Tournament leader Northwest-Shoals is no small fish in college bass tourney
By Paul Stackhouse, Sports Writer, The Decatur Daily
It didn’t take long for the smack talk to begin when The University of Alabama anglers found out they trailed Auburn University at Decatur’s Ingalls Harbor on the opening day of the Southern Collegiate Bass Championship on Wheeler Lake.
The eight Crimson Tide fishermen made it known the tournament wasn’t over, and many made references about waiting until tomorrow, which brought high-fives from many of the anglers.
The contestants in the tournament, which finishes with the second and final round Saturday, are students from 23 different colleges.
Like basketball players scoring points for their team, the individual boats consists two anglers and are allowed to bring in a limit of five bass.
Some teams have up to four boats in the event but only the weights of the top two will count for the day’s catch. Teams with only one boat in the tournament are allowed to bring in 10 bass.
The boats will take off from Ingalls at about 6:30 a.m. with the championship weigh-in beginning at 2 p.m. There is no admission fee to watch the weigh-in.
Northwest-Shoals Community College claimed the lead Friday after bringing in 22.59 pounds of bass to the scales.
Chattanooga sits in second place at 20.26, while Tennessee is in third place at 20.22.
Rounding out the top 10 are Auburn (19.95), Alabama (19.42), Tennessee Tech (18.67), Kennesaw State (18.36), Georgia (17.51), Clemson (17.01) and Ole Miss (16.27).
Northwest-Shoals anglers Andrew Hamilton and David Allen, a pair of sophomores from Florence, brought a bag of bass to the scales weighing 12.27 pounds to help their team catapult to the top of the leader board.
“I’ve fished all of the Tennessee River’s lakes from Guntersville to Kentucky Lake,” Hamilton said. “So, you could say I’m familiar with Wheeler. I’ve fished some FLW tournaments on these lakes, also, which has helped me learn a lot about the Tennessee River.”
Allen said that confidence is high for his team.
“We feel pretty good about things right now,” Allen said. “We’ll talk about it tonight some and just hope they start biting again tomorrow.”
Auburn is playing host to the tournament. The Auburn team of Jordan Lee of Cullman and Kiron Browning of Texarkana, Texas, brought in a five-bass bag weighing 13.22 pounds, which led all boats Friday.
“I feel pretty confident about tomorrow,” said Lee, a freshman. “We caught a lot of small fish today, a lot of male bass, and I wouldn’t mind catching something like that again, but we really need to get a big fish to help the team.”
Browning said their strategy for Saturday is not to change much from what they did Friday.
“We’re going back to the same area, and I feel like we can catch little keepers there all day, but we have to look for something bigger,” he said. “The big female bass just haven’t moved into the shallows yet, so I’m not real sure how we’re going to go after the big fish. Basically, you could say we’re not going to change much.”
North Alabama rests in 11th place with a weight of 15.75 pounds.
UNA’s Ryan Salzman, a junior from Decatur, and Andy Page, a freshman from Athens, managed to bring in a bag of bass weighing 7.90 pounds. Even though their numbers are low, their spirits are high.
“I’ve lived on this lake my whole life,” Page said. “I know anything can happen here and we can make a big difference in our team weight tomorrow by having a good day.”
Salzman pointed out that he’s not a believer in the home lake jinx that many tournament anglers talk about.
“I’m not a believer in the bad luck,” Salzman said. “We won the regional last year on Wilson, so that just shows we don’t have a home lake jinx against us.
“Tomorrow, we’re going to work on finding a better pattern, and I believe we’re going to have a much better day.”
Jann Swaim, an academic adviser at Auburn, is the tournament director at the Southern Championship. He stressed that teamwork is the key to winning.
“We make it well known that there are not any individuals here,” Swaim said. “At the motel tonight, I feel the teams are going to be discussing a lot of strategy. That’s the way it needs to be. They will practice a team strategy tonight, and we encourage them to do the same on the water. It can really help them to communicate during the day.”
The winning school advances to the Boat U.S. Nationals in Lewisville, Texas.
Southern Collegiate Bass Championship first-day results
Here are the standings after Day 1 of the Southern Collegiate Bass Championships at Wheeler Lake on Friday. The tournament finishes Saturday with a 2 p.m. weigh-in at Ingalls Harbor. Spectator admission is free.
School Boats Total pounds
1. Northwest-Shoals 4 22.59
2. Chattanooga 2 20.46
3. Tennessee 4 20.22
4. Auburn 4 19.95
5. Alabama 4 19.42
6. Tennessee Tech 2 18.67
7. Kennesaw State 2 18.36
8. Georgia 4 17.51
9. Clemson 2 17.01
10. Ole Miss 2 16.27
11. North Alabama 4 15.75
12. Freed-Hardeman 2 14.26
13. Jacksonville State 2 13.56
14. Georgia College 2 13.46
15. Bethel University 2 11.28
16. Gadsden State 4 11.09
17. Middle Tennessee State 3 10.48
18. Birmingham-Southern 1 10.46
19. Troy 1 10.29
20. South Alabama 1 9.26
21. UAB 2 8.87
22. Mississippi State 3 8.75
23. Austin Peay 1 5.99