Lance Freeman and Chandler Christian of Murray State University surprised even themselves by bringing in a huge limit on the final day to win the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Midwestern Regional presented by Bass Pro Shops on Clinton Lake Saturday.
What they thought would be their toughest day of the three-day tournament was actually their best as they brought in a limit of five bass weighing 20 pounds, 4 ounces, their biggest catch of the week. The haul gave them a total of 57-5 and a nearly 6-pound margin over their nearest competitor, the McKendree University team.
Clinton Lake suited the Murray State duo as they fished the way they do back home on Kentucky and Barkley lakes. Fishing offshore was the key. Their prime fishing area on the main lake produced all three days of the tournament, despite intense fishing pressure from the 93-boat field.
“I started to second guess this area today with the rain and clouds,” Freeman said. “As soon as I started doubting, I caught a 3-pounder. Then Chandler caught a 5-13, and we knew it was going to (pay off) slowly, but surely.”
As on the previous two days, the pair landed four keeper bass before 8:30 a.m., but they went on a three-hour dry spell had to calm their nerves before finishing their limit.
“We sat on four fish for a long time today,” Freeman said. “We ran around quite a bit and then came back. We settled our nerves, and then Chandler pulled out a finesse tactic and put the fifth fish in the boat. We culled a couple times real fast after that.”
The baits that vaulted them to victory were “old school” lures that have caught bass in deep water for years, and Freeman and Christian were comfortable fishing them. They relied on a 10-inch Zoom Ol’ Monster Worm in the plum color and a 7/16 to 1/2-ounce green pumpkin colored jig.
Along with the win, Freeman and Christian took home the Livingston Lures Leader Award worth $250 for each angler.
McKendree University’s Austin Chapman and Curtis Lilly brought the Bass Pro Shops Nitro Big Bag of the tournament to the scales on Championship Saturday and vaulted into second place. Their final day weight of 22-4 helped them earn the award and also surpassed the second biggest bag of the event by 2 pounds.
After stumbling Friday and only weighing three fish, Chapman and Lilly altered their game plan and capitalized on the weather change to catch the biggest limit of their lives. Local knowledge played a big part for the team as Chapman lives less than an hour from Clinton Lake.
“We were able to watch most of our areas in practice to see how many people fished them,” Chapman said. “We concentrated on three different areas, and knowing the lake was a big help when it came to managing spots.”
Like the winners, they too, used slow-moving bottom baits like jigs and shaky heads to catch the majority of their weight.
St. Cloud State University’s 7-7 largemouth from Day 1 of the event held up for the Carhartt Big Bass and Joachim Speldrich and Marcus Welk cashed in on the $500 big fish prize.
The Top 14 teams in the regional qualified for the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship on Green River Lake in Campbellsville, Ky., July 28-30.