Tyler Stewart and Nick Joiner from the University of Louisiana-Monroe led wire-to-wire to take the title at the Bassmaster College Series Central Regional tournament 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 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.
The Top 13 teams earned a berth into the 2016 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.