Bethel University Duo Takes Lead At Bassmaster College Series Event On Toledo Bend
MANY, La. —

Bethel University’s Cody Huff and Dakota Pierce waited more than four hours to catch a bass during Thursday’s opening round of the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series at Toledo Bend presented by Bass Pro Shops.

They made the most of their remaining time, however, and are atop the leaderboard on this vast, 185,000-acre reservoir straddling the Louisiana/Texas border.

Huff and Pierce hammered the Toledo Bend bass for an hour just before noon and found themselves with a five-bass limit that weighed 19 pounds, 11 ounces. That gave them a 14-ounce lead over Thad Simerly and Ethan Shaw of Bryan College, who are in second place with 18-13. Tanner Ward and Rory Franks of Kent State University are in third with 17-10.

A total of 248 teams from 37 states are competing in the tournament, which is the first of four College Series events scheduled for 2020. Only the Top 12 will survive Friday’s cut and fish for the championship on Saturday.

Huff and Pierce were the steadiest duo out of the gate. The bass in their limit were all in the 3 1/2- to 4 1/2-pound range.

The haul pleased the leaders, but they’re accustomed to success. Huff won the Carhartt Bassmaster College Classic Bracket last year and clinched a berth in the 2020 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk. Pierce and another Bethel teammate finished 10th in a College Series event on Toledo Bend in 2018.

Experience paid off Thursday as the Bethel anglers withstood a slow start on a cold and dreary day.

“We kept looking and looking and we finally ran into them,” Huff said. “It took us about an hour to (finish a limit) once we did find them. I think we’re on a special deal. We found a bunch of fish in practice and they moved on us a little bit the past day or two. We just had to relocate them.” The duo caught eight or nine keepers, but had to cover a lot of water to find bites.

“It wasn’t a really great day, but things finally came together for us,” Pierce said.

Huff and Pierce said Thursday’s chill and intermittent rain didn’t bother their bite, but they’d rather not have significant wind on Friday. Toledo Bend can get choppy in the slightest of winds, and that could stymie their plans.

“If it lays down and we can run around and look at a lot of stuff, we’ll be all right,” Huff said.

Simerly and Shaw actually caught the heaviest limit on Day 1, but incurred a 2-pound penalty for having six bass in the livewell at one point Thursday morning. They reported the violation to tournament directors and were docked, dropping their 20-13 total to 18-13.

It cost Simerly and Shaw first place on Day 1, but the setback didn’t diminish their hopes for continued success.

“We went to a place where we caught fish in practice and they weren’t there,” Shaw said. “We figured they hadn’t gone far and we found them on a little rock drop-off. My first cast there was a keeper and then I caught a limit. We stayed on that spot for 30 minutes and caught everything we could. By 9:30 (a.m.), we were done.”

Shaw provided the numbers, but Simerly brought the big bump — a 6 1/2-pound largemouth that was Thursday’s heaviest. That puts the Bryan anglers in the lead for the Carhartt Big Bass Award and the $500 in Carhartt gear that goes with it.

“When I caught the big one, I thought I was hung up on something,” Simerly said. “When I saw it, I told (Shaw) to hang on because I knew I had something big.”

Huff and Pierce lead for the Bass Pro Shops/Nitro Big Bag Award with their 19-11 limit.

Additional College Series tournaments are scheduled for Feb. 27-29 on Smith Lake in Alabama, March 26-28 on Lake Hartwell in South Carolina and May 6-8 on Lake Cumberland in Kentucky. The series championship will follow, with the date and location of that derby yet to be disclosed. The Top 25 teams from this week’s event will qualify for the championship.

The Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School Series at Toledo Bend presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors will follow the college event on Sunday. The Mossy Oak Bassmaster Junior Series at Toledo Bend also will be held that day.

All three events are presented by the Louisiana Office of Tourism, Toledo Bend Lake Country, the Sabine River Authority, Desoto Parish Tourist Commission and the Vernon Parish Tourist Commission.

Friday’s action begins with a 7 a.m. ET takeoff from Cypress Bend Park. Weigh-in will begin back at the park at 3 p.m.