Bearcats Jump Into Early Lead At Bassmaster College Series Midwest Regional

Jacob Louis and JT Russell of McKendree University took the lead on the first day of the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Midwest Regional presented by Bass Pro Shops on Lake of the Ozarks with 22 pounds, 10 ounces.

Wednesday’s weather-shortened competition day seemed to challenge the 138-boat field mentally, but the fishing was still on fire as Lake of the Ozarks has been pumping out plenty of bass and heavy weights over the last few weeks. With pending thunderstorms and winds strong enough to produce a tornado, Tournament Director Hank Weldon decided to shorten the day roughly two hours before anglers left the launch ramp.

“We consulted several groups like the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) and the National Weather Service based out of Springfield, Missouri,” Weldon said. “The analysis showed there was a good possibility of severe weather and that it would be dangerous to be on the water after 4 p.m.”

With 138 boats in the field and first check at 2:45 p.m., there would still be anglers on the water and at the weigh-in site when the predicted weather hit Osage Beach, Mo. Weldon decided to make first flight check-in at 1 p.m., giving teams just over six hours to do their work on the water.

Louis, a sophomore, and Russell, a senior, didn’t let the shortened day hurt them as they got started fast and caught their first keeper within 20 minutes and then proceeded to fill their limit by 9:30 a.m. They searched for a bigger bass after that, but never found it. Luckily their best five gave them a lead over second place by 2-14.

“We figured there would be a morning bite,” Russell said. “I don’t think this incoming weather is going to hurt us, I think it could actually help us. It also seems there are more fish moving into our area every day.”

It is tough for fishing to be consistent on Lake of the Ozarks, so there could be a dramatic change in the standings, but the Bearcat team feels they will do well Thursday, even if it takes all day to catch a limit.

“I’m pretty sure we are around the right fish to do well on Thursday,” Louis said. “On Tuesday’s final practice day we pulled in and caught two 4-pounders and then left immediately. Catching fish there on Wednesday gave us even more confidence.”

The University of Wisconsin – Whitewater’s Louie Dazzo and Collin Cropp brought 19-12 to the stage and landed in second place after Wednesday’s competition day. They are followed closely by Lake Superior State’s Nic Rand and Keegan Russell who caught 19-7. Brock Wilke and Brady Faust of McKendree also had more than 19 pounds, which has them in fourth. Rounding out the Top 5 was the team of Justin and Austin Carr, identical twins competing for Heartland Community College with 18-8.

Cody Salzmann and Kenneth Price of the University of Arkansas – Pine Bluff caught the Big Bass Wednesday, which weighed 7-5.

All 138 teams will compete on Thursday before the field is cut to the Top 20 for Friday’s final day. The team currently in 20th place is Hunter Whiteley and Tyler Nekolny of Kansas State University with 14-15.

Thursday’s takeoff will happen at 6:45 a.m. CT at Grand Glaze Marina and weigh-in will also take place at the same location starting at 3 p.m.