University of Lousiana-Monroe Takes A Gamble That Pays Off To Earn College Central Title
HOUMA, La. — Tyler Stewart and Nick Joiner from the University of Louisiana-Monroe led wire-to-wire to take the title at the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Central Regional presented by Bass Pro Shops on the Atchafalaya Basin with a three-day total of 42 pounds even.

On Championship Saturday, the duo put 14 pounds, 14 ounces in the boat to officially pull away from the field. They entered the final frame with just over a 4-pound cushion, and with the help of the second biggest limit of the tournament, Stewart and Joiner bested the competition by an 8-pound, 11-ounce margin.

Having faith that quality fish were in their area proved to be crucial as they caught six fish on Saturday and grinded out one cull the entire day to push through for the title. They kept a weightless wacky rigged Gary Yamamoto 5-inch Senko in their hands all day, and slowly, but surely, added necessary bass to their bag. The confidence they had in their technique and in their area stemmed from numerous days of practice before the tournament ever got started.

“We went south on our first practice day, and we probably caught 40 to 50 fish,” Stewart said. “None of those fish were bigger than two pounds, but we figured we could at least scratch out eight to 10 pounds a day and give ourselves a shot. On our second practice day, we decided to explore the north end of the basin around Lake Verret.”

On that second practice day, they proceeded to catch several 4-pound bass, and they were completely sold on sticking to that area and expanding on their few spots each day.

The entire college field dealt with an influx of rain and a cold front that passed through this week, but that didn’t hurt Stewart and Joiner because they could slow down knowing what lived in their areas.

After the teammates started the tournament off with a bang, catching 17 pounds, 9 ounces on Day 1, they managed their areas and sustained their lead after catching 9 pounds, 9 ounces on Day 2.

On the final day, they could pressure their spots and catch as many fish as needed. But, the duo didn’t start on their normal spot. Instead, Stewart and Joiner took a gamble and fished an area they hadn’t fished in the tournament. “We didn’t want to start on that spot today because we knew this other canal had some good quality fish,” Joiner said. “We knew could always lay-up at our other spot if we needed to catch a limit, and that’s actually what we did today.”

Stewart and Joiner started Saturday strong as they boated a 4-pounder within 15 minutes after arriving. Then they proceeded to catch a 3-pounder and two bass around 2 pounds.

With four fish in the livewell at 10:30 a.m., they ran to their normal area and caught a quick keeper to fill their limit. They later added 2 pounds to their weight with a significant cull after moving back to their canal.

Gunner Durrett and Austin Watkins of Louisiana Tech tried their best to catch ULM, but after boating 11 pounds on the final day, they came up short. With a three-day total of 33 pounds, 5 ounces, Durrett and Watkins relied on flipping patches of reeds in the 70-mile area of the Atchafalaya Basin.

They didn’t have any problems boating fish this week, but after Day 1 quality fish seemed to funnel to the numerous areas they targeted. They weighed only 9 pounds on Thursday, but backed it up with 13 pounds, 5 ounces including the Carhartt Big Bass of the tournament that weighed 6 pounds, 7 ounces.

Primarily, the Louisiana Tech team flipped a Strike King Space Monkeys in black-and-blue and a Ballistic Blue Missile D Bomb rigged it on a 3/8-ounce weight.

“The deeper the reeds we fished, the better quality showed up it seemed,” Durrett said. “I think that’s why the heavier weight excelled for us compared to the lighter sizes.”

Matthew Leblanc and Matthew Benoits of the host school, Nicholls State, finished in third with a three-day total of 31 pounds, 11 ounces. They relied on moving baits like a spinnerbait to put an early limit in the boat in the first 15 minutes every day of the tournament.

“We knew consistency was going to be big,” Benoits said. “Knowing where the deeper water was helped out enormously because when it got cold, those fish wanted to funnel as deep as they could.”

The Top 13 teams earned a berth into the 2016 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship on a body of water to be named later. Along with the win, Stewart and Joiner of ULM took home the Livingston Lures Leader award as well as the Nitro Big Bag of the tournament for their 17-9 effort on Day 1.

2016 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Title Sponsor: Carhartt 2016 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Presenting Sponsor: Bass Pro Shops 2016 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota 2016 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Premier Sponsors: Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Yamaha, Berkley, GoPro, Huk 2016 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Supporting Sponsors: Dick Cepek Tires & Wheels, Livingston Lures, Lowrance, Power-Pole, Rapala, Shell Rotella, Shimano, ABU Garcia, A.R.E. Truck Caps, Costa About B.A.S.S. B.A.S.S. is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport, providing cutting edge content on bass fishing whenever, wherever and however bass fishing fans want to use it. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 500,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines (Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times), website (Bassmaster.com), television show (The Bassmasters on ESPN2), social media programs and events. For more than 45 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing. The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open Series, B.A.S.S. Nation, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Costa Bassmaster High School Series, Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro.   -30-   Media Contact: Helen White, 205-313-0944, hwhite@bassmaster.com or Dave Precht, 205-313-0931, dprecht@bassmaster.com.