At the onset of the event, Shane Lehew of UNC Charlotte predicted that 29 pounds would likely win the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series East Regional on Lake Norman. He and teammate Eric Self were the only team to exceed those expectations.
UNC Charlotte brought in 35-4 during two days of competition, including the Carhartt Big Bass weighing 5-11, the runner-up Carhartt Big Bass weighing 5-5 and the Bass Pro Nitro Big Bag of the tournament weighing 18-9. The Carhartt Big Bass and Bass Pro Nitro Big Bag both came on the final day.
“That’s probably the biggest bag I’ve ever weighed in on Norman,” Lehew said.
Lehew and Self are both considered locals, living and going to school in Charlotte, N.C. The duo was favored coming into the event and didn’t disappoint, winning by nearly a 9-pound margin.
“We caught all our fish throwing a Senko and flipping soft plastics on beds,” said Self.
UNC Charlotte had several fish located on beds, but the weather on the eve of Day 1 turned south and heavy rains made several of their beds invisible under muddy waters. The team managed 16-11 on Day 1 despite losing a 4- to 5-pound fish and having to release a 6-pounder that was foul hooked while sight fishing.
Lehew and Self planned to start on that big fish on Day 1, but when they arrived, they found another boat already on her. The team from UNC Charlotte returned later to find her available, but hard to catch. After spending an hour on her, they left and caught a limit of about 9 pounds off beds. When they returned, they settled in for the long haul, and it wasn’t long before she started showing signs of aggression.
With ESPNU cameras rolling, Lehew finally convinced the fish to bite after investing more than two hours into her in the course of two days.
“That was pretty cool. I was glad it bit again,” Lehew said. “We spent a lot of time on it. A lot of wasted footage. Probably spent two hours on it today and another 30 minutes on it yesterday.
“At the end of the day, we went back to where we started on Day 1 and the water had cleared up,” Lehew said. “We ended up catching three more heavier than 3 pounds in there.”
“He caught that big one on a Big Bite Baits Fightin’ Frog,” Self said. “That was a good 30 second clip. Well worth the wait on our part.”
Zachary Blalock and Kyle Albers of East Carolina finished second with 26-1 for two days.
“We tried to find bed fish in practice but couldn’t find any good ones,” Blalock said. “The water muddied up and that helped us. We could get a little closer to them and just flipped to catch cruisers and bedding fish.”
Virginia Tech’s Carson Rejzer and Chris Carwile finished third, qualifying Rejzer for his third straight Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship and winning Carwile his first berth on his first attempt.
“With the weather yesterday, all our bedding areas muddied up,” Rejzer said. “We couldn’t see the fish. Today, with the clear weather, we were able to get on the ones I marked in practice, and that’s when it really came together.”