Northwestern State University Wins College Wild Card
DURANT, Okla. —

John Ledet and Justin Cooper talked all week about how timing was everything for the success of their fishing strategy on Lake Murray.

On Saturday, the anglers representing Northwestern State University showed up again, on the right place at the right time. In doing so, they won the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Wild Card presented by Bass Pro Shops.

After taking the lead on Friday, the team from Natchitoches, La., sealed the win by catching a five-bass limit that weighed 18 pounds, 1 ounce. The final catch gave them a three-day total of 51-7.

J.P. Kimbrough and Jared Rascoe, fishing for Louisiana State University-Shreveport, took second place with 46-11. Aaron Belgard and Logan Laprarie, another team from Northwestern State, came in third with 46-8.

“The timing was really the key,” said Ledet, 21, a senior majoring in business management with a marketing emphasis. “When the wind picked up, we needed to be on our best spot.”

That area, spanning just 10 acres, attracted bass to a bed of submerged hydrilla growing within 3 feet of the surface. The bass weren’t alone.

“In our livewell, we had regurgitated bluegill the bass had eaten,” added Cooper, 22, a senior majoring in biology with a biomedical focus.

The food source and habitat combined to help the winners develop a successful strategy. The spot actually got better each day.

Northwestern State started the tournament in sixth place with 15-12. They took the lead with a second-day catch of 17-10 that gave them 33-6 heading into the final round.

“It got better today (Saturday) because there was more wind,” said Cooper.

More wind and overcast skies stimulated baitfish activity and the predatory instinct of the bass.

A V&M Pacemaker Lightning Blade, chartreuse in color to match the hue of the bluegill, was the key lure. The leadhead jig and spinner combination produced strikes as the lure was ripped through the vegetation.

Seclusion was another key.

“We had the place to ourselves, and that was a big deal,” said Ledet. “There were boats all around us, but the fishing pressure never really affected us.”

Lake Murray spans 5,700 acres, and with 80 teams competing, the fishing pressured mounted by end of the tournament.

Under calm conditions, the team alternated between a V&M Chopstick, a soft-plastic stick bait, and a V&M J Bug jig. The anglers fished both lures in reeds and aquatic grass growing near the shoreline.

Bass fishing teams from more than 40 colleges and universities competed in the tournament.

Saturday, the Top 20 teams competed for 13 available berths in the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship presented by Bass Pro Shops. The tournament is scheduled for July 28-30 in Campbellsville, Ky., on Green River Lake.

Teams in this week’s event earned contingency awards from tournament sponsors. Northwestern State University, led by Cooper and Ledet, won the Livingston Lures Leader Award and $250 in merchandise for leading the tournament on Day 2.

Texas State University won the Nitro Big Bag Award after catching the heaviest single-day weight. On Day 2, Sam Stone and Evan Coleman caught a limit weighing 19-3 to win a $250 gift card from Bass Pro Shops.

Hunter Loudon of Bethel University caught a largemouth weighing 8-7 to win the Carhartt Big Bass Award and a $500 gift card.