McKendree Bearcats Claw To The Top Of The Final Standings In Bassmaster College Regional

Jacob Louis and JT Russell of McKendree University jumped from third place on the final day today to take the championship title of the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Midwest Regional presented by Bass Pro Shops on Lake of the Ozarks with a three-day total of 61 pounds of bass.

After holding the lead on Wednesday’s opening round of competition and losing it on Thursday, the Bearcat duo produced a 22-11 limit to regain the top spot. Louis and Russell stuck to their game plan, even with the declining weather and temperatures, and they were able to boat four fish in the first few hours of fishing today.

They had found a promising area loaded with baitfish as their practice session ended earlier in the week and decided to start the tournament there Wednesday. It paid big dividends as they caught 22-10 on Wednesday to take an early lead. They did most of their damage with jerkbaits and swimbaits in the shad-filled pocket. Fish were schooling at the surface, making it possible to follow the pods of bait as they roamed around the pocket.

That night a massive rain and hailstorm cooled off the water temperatures and stained parts of the lake. Their Thursday weight suffered as a result and they dropped to third after catching 15-11, but were in striking range of the lead. They made the trip to their magic area on the final day, but they knew right away that it would be tougher to stay all day.

“We didn’t see much shad activity, and with the temperatures in the low 40s they just weren’t grouped up like early in the week,” Louis said.

After landing four bass, which included a 4- and a 5-pounder, their spot dried up and they had to scramble. The pair made their way back toward Osage Beach and finished their limit with a 5 pounder and, later, a 6 that enabled them to cull a smaller fish.

They won by 4 pounds, 10 ounces over the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Louie Dazzo and Collin Cropp who stayed in second place from start to finish this week at Lake of the Ozarks. After having weights of 19-12 and 21-3, the duo only managed 15-7 and stayed put on the standings in the runner-up position with a total weight of 56-6.

Dazzo and Cropp also found success with a jerkbait this week as well as a crankbait. It showed as they boated plenty of keepers on the final day, but they lacked the size they had caught on Wednesday and Thursday.

“We definitely had a slower morning than prior days, but we kept adjusting spots, and we started catching them,” Dazzo and Cropp said. “We saw some other teams catch some big ones in our same areas, but they seemed to be positioned deeper than we were so I’d have to believe the quality bass just moved slightly deeper.”

Jacob Harris and Tyler Smith of Southeast Missouri State University jumped from 12th place on Thursday into third after the final weigh-in because of their huge final day. Harris and Smith notched 23-9 on Friday, which claimed the Nitro Big Bag of the tournament and it was anchored by a 7-13 Big Bass. They finished with a three-day total of 55-3.

McKendree’s Brock Wilke and Brady Faust caught 22-2 on Friday to move into fourth, and Hunter Mills and Hunter McKinley of Murray State University rounded out the Top 5 after catching 17-14.

The Day 2 leaders, Nic Rand and Keegan Russell of Lake Superior State University only managed one fish on the final day, but it weighed 7-1 and kept them in the Top 10 as they finished ninth. For leading after Day 2, Rand and Russell won the Livingston Lures Leader award.

Hunter Scharphorn and Jake Dorony of Lake Superior State took the final qualifying spot with a three-day total of 41-11. The Top 19 teams will now move on to the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship, which will be held later this summer.