Bryan College's Cole Sands and Conner Dimauro continued their strong showing at the Carhartt Bassmaster College National Championship presented by Bass Pro Shops at the Harris Chain of Lakes and extended their lead with a 27-pound, 5-ounce bag for a two-day total of 55-12.
They lead the Lamar State College-Orange team of Jack Tindell and Brett Fregia by a little more than 15 pounds heading into the final day.
“Ultimately, we want to finish in the Top 4 to make the (College Classic) Bracket.
Obviously, we want to win this one,” Mr. Dimauro said. “I’m confident that we left fish biting both days, and I’m pleased with the size of the fish we are catching.
“We are excited about it. Whenever you set the hook and you know it could be over 5 pounds, it gets a little scary.”
While the morning started a little chillier than Day 1 thanks to a cold front that pushed through overnight, they started on their best spot in Lake Dora and took advantage of a good morning bite, catching all of their weight before 10 a.m.
Mr. Dimauro said the bite on that spot was even better Friday than it was Thursday when they caught over 28 pounds. Their bag was anchored by a 7-14 largemouth that Sands said they were fortunate to get in the boat.
“It straightened the hook completely out,” he said. “These fish are so mean here. We think it came unhooked because there is a hook mark in its tongue and where it was actually hooked (was in the jaw).”
After catching a couple of 4-pounders that wouldn’t cull their smallest fish, the duo moved back to Lake Harris to scan with their Humminbird electronics, finding a couple more areas they could utilize Saturday.
“We culled what we needed to cull out and we just ran around,” Mr. Dimauro said. “We ran back to Harris and caught two fish over 4 pounds that didn’t help. So, we figured we were burning fish we needed to catch tomorrow.
“We idled a lot more today just looking for some new stuff for tomorrow. We aren’t going to let off of them tomorrow.”
Slow-moving baits have been the key to their success so far this week, Mr. Sands said. But they will have plenty of rods rigged up in case they find some aggressive fish.
“I kind of figured out a deal in practice dragging something really slow,” Mr. Sands said. “It worked so good Conner tied one on yesterday and we both have been catching fish on it. We actually experimented today.
“We backed off and found a new school of fish and caught like a 5- and 4 1/2- (pounder) off it. Caught one on a football jig and that was pretty cool.”
Mr. Dimauro added that side scan on his Humminbird units has helped them find fish and mark the edges of the grass, and his Ultrex trolling motor has helped them stay on their spots when the wind has been blowing.
After starting the day in fourth, Jack Tindell and Brett Fregia from Lamar State College-Orange caught 20-5 to jump into second place with 40-11.
“It feels good. It is our first year fishing,” Mr. Fregia said. “We came down here just knowing we were going to fish in Florida, and we were pretty amped up about it. We feel like we can get more bites tomorrow since the water heated up all day and it is going to be pretty warm in the morning.”
Unlike the Bryan College team, the morning bite did not pan out for Mr. Tindell and Mr. Fregia on Day 2. Mr. Tindell said wind hurt the bite in one of their best spots, and they switched to some secondary spots that were in protected areas.
“Throughout practice, we were doing some early-morning hydrilla fishing,” Mr. Tindell said. “Those fish have just gone away. We had two bites this morning and didn’t even catch them. Today it took a little bit longer to get a good bite.”
Tindell and Fregia flipped throughout the day and it paid off when they each landed a 6-pounder out of the same clump of grass to fill their limit.
Ty Black and Avry Thomason from Georgia Southern University caught 20-4 to move from sixth place to third with 39-9. Mr. Black said the first spot they pulled up on was blown out by the wind, forcing them to make an adjustment.
“We went to a spot we saved and caught a 4-pounder, and then we moved to another one of our banks and caught a limit,” Mr. Black said. “We went to our best offshore spot around 10:30 and that’s where we caught the majority of our weight.”
Mr. Thomason said a crankbait has been the key to their success offshore and has accounted for the majority of their weight this week.
Bryce Henley and Reese Kingston from Brewton-Parker College took over Carhartt Big Bass of the tournament with a 9-3 lunker that anchored their 20-9 bag. Several other teams weighed in fish over 8 pounds.
The Top 12 will take off from Venetian Gardens Saturday at 7:30 a.m. ET and will return for weigh-in at 3:30 p.m. The Top 4 teams after the final day will advance to the College Classic Bracket on Alabama's Lay Lake in November for a chance to qualify for the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic.