Bethel University Students Also Qualify for National Championship

Bethel University’s Jacob Hardy and Jake Lawrence brought in 40 pounds, 14 ounces of bass from Pickwick Lake to win the Carhartt College Series Wild Card tournament and advance to the Carhartt College Series National Championship.

The Wild Card was a final chance for college fishing teams to qualify for the National Championship tournament, to be held Aug. 1-3 on Chatuge Reservoir in Georgia. Hardy and Lawrence, along with 12 other college fishing teams, took advantage of the opportunity and will converge on Young Harris College, host of the championship.

Hardy and Lawrence outfished 75 other college teams on Pickwick Lake by adjusting to changing moods of the bass while others were unable to do so.

“We were catching several 4-pounders on a Strike King Shadalicious Swimbait in practice, but they wouldn’t connect with it during the tournament,” Hardy said.

Several anglers had this issue on Days 1 and 2. The majority of the top contenders threw some variation of a swimbait, and they caught most of their fish using it. The bass that hit their swimbaits and missed made the difference.

“Theyould just slap at it during the tournament,” Hardy said. “Jake stuck with a Sexy Spoon all day both days and ended up catchin gall of our fish.”

The connection still wasn’t automatic for Lawrence.

“There were several times where I might get 10 of 15 bites before one would finally get it,” Lawrence said.

The lack of commitment from the bass was likely due to the heavy amount of fishing pressure that anglers were forced to deal with on Pickwick this week. In practice, teams would leave a school of fish after one or two bites to avoid hooking too many fish  — and to keep passersby from focusing on their hot spots.

Once the competition began, however, anglers had to milk their areas for all they were worth, and that’s when the bite started to change. That amount of pressure altered how the fish would react to their baits and how the bass would position themselves on the structure.

“You just had to be persistent,” Lawrence said. “There were little bitty places you had to hit. : schools [of fish] inside of schools. The school would be 50 or 75 yards long stretched down a ledge, but there would be one place that the big ones were on.”

Current was key as always this time of year on Pickwick. Once it picked up around 11 a.m. today, the schools started to ignite. That first 30 minutes proved to be the difference maker for Bethel.

“We had one fish at 11,” Lawrence said. “We made a run to a school we hadn’t fished this week, and we culled everything we had in 20 casts.”

Andrew Nutt and Zachary Wiggers of the University of North Alabama finished second with a two-day total of 40-3. The local powerhouse capitalized on their knowledge of the lake and their understanding of ledge fishing to clinch their National Championship berth along with the following teams:

Jordan Lee and Shane Powell of Auburn University; Brad Rutherford and Matthew Peeler of Young Harris College; Drew Long and Cody Garrison of Mississippi State University; Tanner Parker and Trent Palmer of Georgia Southern University; Nick LaDart and Brian Eaton of Louisiana Monroe; Ben Freeman and Dillon McGee of Bethel University; Blake Deron and Brett Preuett of Louisiana Monroe; Nathan Martin and Robb Young of the University of North Alabama; William Shipes and Alan Horwatt of Clemson University; Logan Shaddix and Ethan Flack of Wallace State CC Hanceville; Byron Kenney and Brian Rosso of the University of Georgia.

Winning the Carhartt Big Bass prize, a $500 Carhartt gift card for the largest bass caught during the tournament, was Brad Rutherford for his 6-pound, 3-ounce bass on Day 1.

The Bass Pro Shops/Nitro Big Bag award for the largest limit weighed in during the tournament went to Andrew Nutt and Zachary Wiggers of the University of North Alabama and Brad Rutherford and Matthew Peeler of Young Harris College. The two teams tied for the Day 1 lead with 22-8. The teams received a $250 Bass Pro Shops gift card.

Winning the tournament’s Livingston Lures Leader award of a $500 gift card were Jacob Hardy and Jake Lawrence of Bethel University.

Image courtesy Bassmaster

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