University Of Louisiana-Monroe Jumps Out To Early Lead In College Series Regional
HOUMA, La. — Tyler Stewart and Nick Joiner of the University of Louisiana-Monroe set the bar high on the opening day of the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Central Regional presented by Bass Pro Shops on the Atchafalaya Basin when they brought 17 pounds, 9 ounces to the scales. The team takes a lead of more than 4 pounds into the second competition day Friday.
 
Only six teams managed to boat five-bass limits in the double-digit weight class, indicating how difficult the Atchafalaya Basin fishery is proving to be.
 
Ever-changing weather and water conditions aren’t helping. Most of the Atchafalaya Basin was producing good catches during the college anglers’ recent scouting trips, but high winds and an influx of rain has pushed muddy water into areas that previously were clear.
 
Stewart and Joiner were fortunate to find protected areas to fish, and they had the spot all to themselves.
 
“Our areas have stayed clear despite the wind we have faced this week,” Stewart said. “I don’t know if we can catch 17 pounds again, but the area we are fishing should stay stable.”
 
The ULM teammates were shocked that no one else fished around them on the first day, but they are certainly glad to be alone in their areas.
 
While the majority of the 65-team field caught primarily small bass throughout the day, Stewart and Joiner found the key to heavier fish.
 
Confident in their catch, the ULM team quit fishing 45 minutes early to minimize the risk of checking in late and incurring penalties.
 
Their closest pursuer is the team of Zach Ziober and Dakota Ebare from Tarleton State out of Stephenville, Texas. The pair weighed in 13 pounds, 3 ounces Thursday. Their catch was anchored by a 5-pound largemouth.
 
The Tarleton State teammates shared fishing areas with other anglers on Thursday, but they claimed an advantage by fishing differently from the others.
 
“We saw a decent amount of boats in our area today,” Ziober said. “I just think they were fishing too fast. We decided to slow down and fish for less bites, but be patient knowing that big ones may come our way.”
 
Ziober and Ebare boated eight bass on the opening day, but only six of those were keepers. They lost several bass that would have increased their first-day weight.
 
“Losing fish happens,” Ebare said. ”We need to land every one for the rest of the tournament.”
 
The only fear the duo has is the wind direction and how that can affect the clarity of the water in their fishing area. If they have a north wind then their area will clear up and it could get even better, but a southwest wind could muddy up the water and force them to call an audible.
 
“If we get the correct wind then we will be fine,” Ebare said. “If we get the wrong wind, then our audible means a long run to another one of our areas.”
 
The rest of the Top 5 includes the teams of Matthew Benoits and Matthew Leblanc of Nicholls State and Travis Harriman and Chaz Miller of the University of Arkansas, tied with 12 pounds, and Jeremy Cooper and Zachary McDill of the University of Arkansas at Monticello College of Technology-Crossett (UAM-CTC) with 11-12.
 
After Friday’s competition day the field is cut to the Top 20. The Top 13 teams at the conclusion of the event Saturday earn invitations to the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship. 

Friday’s takeoff is scheduled for 6:30 a.m. CT from Bayou Black Marina, and the weigh-in will be held back at the mark at 2:30 p.m. Saturday's championship weigh-in is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. at Nicholls State Unversity.