Monday, February 26, 2024

College Championship Race Tightens


COLUMBIA, S.C. – As the Forrest Wood Cup proved last August, Lake Murray is famous for its close tournament finishes and it looks as if that trend will continue here as the FLW College Fishing National Championship presented by Lowrance Insight Genesis College Cup enters Saturday’s title round.

Liberty University’s Travis Rulle and Caleb Eppler are still in the lead, but it’s no longer a 3-pound cushion between them and second place. In fact, only 5 ounces separates them from Patrick Walters and Gettys Brannon of the University of South Carolina, and their lead over the third-place team, Chase Cochran and Ryan Sparks of Oregon State University, is 6 ounces. In fact, anyone in the top 10 has a shot at the crown, as a couple of the kickers the lake is known to produce could boost a team to the top if the leaders falter.

On day one, Rulle caught a 7-pound, 9-ounce largemouth that gave the Flames 22 pounds, 2 ounces – still the tournament’s heaviest stringer overall. But he and Eppler could manage only 14-4 in the second round for a two-day total of 36-6.

“We think our fish will hold out. We’ve got a few key spots and there are a ton of fish where we’re fishing,” says Rulle. “A big factor for us is going to be the local traffic. We know of one tournament set for Saturday, so that might affect us. Maybe the weather will be the biggest factor though. We have what Jacob Wheeler calls ‘bite windows’ where maybe a cloud goes over the sun or the wind gusts up for 5 minutes and the fish go to biting. For sure, our best fish came when the wind was blowing. It’s like they need some kind of stimulus to start feeding on the bluebacks around us.”

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