UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Lake Cumberland

Clemson Tigers claw their way to the top

Clemson Tigers claw their way to the top
The Clemson University team of Andy Wicker and Harold Turner managed to grab the lead during the opening round of competition at the 2012 FLW College Fishing National Championship after posting a total catch of 16 pounds, 14 ounces.

COLUMBIA, S.C. - After a hard-fought day of tournament action at the 2012 National Guard FLW College Fishing National Championship, the Clemson University squad of Andy Wicker and Harold Turner managed to grab the overall lead after posting a total catch of 16 pounds, 14 ounces.

However, it was far from easy.

With a fickle bass bite that turned on and off like a spigot all day, the Clemson team - as well as the rest of the competition - didn't have many prolonged windows to land quality bass. The end result was a top-five leaderboard separated by a mere 14 ounces upon conclusion of Friday's weigh-in.

In the end, however, the Clemson duo managed to shake off the nerves and pressure that resulted from fishing on their "hometown" lake and climb atop of the standings after the first day of competition.

"We couldn't have asked for more on the first day," said Clemson teammate Harold Turner. "It's really nerve wracking being on one of your home lakes. So it feels good to be in first. I'm definitely glad to be here."

However, the day's action was not without its ups and downs.

"The day started off pretty slowly for us and we really struggled during that first hour. But we had a flurry from about 9 to 11 a.m. and that really helped us," said Turner. "It was a fun two hours. But then after lunch, it really slowed down for us again. So for the rest of the afternoon, we didn't focus as much on catching as many fish as we could. We focused a lot of finding new water and new areas to fish tomorrow."

The Clemson team said it stressed versatility throughout the day.

"We weren't going to put all of our eggs in one basket," said Turner. "We threw topwaters, flukes, shaky heads, jigs, swimbaits and Senkos. We tried to cover as much water as we could, but it was very specific water. We have more of a pattern going right now. Like I said, we spent about two hours this afternoon finding new water that we could feel confident on. So, as far as tomorrow goes, I think we're going to be all over the place."

Auburn gearing up for another title run

After finishing the FLW College National Championship in third place overall in each of the past two seasons, it's not surprising that once again, Auburn University is in the hunt for a title. This time, the Auburn University team - helmed by brothers Matt and Jordan Lee - found itself in second place overall with a total catch of 16 pounds, 8 ounces. However, this year, the team wants to finish the job - and bring the title home to War Eagle Nation.

"We're really pumped," said Matt Lee. "Being in second place right now feels great. If we just take it one day at a time, I think we'll be in good shape. We really tried to save some of our fish today, so hopefully we'll be right there in the end.

"We're just trying to shoot for 15 pounds a day and we did better than that today," continued Matt Lee. "We had a limit by 11 a.m. so we're pretty happy."

Matt's partner and brother agreed.

"Today was a good starting point," said Jordan. "We backed off our fish a bit today but our goal will be to bring in more weight tomorrow. We really mixed things up as far as baits go today but I think we've really narrowed our (selection) down to one bait. Right now the fish are really pressured and I really think (this one) bait will allow us to do really well over the next few days."

Virginia Tech within striking distance

Bolstered by a total catch of 16 pounds, 5 ounces, the Virginia Tech squad of Wyatt Blevins and Carson Rejzer finished the day in third place overall.

"The fishing didn't start out fast for us, but when we finally fell into our pattern, things really started coming together for us," said Rejzer. "In the end, everything worked out great."

While many of the teams that had success during Friday's competition found their early morning bite to be crucial, the Virginia Tech team experienced almost the opposite.

"For us, we didn't even catch our first keeper until 9 a.m.," said Blevins. "The other thing that we noticed was that we really haven't seen anyone fishing the same stuff that we've been fishing, so we feel pretty good about that. I don't think anyone's really using the bait we're throwing - which is a real confidence bait for me. We also ran some new areas today so, hopefully, that will work out for us as well."

"There's definitely one dominant bait with our pattern," added Rejzer.

With two days left in the biggest competition of their fishing careers to date, the Virginia Tech team said they'd love nothing more than to be right in the mix on that final day.

"Two years ago we missed the cut by 11/2 pounds," said Blevins. "So we want to make the cut badly."

Kennesaw nets fourth place

Kennesaw State University teammate Justin Marlow shows off part of his squadOn the strength of a total catch of 16 pounds, 1 ounce, the Kennesaw State University team of Thomas Frink and Justin Marlow netted fourth place overall.

"I was big-time surprised by our total weight today," said Frink. "I thought we had about 13 pounds. So I'm just ecstatic right now."

The Kennesaw State team said that it did most of its damage running points.

"It was a real grind out there today," said Frink. "We're just running points all day. And we probably stayed at a few of them too long. But I don't think we'll make the same mistake tomorrow. If we just had two more quality bites, we could have brought back something like 17 or 18 pounds. So we feel pretty good about ourselves right now."

As far as Saturday's competition goes, Frink said the team will be ready to make any needed adjustments on the fly.

"We'll probably have the same basic game plan tomorrow," said Frink. "But we're going to keep making adjustments and make sure that we keep an open mind."

'Jersey Shore' claims top-five finish

Arguably the most enthusiastic team of the entire tournament was the Ramapo College duo of Charles Danza and Bob Rieder. Not only did they not disappoint on the water, claiming a fifth-place finish overall, but they didn't disappoint on stage either.

"This is the best day of my life," said Danza, shortly after weighing in his team's 16-pound catch. "I'd also like to thank everyone who has helped us out all week. I think the volunteers get a little scared when they know they have to deal with the Jersey kids. But they've been really great. I think we bonded with them."

"It's a lot of fun out there. But it's always a lot of fun when you have Charles in the boat with you," said Rieder. `We're excited. We're confident. It's just been a blast. I also caught the biggest fish of my life today."

The team said that they spent most of the day "running and gunning," to land the majority of their catch.

"We're covering a lot of water," said Danza. "But we found out that once you catch one, you can't catch fish in the same spot right away. They're really spooky. So, you pretty much have to wait awhile before you can go back and fish the same place. These fish are really educated."

"Basically, we're running what you might call a controlled chaos," added Rieder. "But we're having a lot of fun. And it's a fun fishery."

So how did a team from New Jersey figure out a southern waterway like Murray?

"We did a lot of online research," said Rieder. "Our practice was very helpful as well. We only caught 9 pounds on our last practice day, but by the end, we figured something out."

"That day really helped our confidence," said Danza. "We figured out that there was a strong, early morning bite. We knew where the fish were going to be and we just stuck to our plan."

After narrowing their bait selection down to three or four baits, the team said that it's ready to get back out there as soon as possible.

"It's just great to be here," said Rieder. "You can't even begin to calculate how amazing it's been so far."

"It's the greatest thing that's ever happened to me," said Danza.

Tourney format and event logistics

A packed crowd was on hand to witness the opening day weigh-in of the 2012 FLW College Fishing National Championship.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 Sunday'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 this year's Forrest Wood Cup - one of the most prestigious bass-fishing championships in the nation. The 2012 Forrest Wood Cup will be held Aug. 9-12 on Lake Lanier in Duluth, Ga., and boasts a top prize of $500,000. The national champions also will receive use of a wrapped boat and Chevy truck for Forrest Wood Cup competition.

2012 National Guard FLW College Fishing National Championship action resumes at 7 a.m. Saturday morning from Park Site No. 8 (North), located at 2101 N. Lake Drive in Columbia, S.C.

Related links:

Event schedule
Meet the 2012 FLW College Fishing National Championship teams
FLW Tailgate Zone

Tags: gary-mortenson  headline-story  2012-04-13-lake-murray 

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