Tennessee Tech’s Heins and Slone win Bassmaster College Series event at Douglas Lake

Time efficiency played a key role for Tennessee Tech University’s Harrison Heins and Hunter Slone, who tallied a two-day total of 32 pounds, 5 ounces to win the Strike King Bassmaster College Series at Douglas Lake presented by Bass Pro Shops.

On Day 1, Heins and Slone tied for 19th place with 13-11. Stepping up their second-round game, they added a limit of 18-10 and took home the top prize of $5,601 with a two-day total of 32-5.

“This win means everything for us,” Heins said. “This is the first win that our school has ever had, so we’re hoping this will have a snowball effect and we’ll have many more to come.”

Where they fished

Heins said he and his partner stayed within five minutes of the takeoff site at Dandridge Boat Ramp and focused their efforts on boat docks in about 15 feet of water.

“We just found good quality there in practice,” Heins said. “We knew that 2- to 2 1/2-pounders wouldn’t get the job done and we found a lot of 3-pound-class fish. We knew there were big ones there.

“We worked one area all day and milked it to death.”

As Heins explained, he and his partner fished the same area on Day 1, but also tried other spots. In the final round, they decided to park in their main area and make the most of their time.

“On Day 1, we caught 'em in the same spot where we won, but we ended up leaving to try to find some other stuff, but we (realized) there were more big fish on our main spot,” Heins said. “On Day 2, we knew if we stayed there and kept a bait in the water that would be our best bet at five big ones.

“We decided to just make the most casts in the high-percentage areas.”

Best baits

Heins and Slone caught some of their fish on 1/2-ounce spinnerbaits, but most of their fish came on 1/2-ounce shad-colored ChatterBait JackHammers. They fitted their bladed jigs with Hog Farmer Spunk Shad trailers.

“Most everybody was throwing spinnerbaits in boat slips, but I could get that JackHammer way up under the docks,” Heins said. “They were mostly hitting it on the first couple cranks.”

Most of the bass that Heins and Slone targeted were suspended about 3 feet below the docks. Skipping their ChatterBaits was the best way to reach those fish.

Their strategy produced their limit by about 10 a.m. Heins said they boated their big bass — a 5-10 — on the day’s final cast and culled a 2 1/4.

Presentation keys

Heins said covering water and making accurate casts were the key elements of his team’s success. Slone agreed and noted a couple of particular moves that seemed to help their cause.

“The docks that we were fishing had a bar about 3 to 5 feet deep,” Slone said. “We would take that ChatterBait and bring it over that bar and when we did, we would bump it. The fish would react to this and we’d get most of our bites that way.

“I caught two key fish on a spinnerbait and I would bump it off the corners of the dock. I couldn’t skip that spinnerbait underneath. But when I would bring it around the corner, I don’t know if it was the flutter of the blades, but I caught a key fish yesterday and a key fish today.”

Deeper meaning

Slone said the win proved particularly motivational to him, in terms of life planning.

“This year, I’ve been struggling with trying to figure out if I belong in the fishing industry, or if I should just focus on college and fish for fun,” he said. “I really prayed for God to show me where I need to be. This win showed me that God will be with me and hopefully, I will be able to start a career in fishing.

“This win means so much to me, in terms of my spiritual relationship with God and with my career. I think this tournament is going to change my life.”

Second and third

Drake Hemby and Ewing Minor of Carson-Newman University finished second with 31-14. They caught 15-4 on Day 1 and added 16-10 on Day 2.

Hemby said he and Minor fished the lake’s lower end and targeted shallow main-lake points. They caught their fish on 6-inch Megabass Magdraft swimbaits and a selection of glidebaits.

“The key for us was fishing a bunch of different spots,” Hemby said. “We fished about 30 points. We had a few places where you could catch five or six, but it was mostly one here, one there.”

Luke Wenger and Braxon Hightower of Dallas Baptist University finished third with 30-10. After tying for 66th place with their Day 1 limit of 11-8, they raced up the leaderboard with a final-round limit of 19-2.

Wenger said he and Hightower decided that their best shot at a comeback was playing their game.

“We just went fishing and did what we’re good at,” Wenger said. “We threw jerkbaits and it worked out for us.”

Wenger and Hightower caught their bass on 6th Sense Provoke and 6th Sense 97DD cast over a flooded foundation in 4 1/2 to 6 feet.

Colin Wolinski and Noah Lieberman of Missouri State University won the $100 Big Bass award with a 6-5.

After a day off, the Bassmaster Junior Series event and the Strike King High School Series at Douglas Lake will be held Sunday at Dandridge Boat Dock. Takeoff will be at 8 a.m. ET with weigh-ins beginning at 2:30 p.m.

This event was hosted by Visit Jefferson County, TN.