Arkansas team leads College B.A.S.S. National Championship, Lousiana team in second

Paul Rini, Chance Wilkinson of Northwestern State less than 3 pounds back.

After the first day of competition, the College B.A.S.S. West Super Regional tournament on Arkansas’ Lake Dardenelle local anglers are solidly in the lead, but two Louisiana teams are still in the hunt for the win and a berth in the National Championship set for July.

The winner of the College B.A.S.S. National Championship will earn a spot in the 2012 Bassmaster Classic slated for the Red River out of Shreveport.

The Arkansas Tech team of Dustin Huggins and Evan Barnes hold the lead with 16-03.

“Evan, he was stroking them,” Barnes said. “He caught three and I caught two. I was just making them mad.”

It seemed to work. Huggins and Barnes bagged 16 pounds, 3 ounces for a 2-11 lead over the team of Paul Rini and Chance Wilkinson of Northwestern State, La., who weighed in 13-8.

In third with 13-4 is the Arkansas Tech team of Jake Jacobs and Evan Smith. Texas A&M’s Stephen Becka and Weston Brown stand in fourth place with 12-5, and Michael Miller and Kyle Billingsley of the University of Arkansas are fifth with 11-8.

University of Louisiana Lafayette teammates Cody McCrary and Jordy Veillion are in seventh with 10-13.

A photo gallery from the first day can be viewed at

Arkansas Tech is fishing on its home waters of Lake Dardanelle, and it showed in the results. Spencer Grace and Jared Allen of Tech are ninth but have some ground to make up with a disappointing 10-2 despite bringing in one of only nine limits of the day.

“I guarantee one thing. I’m going to do something different tomorrow,” Grace said.

Roy Roberts and Trevor Graddy of Tech brought in four fish weighing 8-7.

“We got the bites to have a 15- or 16-pound sack, but we just have to execute,” Roberts said.

Smith said the Arkansas Tech fishing club started the school year with about 30 anglers, and at least 20 participated in once-a-month Sunday tournaments in lakes across the state. Like many colleges, the competitions were to see who would represent the school here and beyond.

“Anybody in our club could fish this tournament,” Smith said. “The top team here will be the ones going to the National Championship, unless they invite more.”

Most of the anglers reported far more difficult fishing conditions, even from practice the day before. Temperatures climbed into the high 90s, and anglers said their bites diminished once the sun got high in the sky.

“We worked hard — it’s hotter than Hades out here — and we worked hard out there,” ULL’s McCrary said.

Arkansas’ Miller said it was a grind.

“That water cleared up and that definitely has something to do with the bite,” he said. “It slowed down when that sun came up. It was a grind. We had two fish we didn’t boat that would have helped us out.”

Some teams think they’ve found the pattern. Joe Landry and Jacob Woods of Louisiana State University-Shreveport, the defending West Super Regional champs, only had 7-10 to hold 16th, but think they have something figured out. They rallied to win last year and need that again to three-peat.

“We just figured something out,” Landry said. “We caught 30 fish in the last 30 minutes.”

The final weigh-in will be held at 3:45 p.m., and can be watched live on the BASSCam.