Bethel University’s team of Zach Parker and Matthew Roberts brought in another huge limit of bass on the second and final day of competition to win the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Southern Regional bass tournament on the Harris Chain.
The teammates weighed five bass totaling 25 pounds, 1 ounce, giving them a 9-pound, 9-ounce margin of victory. It was a record-setting performance. Bringing in the two heaviest bags of the event, Bethel set the all-time one-day and two-day heavyweight records at 29-2 and 54-3 for the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series. Their Day 1 big bass, weighing 9 pounds, 11 ounces, briefly held the All-Time Big Bass record until it was broken by a 10-7 largemouth caught by Cody Spears of Florida State University on Day 2. Spears claimed the event’s Carhartt Big Bass honors for his trophy bass.
The Southern Regional on Harris Chain was earmarked as the tournament where records would be broken. The Harris Chain and the 79-boat field did not disappoint. Parker’s and Roberts’ 29-2 catch on Day 1 was the heaviest of the event. It earned them the award of the Bass Pro Nitro Big Bag for the tournament.
The duo started the final round precisely where they left off on Day 1 — fishing the same grassline where they had caught their entire first-day catch. Almost immediately, they started extracting big fish after big fish from the grass.
“The fish were still in the exact same spot,” said Roberts.
The “spot” consisted of a ridge bordering a shallow flat with vegetation all over it. The team members worked their way up and down the ridge, casting lipless crankbaits onto the flat and ripping them through the grass.
“Fish were moving on and off of that flat all day,” said Parker.
A sharp cold front that moved through central Florida on Friday set Bethel up for the victory. With falling water temperatures, bass that had been in the shallows fled to the nearest deep water they could find. The ridge the Bethel team had found proved to be a textbook staging ground.
“The cold front brought the fish out of shallow water and pushed them out on that drop,” said Parker. “I think the cold weather actually helped us out.”
Taking advantage of the cold front secured most of the Top 13 teams their spots in the 2013 National Championship. Teams had to finish in the Top 13 to advance. A handful of them managed to do so by sight fishing for spawning bass, but the majority of the qualifiers targeted prespawn bass with lipless crankbaits.
With nearly a 10-pound margin of victory, you wouldn’t expect the winning team to have a “one-that-got away” story, but Roberts stubbed his toe on the fish of a lifetime on Day 2.
“It happened on his second to last cast,” Parker said. “The one that got away was bigger than that 9-11 he had on the first day.”
Parker estimated the fish was in the 12-plus-pound range.
“I’ve never seen a fish that big in person in my life,” Roberts said. “It was sickening, but at the same time we had a great week.”
The two college anglers admitted they never reached a point in the day where they thought they had the win secured.
“I never thought it was over,” Parker said. “We fished that spot hard until we had about an hour and 10 minutes left. We knew that somebody could bust a 30-pound bag out here.”
Daytona State College’s Thomas Oltorik III and Scott Heaberlin finished second with an impressive two-day total o 44-10, and another Bethel University team, Myles Palmer and Dalton Wilson, caught 36-14 for third.
For a full list of the tournament results, including the Top 13 National Championship qualifiers, go to Bassmaster.com.