Warhawks maintain lead after Day 2 of College Series Central Regional

Stewart, Joiner have 4-pound-plus lead heading into Championship Saturday

On Day 2 of the Bassmaster College Series Central Regional, the University of Louisiana-Monroe’s Tyler Stewart and Nick Joiner managed a solid five-bass limit and will carry a 4-pound, 1-ounce lead into Championship Saturday on the Atchafalaya Basin.

After wrangling 17 pounds, 9 ounces on Thursday, Stewart and Joiner added 9-9 Friday — for a two-day total of 27-2.

Although they didn’t boast a big bag Friday, the teammates from ULM said they didn’t explore all of their spots and are hoping that fish management will pay off Saturday.

“We did save some areas that we found in practice,” Stewart said. “We don’t know if they will be big-fish areas, but we are probably going to start on one of them tomorrow. In 15 minutes during practice, we had about 10 pounds in there. So with more time, we may be able to catch more than that.”

Stewart and Joiner seemingly boated bass on whatever baits they threw Friday. But after filling their limit, they stuck with a couple of key lures hoping to catch more of the big bass they caught in practice.

They know how crucial a 4-pounder can be in this event, especially on the final day — and they have a specific plan in place to boat that kind of kicker bass Saturday.

“We are hopefully going to start with our key baits and get our quick limit, and then we will go head hunting,” Joiner said. “Hopefully, we can get one of those 4-pounders and improve our bag.”

The Warhawk teammates will need to stay focused, with the rest of the top five also from Louisiana. Marcus Kliebert and Francis Robichaux from Nicholls State University caught four bass that weighed 12-5 Friday and jumped from sixth to second, just 4-1 back of the leaders.

The Nicholls State duo sported a solid bag of 10-12 on Day 1 and upgraded even more on Day 2. The one asterisk on their tournament so far is the fact they only brought four fish to the scales Friday. That could possibly hurt their chances if things are tight down the stretch.

“We had some missed opportunities today, as we lost a 3-pounder at the boat,” Robichaux said. “We are just going to focus on every bite that we get and making sure we get those in the boat, and we will see how it plays out tomorrow.”

Having that 3-pound fish would have put Robichaux and Kliebert right behind Stewart and Joiner with a considerably smaller margin to make up.

This tournament has featured a local flavor the entire week, with 11 of the Top 20 teams fishing Saturday from Louisiana. Six are from the host school — Nicholls State.

Matthew Leblanc and Matthew Benoits from Nicholls are in third with 22-10, and Gunner Durrett and Austin Watkins from Louisiana Tech are in fourth with 22-5. The Nicholls State team of John Authement and Cameron Naquin is fifth with 21-3.

Stewart and Joiner also earned the Livingston Lures leader award of $250 of Livingston product for leading the second day.

The Top 20 teams will advance to Saturday’s final round, and the Top 13 teams will clinch a berth into the 2016 College Series National Championship, which will be held at a site to be announced later this year. There is roughly a 2-pound margin separating 13th and 20th place.

Saturday’s take-off will begin at 6:30 a.m. from Bayou Black Marina in Gibson, with the weigh-in set for  3:30 p.m. on the Nicholls campus in Thibodaux.