Auburn's Smith, Marbut maintain lead on Day 2 of Bassmaster College Championship at Pickwick Lake
COUNCE, Tenn. —

Tucker Smith and Hayden Marbut find themselves in familiar territory after Day 2 of the Strike King Bassmaster College Series National Championship at Pickwick Lake presented by Bass Pro Shops.

The Auburn University duo leads the 131-boat field with a two-day total of 35 pounds, 12 ounces, and have a chance to pull off the wire-to-wire win, similar to their 2020 Bassmaster High School Championship victory at Kentucky Lake.

“This tournament is huge,” Smith said. “The High School National Championships were the biggest deal to me ever at the time. This one now is an even bigger deal to me. We want to make the Classic Bracket, and we are going to put our heads down and try.”

It was a much tougher Day 2 for Smith, Marbut and the rest of the teams on the water Friday. After catching 20-8 the first day, the Auburn anglers caught just 15-4. But they still lead Emmanuel University’s Tyler Campbell and Parker Guy by 1-9.

“It was a lot tougher today,” Marbut said. “We had a handful of places we thought we could get bites on, but we only ended up getting bites on one or two places. We expected it to be a lot tougher, but it really was a grind today.”

While many anglers were hoping for more current after practice, they may have received too much as the TVA pulled over 70,000 cubic feet per second out of Pickwick Lake.

“We could tell that it was stronger today,” Smith said. “Hopefully they turn it down a little bit so we can catch some fish.”

Using their forward-facing sonar, Marbut said they found the bass more scattered and suspended than they were on Day 1, where they noticed bass more on the bottom.

But Smith and Marbut still filled their limit by 10 a.m. Instead of the “fun” baits, like big crankbaits, Smith said they had to slow down and finesse fish on Day 2 with a drop shot, football jig and a small swimbait.

“It was nice that we caught some early,” Smith said. “We thought we could run a bunch of places and catch a couple more and upgrade, but that did not happen. The fish are diminishing every day it seems like.”

During the first two days, Smith and Marbut bounced around between several areas, but on Championship Saturday, Smith said they will likely be staying in their best areas most of the day.

“Tomorrow we are going to run a couple places we know have fish and pray to God we catch five good ones,” Smith said.

Coming into the day in ninth with 17-13, Guy and Campbell added 16-6 to jump into second with a total of 34-3. This is Guy’s second-straight Top 12 finish in the National Championship after placing fourth last year at Winyah Bay with teammate Brooks Anderson.

The Emmanuel team has also fished primarily offshore this week, mixing in some other patterns when the time is right.

“Today was crazy,” Guy said. “We made a big long run yesterday and today. We caught a big one yesterday but today it didn’t work. We came back here and we pulled in on one place, a typical ledge school, and caught a couple and caught a limit.”

After catching a big one on that spot, they went and fished a couple other areas to add a couple more key fish. On their best ledge, bass are sitting on top in 20 feet of water and then all the way down the drop into 28 feet of water.

The key for Guy and Campbell has been slowing down their presentations.

“Fishing slow is a big, big deal right now. I see a lot of people fishing really fast and throwing big moving baits. We tried to slow way down and get some of those bites that other people aren’t getting,” Guy said.

“We were able to pull in behind people and get bites,” Campbell added. “We were counting rocks.”

The University of Montevallo duo of Nick Dumke and Easton Fothergill moved into third with a two-day total of 34-1. After landing 18-5 on Day 1, the 2023 Bassmaster College Team of the Year added 15-12 on Day 2 to become the first Team of the Year to reach the final day of the National Championship since the award’s inception in 2018.

“We have yet to be in a position to win a big event like this and to be here and have a shot is something we have been dreaming about for a long time,” Dumke said. “It means the world to be here.”

So far this week, Dumke and Fothergill have focused most of their time offshore, hoping to save the shallow bass they found until the final day. The majority of their bass have come on one offshore area where they have a group of around 100 bass located. It isn’t a typical school, however, as these bass are spread out.

They also aren’t easy to catch, and Dumke and Fothergill threw six or seven different baits to land their final limit.

Braydon Kelley and Trey McMeen of East Texas Baptist University landed the Big Bass of the Day, a 7-0 largemouth. Cole and Clay Taylor of Lander University still hold Big Bass of the Tournament honors with a 7-12 largemouth they caught on Day 1.

The Top 12 remaining teams will launch from Pickwick Landing State Park at 6 a.m. CT Saturday and return for weigh-in at 2 p.m. The Top 3 teams will punch their ticket to the College Classic Bracket presented by Lew’s, details of which will be announced at a later date. Dumke and Fothergill have already claimed their spot by winning Team of the Year. Full coverage will be available on

The winner of the Bracket will compete in the 2024 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Toyota in Tulsa. Okla., and receive paid entry into the 2024 St. Croix Bassmaster Opens with the use of a fully loaded Nitro Boat and Toyota Tundra.

The tournament is being hosted by Tour Hardin County.