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McCarty, Pennington Win College Open

McCarty, Pennington Win College Open
Hunter McCarty, Sloan Pennington

University of North Alabama anglers Hunter McCarty and Sloan Pennington weighed in the second-largest bag of the tournament on day two of the YETI FLW College Fishing Open on Kentucky Lake and finished with 45 pounds, 14 ounces total to edge out Tristan McCormick and Dakota Pierce of Bethel University by just 1 pound, 10 ounces.

McCarty and Pennington also managed to upgrade their day one total of 22-2 with the 23-12 day-two bag – something few other teams were able to do on a day shortened by heavy winds.

Complete results

The North Alabama duo had an incredible two-day stretch that’s made even more impressive by the fact that they barely even practiced for the tournament due to some equipment failure.

“We both had to be at home,” explains Pennington. “We had planned on leaving Saturday and getting two or three days of practice in, but that didn’t work out as planned. My boat wasn’t ready to go and we got [McCarty’s] at the last minute. We got up here and put in the water at daylight, and then about 8 o’clock we went to crank it up and go to a different spot and it wouldn’t crank.

“We had to pull it out and take it to get it fixed at Donley’s Marina. They were awesome. They didn’t charge us a dime and got us back as quick as they could.”

But boat troubles aside, McCarty and Pennington almost didn’t even fish the event in the first place. As Pennington put it, Kentucky Lake has been “just so bad” to them in the past.

“Last year we had a terrible time,” he says. “I had an incident before blastoff where I wrecked my truck and ran off into a ditch. My boat got tore up. My motor blew up — all during the same tournament. We’ve just been cursed on Kentucky Lake. All that bad karma turned into good karma. We’re even now. She’s cost us a lot of money, but I think she’s just given it all back to us.”

Kentucky Lake certainly gave them a lot this week. It seemed like everything the teammates tried just worked out, even after failing to find much during what amounted to just three hours of practice time.

Instead of having a really defined pattern, McCarty and Pennington just looked for gravel transitions and main-lake points that had gravel on them in the Blood River area fairly far south of takeoff. It wasn’t a short run to get to those spots, especially with winds starting to pick up late in the morning on day two.

“Gravel bank was definitely a key, but there’s gravel banks just about everywhere,” Pennington says. “Our best area was more like a shallow point or a shallow flat. They were in about 2 feet of water and that was before it went into a spawning pocket. We caught several on the main river before it goes into the pocket.”

The winners admit they were on a bit of a junk-fishing pattern, though they only used a few baits to get the job done: a red 1/2-ounce Jackall TN 60 lipless crankbait and a Rapala DT6 in the demon color. They also caught one fish on a custom 3/4-ounce double-Colorado blade (with one orange blade) spinnerbait and a Kalin’s Lunker Grub trailer.

Current and wind were big factors both days of the event, perhaps even more so on day two. Kentucky Dam continued to pull water throughout the tournament, and the high winds that shortened day two played a big role in how fish were positioned.

“The only area we caught more than one fish was directly in the current, today especially because of the wind,” explains McCarty. “They were sitting on the banks in the deeper area behind the points.”

“Yesterday we covered a lot of water and only caught one here and one there, and then there was only one area we caught more than one yesterday,” Pennington adds. “We stopped there first today and with the current and the wind, we never really left that one spot.”

But not being able to practice and essentially not having a set pattern to run wasn’t a big deal to McCarty and Pennington. They’ve been fishing together for about three years and they won the BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship together in 2017. That’s a pretty big deal for building confidence and trust in one another.

It also helps when a teammate is feeling especially good about the tournament.

“I woke up feeling dangerous,” McCarty says in an homage to Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield. “I told [Pennington] the first day we got here that I woke up feeling dangerous that morning, just messing with him. And two weeks ago, I told him we were going to win Kentucky Lake.”

There was no pressure, though Pennington admits there might have been had they known where they stood on day two.

“We weren’t (feeling pressure) as much as we probably should have been, because we didn’t know if we were on enough fish to win anyway, so we were just kind of going to make the best of what we could,” he admits. “That was a lot of it. We fished a lot more relaxed and we executed really well.”

Execution, confidence, trust, finding fish — pretty much all anyone needs to weigh in a couple huge stringers and win an event.

The duo of McCarty and Pennington is extremely accomplished, yet winning the Open on Kentucky Lake somehow feels better to them than almost anything else — even their national title. 

“We won the national championship two years ago, but I think I like this one more,” McCarty says. “It’s such an accomplishment, because this lake has been rough for us, and we almost didn’t even come this year.

“It’s an unreal feeling. I still can’t believe there’s no one else to weigh in. I’m still worried someone is going to come take this check out of my hand.”

 

Top 10 Teams

1. Hunter McCarty, Sloan Pennington – University of North Alabama – 45-14 (10) – $27,400

2. Tristan McCormick, Dakota Pierce – Bethel University – 44-4 (10)

3. Chandler Boman, Ty Cox – Blue Mountain College – 42-5 (10) – $200

4. Nathan Doty, Jacob Louis – McKendree University – 40-6 (10)

5. Alex Henderson, Zach Manneback – Adrian College – 39-9 (10) – $250

6. Jonathan Creed, Jared Latone – Youngstown State University – 39-1 (10) 

7. Cody Batterson, Zachary Graham – Adrian College – 37-14 (10)

8. Kyle Palmer, John Coble Garrett – Bethel University – 37-7 (10)

9. Cole Floyd, Carter McNeil – Bethel University – 36-13 (8) 

10. Blake Jackson, Trevor McKinney – McKendree University – 35-1 (8) 

Tags: flw  college-open  kentucky-lake  bass-fishing  fishing-tournament  justin-onslow  headline-story  2019-03-12-kentucky-barkley 

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