With 17 pounds, 9 ounces on Thursday, Tyler Stewart and Nick Joiner of the University of Louisiana-Monroe took an early 4-pound-plus lead after Day 1 in the Bassmaster College Series Central Regional on the Atchafalaya Basin.
Only six teams managed to boat five-bass limits for double-digit weights, proving how tough the Basin is proving to be in windy conditions, with muddy water from this week’s heavy rains.
“Our areas have stayed clear despite the wind we have faced this week,” Stewart said. “I don’t know if we can catch 17 pounds again, but the area we are fishing should stay stable.”
The ULM teammates were shocked that no one else fished around them on the first day, but they are certainly glad to be alone in their areas.
While the majority of the 65-team field caught primarily small bass throughout the day, Stewart and Joiner found the key to heavier fish.
Confident in their catch, the ULM team quit fishing 45 minutes early to minimize the risk of checking in late and incurring penalties.
Their closest pursuer is the team of Zach Ziober and Dakota Ebare from Tarleton State University out of Stephenville, Texas. The pair weighed in 13 pounds, 3 ounces Thursday. Their catch was anchored by a 5-pound largemouth.
The Tarleton State teammates shared fishing areas with other anglers on Thursday, but they claimed an advantage by fishing differently from the others.
“We saw a decent amount of boats in our area today,” Ziober said. “I just think they were fishing too fast. We decided to slow down and fish for less bites, but be patient knowing that big ones may come our way.”
Ziober and Ebare boated eight bass on the opening day, but only six of those were keepers. They lost several bass that would have increased their first-day weight.
“Losing fish happens,” Ebare said. ”We need to land every one for the rest of the tournament.”
The only fear the duo has is the wind direction and how that can affect the clarity of the water in their fishing area. If they have a north wind then their area will clear up and it could get even better, but a southwest wind could muddy up the water and force them to call an audible.
“If we get the correct wind then we will be fine,” Ebare said. “If we get the wrong wind, then our audible means a long run to another one of our areas.”
The rest of the Top 5 includes the teams of Matthew Benoits and Matthew Leblanc of Nicholls State and Travis Harriman and Chaz Miller of the University of Arkansas, tied with 12 pounds, and Jeremy Cooper and Zachary McDill of the University of Arkansas at Monticello College of Technology-Crossett with 11-12.
After Friday’s competition day the field is cut to the Top 20. The Top 13 teams at the conclusion of the event Saturday earn invitations to the Bassmaster College Series National Championship.