Zach Parker and Matt Roberts are roommates and teammates, and now the two share something else: the lead at the 2014 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship on Georgia’s Chatuge Reservoir.
The anglers hail from a school that has made a name in bass fishing: Bethel University. In fact, it’s the main reason both competitors chose the small Tennessee school.
Parker and Roberts came in on Day 2 of the tournament with 12 pounds, 15 ounces to add to their 14-6 from yesterday. They have a nearly 3-pound lead over their nearest competitors, Jake Whitaker and Andrew Helms of University of North Carolina-Charlotte.
As the weigh-in wound down and it appeared they would end the day in the lead, rain that had been threatening for hours finally broke, making them consider how they would approach competition on Day 3.
“It’s going to make it a lot tougher,” Roberts said. “But it’s also going to hurt that shallow bite where the big fish are.”
“And we’re not looking for the big fish,” Parker added. “We’re trying to catch a limit of 3-pounders.”
Aiming for the medium-size fish has helped them so far. They finished Day 1 in second place using the same strategy.
Then the pressure was on for Day 2 because only the Top 5 teams will advance to the final day of competition Saturday. The Day 1 leaders, Nathan Martin and Michael Gullette, slipped all the way to the 14th spot; it shows how quickly you can go from the leader to not even having a seat at the table.
“We wanted to get a limit first,” Roberts said of their Day 2 strategy. “But then we only had 8 or 9 pounds by noon, so we fished deeper, and we were able to cull three times.”
The anglers spent most of their practice time earlier this week marking brushpiles rather than fishing, looking for enough to hold them over for several days.
“We haven’t even hit half of our stuff yet,” Parker said.
Having lots of areas to fall back on is good because, at least for two people, this is a six-day tournament. The first three days, July 31-Aug. 2, are for the championship, and the next three — Aug. 2-5 — fall under the 2014 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Classic Bracket. In the bracket, anglers will fish head to head in an elimination tournament that will leave two anglers fishing against each other, still on the same water, on Tuesday, Aug. 5. The winner of that battle will receive an invitation to compete in the 2015 Bassmaster Classic.
If Parker or Roberts makes it all the way until Tuesday, one or both of them will need a whole lot of brushpiles.
Parker and Roberts both earned the Livingston Lures Leader Award worth $250 in Livingston products, which is given to the anglers who lead on Day 2.
The biggest bass of the day was caught by Justin Walton and Brian Redd of the University of West Georgia. The 6-2 was a great catch, for sure, but it won’t win Carhartt Big Bass honors. Two teams brought in bass that weighed 6-7 on Day 1.
The number of fish was down on Day 2 from the first day, even though the average fish weight remained around 2 pounds. Only 16 teams caught limits on Day 2, down from 27 on the previous day. Fourteen teams got skunked, up from 12 on Day 1. Many anglers blamed the blazing sun for tougher fishing.
Only five teams advance to Day 3 Saturday. They are Parker and Roberts; Whitaker and Helms; Brett Preuett and Jackson Blackett, University of Louisiana-Monroe; Robert Giarla and Bentley Manning, Tennessee Tech University; and Tanner Cooper and Memo Nunez, New Mexico State University.
Competition resumes tomorrow at 6:30 a.m. ET for launch at The Ridges Resort and Marina in Hiawassee, Ga. The weigh-in will begin at 2:30 p.m. ET at Young Harris College in Young Harris, Ga., where the 2014 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series national champions will be crowned. Stay tuned to Bassmaster.com for updates.
Image courtesy Shaye Baker/Bassmaster