The Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Southern Regional heads to Lake Martin out of Alexander, City, Ala., Feb. 4-6. The field of 225 pre-registered boats will make for one of the largest fields in B.A.S.S. history. Photo by Bryan Brasher/B.A.S.S.
ALEXANDER CITY, Ala. — Since its inception in 2011, the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series has experienced as much growth as any competitive fishing trail in America.
Apparently, it’s still growing.
This week, the series brings its Southern Conference Regional to Lake Martin, a 44,000-acre fishery on the Tallapoosa River, with a gigantic field of 225 boats already pre-registered. With two anglers fishing per boat, it’ll make for one of the larger fields in B.A.S.S. history and the largest ever for a college event.
Competition days will be Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with takeoffs each day from Wind Creek State Park at 6:30 a.m. CT. Weigh-ins Thursday and Friday will be held at 2:30 p.m. at Wind Creek, and Saturday’s championship weigh-in is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. at Central Alabama Community College.
“The College Series tournaments have seen growth each year,” said Hank Weldon, senior manager of the college, high school and youth tournament series at B.A.S.S. “But this year’s field is more than 80 percent higher than the 124-boat field we had at last year’s Southern Regional. This surpassed any of our expectations and is a clear indication of how desirable the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series is.”
The young anglers are likely to have their skills tested by a fishery that has changed frequently throughout the winter.
Kelley Jaye, a Bassmaster Elite Series pro who resides in Dadeville, Ala., and has years of experience on Lake Martin, expects a tough tournament.
“I live right on the lake, and I’ve watched it the last few months come up 3 to 4 feet at a time, then fall back 5 feet,” Jaye said. “As it’s been happening, we’ve been getting big rains that have stained the water up really bad.
“It’s had the fish in a funk all winter.”
Team tournaments on Lake Martin tend to follow a familiar storyline this time of year. The majority of the field usually reverts to finesse tactics to target the lake’s massive population of spotted bass, and the team that’s fortunate enough to find a few bigger fish often comes out on top.
But Jaye doesn’t believe that will work for this event.
“I don’t think this is going to be a tournament where somebody is just going to get lucky and catch a big bag on a square bill (crankbait),” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to be a tournament where everybody uses a shaky head and weeds through the small fish to put together a good limit.
“I think it’ll come down to somebody working really hard with their electronics during practice to find some areas that will hold steady no matter what the conditions are like.”
Those conditions have been as erratic as usual for the Central Alabama region in late winter.
Major storm systems swept through the state on Tuesday, causing strong winds and heavy rains. So the lake the anglers fished Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday during practice could look a lot different by Thursday morning’s take-off if the rains have muddied the shallow areas.
To make matters worse, a cold front is supposed to follow the storms that will send nighttime temperatures into the low 30s and high 20s for the remainder of the tournament. Cold temperatures and muddy water are rarely a good combination.
“The temperature is supposed to drop, and that’s going to hit the field hard,” Jaye said. “For the bank beaters, it could be a really, really tough tournament.
“I think the anglers who’ll do best are the ones who concentrate on areas that aren’t going to be affected as much by the conditions — like deep rock points.”
Since many of the college anglers aspire to fish professionally someday, Jaye said the tournament could be good practice for the tougher side of the sport.
“It’s good for them to learn a little bit about what we go through,” he said. “They’ll get to see that you don’t always catch them wherever you go. This one will separate the pretenders from the contenders.”
A full field will fish Thursday and Friday, with only the Top 25 teams advancing to Saturday’s final round. That number could vary if the field size changes.
2016 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Title Sponsor: Carhartt
2016 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota
2016 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Presenting Sponsor: Bass Pro Shops
2016 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Premier Sponsors: Berkley, GoPro, Huk, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Yamaha
2016 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Supporting Partners: ABU Garcia, A.R.E. Truck Caps, Costa, Dick Cepek Tires & Wheels, Livingston Lures, Lowrance, Power-Pole, Rapala, Shell Rotella, Shimano
B.A.S.S. is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport. 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, Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation presented by Magellan events, 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.