Montevallo’s Erickson and Pontius take lead in Bassmaster College Series event on Kentucky Lake
PARIS, Tenn. —

Kentucky Lake looked very much like one of the nation’s legendary fisheries on Day 1 of the Strike King Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops.

Blair Erickson and Jackson Pontius of the University of Montevallo (Ala.) caught the heaviest bag on Wednesday, weighing five bass for a total of 22 pounds, 8 ounces. That was one of 145 limits caught by 216 teams entered in this two-day derby — a sure sign that Kentucky Lake has rebounded after enduring a few lean years due mainly to an influx of the invasive Asian carp.

This is the first B.A.S.S. event on the mammoth fishery since 2020 when the Bassmaster High School National Championship was held here. As was proved at that tournament, and again on Wednesday, the smallmouth bite is especially strong on Kentucky Lake.

“We caught a mix of smallmouth and largemouth today,” Erickson said, “but we wound up weighing five smallmouth bass.”

“We upgraded with a 4-14 smallmouth to finish the day,” Pontius said. “And we actually came in an hour early. It was a really good day.”

Fortune smiled early on the pair of 21-year-old juniors. They had 21 pounds in the livewell by 9 a.m., fishing current in anywhere from 4 to 13 feet of water. But the duo struggled to improve on that total until the kicker smallie later in the day.

Erickson said the overcast skies early on Wednesday helped their bite, but bright sun and warmer conditions as the morning wore on slowed things considerably.

Fishing pressure was also a factor, the Day 1 leaders said.

“The area we were in got pretty loaded,” Erickson said. “We burned that area to the ground today, but we have another tomorrow that’s hopefully as good.”

Pontius said he’s confident they can make a run for the tournament title on Thursday.

“I think we can catch 17 or 18 pounds tomorrow, at the worst,” he said. “And we should be able to get 20. That gives us a chance.”

Jack Hay and Eli Jaime of Southwestern Michigan College are in second place with 20-11. Rounding out the Top 5 after Day 1 are Dylan Fogerty and Hunter Fillmore of Bethel University (Tenn.), third, 20-5; Easton Fothergill and Nick Dumke of Montevallo, fourth, 20-4; and Dylan Akins and Chase Cary of Emmanuel College (Ga.), fifth,19-13.

Fothergill and Dumke were the Bassmaster College Series Team of the Year in 2023.

The teams of Sam Moll and Will Burch of Murray State (Ky.) University, and Quade Lobo and Nick Owens of Adrian College (Mich.), each weighed a 6-13 smallmouth on Wednesday to tie for the heaviest bass on Day 1.

This week’s College Series stop at Kentucky Lake is the second of three events on the new Legends Trail, the first being held on South Carolina’s Lake Murray in January and the final tournament set for Michigan’s Saginaw Bay in June. Teams finishing in the top 10% of the field at any of the college events will qualify for the Strike King Bassmaster College National Championship scheduled for Aug. 22-24 at Lake Hartwell in Anderson, S.C.

The second and final day of competition on Kentucky Lake will begin at 6:30 a.m. CT. The closing weigh-in is scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m. Follow the action on

The Henry County Tourism Authority is hosting the event.