Tennessee Tech Pair Targets Largemouth To Take Bassmaster College Series Lead At Cumberland

Samuel Vandagriff and Jacob Woods know they have the luxury of choosing which species of bass they want to target during this week’s Carhartt Bassmaster College Series on Lake Cumberland presented by Bass Pro Shops.

But the duo from Tennessee Tech firmly believes that mastering the largemouth bite is key to winning on this massive reservoir that covers more than 65,000 acres in south-central Kentucky.

With the first of two competition days complete, they might be right.

Vandagriff and Woods, 20-year-old agriculture business majors, took the Day 1 lead on Friday with a limit of five largemouth that totaled 17 pounds, 4 ounces. Vandagriff anchored the bag with a 4-13 heavy, and he added a healthy 4-5 largemouth for good measure that gave him and his teammate just enough weight to lead at the halfway point on Cumberland.

In all, 225 tandems from around the U.S. are competing this week in the second of five regular-season College Series events taking place in 2021. The Top 12 tandems will earn cash prizes for their schools and the top 10% of teams (23 total) will qualify for the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship presented by Bass Pro Shops, to be held later this year at a yet-to-be-disclosed location.

Vandagriff and Woods got an early jump on the rest of the field with their opening limit.

“One of those bigger fish came off a bed and another one I caught on a bank,” Vandagriff said. “There’s a bunch of bedding fish here, but they’re all 2-pounders. So, we’re looking for the right ones.”

Vandagriff said Cumberland fishes a lot like Center Hill Lake, his home water in Tennessee, which put him in a comfort zone on Day 1.

“We caught a decent limit of about 13 pounds early and then just fished around,” he said. “Slowly but surely, we were able to add weight. Practice was pretty tough, so I’m thrilled with 17 pounds. And we’ll try to do the same thing tomorrow — go catch a small limit and then hope to add some bigger ones. We’ll have to have at least 17 or 18 (pounds) again if we’re thinking about winning this thing.”

The sun shined brightly on a cloudless Friday, with temperatures hovering in the mid-70s most of the afternoon. It was a welcome change for the anglers, following steady storms that soaked the Bluegrass State a day earlier, and many anglers took advantage of steady (but manageable) winds to zigzag across Cumberland searching for the variety of largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass that swim here.

Chase Carey and Dylan Akins of Emmanuel College (Ga.) are just behind the leaders with 16-14. Brothers Carson and Jake Maddux of Auburn University are third with 16-9 and Dalton Smith and Cade Hayford of Campbellsville (Ky.) University are fourth with 15-12. Jack Dice of Liberty University in Virginia is fishing solo, but that didn’t keep him from charging into fifth place with 15-10.

Each of the Top 10 teams in the Day 1 standings caught limits as 51 of the 225 boats weighed the maximum number of fish. Dice caught the big bass of the day, a 5-2 largemouth that put him in the lead for a $500 Carhartt gift certificate. Woods and Vandagriff have the early lead for the $250 Bass Pro Shops gift certificate that goes to the duo with the heaviest bag of the week.

The near picture-perfect weather that slipped into the area Friday could be disrupted overnight. A frost warning is in effect for Russell County early Saturday, with temps expected to plunge into the 30s before warming again into the 70s by Saturday afternoon.

The 2021 College Series began on South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell in March and was headed to Alabama’s Smith Lake earlier this month before high water postponed that tournament until May 14-15. College anglers head to Michigan’s Saginaw Bay on June 16-17, and a wildcard tournament is scheduled for Alabama’s Lay Lake June 23-24 leading up to the National Championship.

Anglers will take to Cumberland again at 6 a.m. CT for the second and final day of the tournament, with weigh-in set to begin at 2 p.m. Both takeoff and weigh-in will be held at Halcomb’s Landing in the shadow of the Wolf Creek Dam.

Anglers from the Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School Series presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors, as well as the Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster Junior Series, will compete in one-day tournaments Sunday on Lake Cumberland.

The tournament is being hosted by the Russell County Chamber of Commerce and State Dock on Lake Cumberland.