BEMIDJI, Minn. — The Bryan College duo of Jacob Foutz and Jake Lee led the 2017 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship presented by Bass Pro Shops on Lake Bemidji wire-to-wire to take the title with a three-day total of 49 pounds, 15 ounces.
A big storyline of the week was the fishing pressure that Stump Lake was receiving from over 75 percent of the field. Most wondered if it would hold up over three days of competition, but Lee and Foutz didn’t test it, sticking to their game plan in Lake Irving just south of Lake Bemidji.
The Bryan College teammates had a two-prong approach to catch their winning weight as they threw a frog early in the morning and flipped a Texas rig for the remainder of the day. It didn’t seem to matter what type of cover they fished, but rather the bait they were flipping. They used a 4 1/2-inch black and blue Strike King Flipping Tube with a 3/8-ounce tungsten weight and a 5/0 Trokar hook.
“In the morning we had a frog bite going on and we caught a couple key fish every morning,” Foutz said. “As soon as the sun came up that bite faded and we would start flipping docks and shoreline cover.”
Today’s conditions were slightly different as the algae on Lake Irving began to die off and it produced a film on the top of the water.
“Today we managed to get a frog bite later in the day because of some overhanging trees and the shade they produced,” Lee said.
Throughout the week the duo executed to perfection as they hooked and landed all nine bass that contributed to their leading weight, but today they lost some important bites that stalled their progress on sealing this event. Saturday’s action reverted to how their Thursday went as it took all day to catch their final weight tally. Lee and Foutz didn’t cull a single fish the entire week of competition. The fish that went in their livewell stayed until 2 p.m. every day when they were weighed on the B.A.S.S. stage.
Both Lee and Foutz are products of high school fishing. Lee was in the inaugural Bassmaster High School All-American class and both anglers carried their high school experiences into their freshman year of college where they are now crowned the 2017 National Champions.
“This week was amazing, it showed us that we can come here and compete with the best college anglers in the country,” Foutz and Lee said. “The goal is to always win a national championship, but now our sights are focused on the bracket. Hopefully, we can carry this momentum there.”
Lee and Foutz outlasted a hard-charging Top 12 group of anglers as they had their toughest day of the week and brought 15-5 to the scales. It was enough to top second place Cole Floyd and Carter McNeil of Bethel University who weighed 45-4 over three days. With their Day 2 weight of 18-4, Lee and Foutz claimed the big bag of the event.
Floyd and McNeil’s weight got better every day as they went from 14-12 to 15-1 and settled out at 15-7 on Championship Saturday. As the week progressed their pattern and target location slowly developed, which is a key reason for their increase in weight each day.
The duo flipped grass and reeds in both Stump Lake and Lake Irving. Their best lure ended up being a 1/2-ounce Texas-rigged Berkley Havoc Pit Boss, which they pitched to both sparse and thick cover.
“We started the week fishing in Stump Lake where most of the field fished,” McNeil said. “We caught four and at the end of the day (and) stopped in Lake Irving and caught two key fish.”
That set the tone for the rest of their event as they dedicated Friday morning to Lake Irving before going to Stump Lake and then today they never left sight of the mouth of Irving as they camped out and managed 15-7.
“To increase our weight every day is hard to do, especially in a multiday event,” Floyd said. “I can’t complain with how it went this week.”
Tyler Firebaugh and Chad Sweitzer of Chico State University placed third overall and punched their ticket to the 2017 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Classic Bracket presented by Bass Pro Shops with a three-day weight of 40 pounds, 8 ounces. They focused their efforts in Stump Lake and fished extremely slow on Championship Saturday to catch their weight.
“I pitched a weightless Gary Yamamoto Flappin’ Hog and let it sit for as long as 60 seconds per cast today,” Sweitzer said.
Slower was better for the California duo because of the immense pressure on the Stump Lake region.
Brian Pahl and John Garrett of Bethel University managed to sneak into the fourth-place spot, claiming the final bracket positions as they edged out teammates Garrett Enders and Cody Huff by just 2 ounces.
The Top 4 teams will now split into eight individual anglers and compete in the College Classic Bracket where they will fish head-to-head starting on Monday, August 14, on Serpent Lake, Minnesota.
Lee and Foutz took home additional rewards along with their winning prize as they also won the Livingston Lures Day 2 Leader Award of $500 in merchandise. Logan Laprarie and Aaron Belgard of Northwestern State University won the big bass of the event because of their 6-6 largemouth on Thursday.