Coastal Carolina University Anglers Take Early Lead In Bassmaster College Series Regional

The start of the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Southern Regional presented by Bass Pro Shops at Winyah Bay offered a shift in weather as rain and high winds handed the 77 teams different conditions from what they experienced in practice.

That didn’t faze the Coastal Carolina University team of John Duarte and Chesley Alford, however. The local favorites notched 15 pounds, 10 ounces of bass to take the early lead.

Their great start gave them a cushion of more than 2 pounds over the second-place team, Patrick Walters and Tyler All of the University of South Carolina. Duarte and Alford knew that the changing conditions and upcoming cold front meant they had better find a big bass on the first day to set the pace. They did so, catching a 5-13 largemouth that is currently in the lead for the Phoenix Boats Big Bass prize for the event.

“We wanted to catch a big fish early to set the tone,” Duarte said. “We managed that and then filled our limit. We only caught six fish, but we had numerous other bites.”

Their game plan came together perfectly as they didn’t see another competitor and had their best areas all to themselves. With that bonus big fish today, Duarte and Alford say they plan “run the tide” in hopes of catching a limit of bass Friday. The strategy requires racing up or down river to be at the better fishing spots when tidal movement is most conducive to bass feeding activity.

“It’ll be very important to boat a limit on Friday,” Alford said.

“Now that we have the big fish out of the way, hopefully catching a limit each day will hold us over and help us stay consistent at the top,” Duarte added.

The Coastal Carolina duo knows that the USC team of Walters and All — also local favorites — are in striking distance after catching 13-7 today. The teammates are from nearby Summerville, S.C., and have years of experience at Winyah Bay and the connected rivers.

“We’ve been able to pre-fish occasionally since December,” Walters said. “We’ve been able to fish every river at Winyah Bay multiple times, so we had a pretty concrete idea where our best population of fish was. We stayed patient with them today.”

Walters attributes the calm demeanor of his teammate, Tyler, to their success as they didn’t fall apart after losing three solid keepers just outside of net range that would have helped boost their total above 13-7. Having local knowledge helped the pair hit high-percentage areas and avoid places that appeared to be productive, but weren’t.

“You have to maximize your time because this place is so vast and there is a lot of dead water,” Walters said. “You can’t be in dead water and think you’re on them because that’s when your day will turn for the worst.”

The third-place team of Max Gresham and Zack Blake of Valdosta State brought 13-1 across the scales today. Baylor Ronemus and Cole Tinsley of Clemson are fourth with 12-15, and J.T. Russell and Chase Grubbs of the University of Montevallo are fifth with 11-7.

The full field of 77 teams will head back out on Winyah Bay Friday in hopes of making the Top 20 cut to advance to Saturday’s final round.

Takeoff Friday is at 6:30 a.m. ET at the Carroll Ashmore Campbell Marine Complex, located at 101 River Walk Drive, Georgetown, SC 29440. Weigh-in will start at 2:45 p.m. ET at the same location.