Park located at 411 South Donahue St. in Auburn, Ala., beginning at 3 p.m. or upon completion of the Auburn University vs. Mississippi State Football game Saturday. Weigh-in is free and open to the public.

Auburn University will also be hosting a College Fishing Festival throughout the three-day tournament. Students and fishing fans alike will be treated to the National Guard Warrior Challenge, a Ranger Boat simulator, tailgate games, a sports zone along with contests for cash and several prize give-aways. The festival will take place at Ag Heritage Park from 2-4 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 9 a.m. until the kickoff of the football game on Saturday.

A National Guard Soldier Appreciation Tournament will also be held Saturday. Takeoff will be at 7 a.m. at Po-Boy Landing and weigh-in will be at 3 p.m. (subject to end of football game) at Ag Heritage Park.

The top five teams from each regional advance to the national championship where the first-place team will win $100,000 with $25,000 of that for their school and $50,000 cash and a Ranger 177TR bass boat wrapped in school colors and a 90-horsepower Evinrude or Mercury outboard for their fishing club.

College Fishing is free to enter and FLW Outdoors provides boats and drivers for each competingThey 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.

Saturday's conditions

Sunrise: 6:22 a.m.
Temperature at takeoff: 63 degrees
Expected high temperature: 82 degrees
Wind: NW at 5 mph
Max. humidity: 56 percent
Day's outlook: sunny

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

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