Auburn University angler Tucker Smith and Easton Fothergill of the University of Montevallo have advanced to Day 3 of competition at the 2023 Bassmaster College Classic Bracket presented by Lew’s at Milford Lake.
Photo by Tommy Sendek/B.A.S.S.
October 1, 2023
Smith, Fothergill advance to final day of Bassmaster College Classic Bracket
JUNCTION CITY, Kan. — At the halftime break on Day 2 of the Bassmaster College Classic Bracket presented by Lew’s, Tucker Smith had only landed three keeper bass. But thanks to an afternoon rally that saw the Auburn senior land the biggest bass of the tournament so far, Smith finished with a limit weighing 11 pounds, 2 ounces to advance past the University of Montevallo’s Brody Robison (9-0) and into the final round.
This will be Smith’s second trip to the Championship round after he finished second to Tristan McCormick by 3 ounces at the Alabama River in 2021. Smith will now face University of Montevallo senior Easton Fothergill in the final round after Fothergill landed 9-1 to defeat Auburn’s Hayden Marbut (6-11).
The winner will punch their ticket to the 2024 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Toyota scheduled for March 22-24 in Tulsa, Okla.
“I found one area today I could catch them out of and the other areas didn’t seem to have them today,” Smith said. “I got really blessed with that big one. Hopefully, we can get another big bite tomorrow. It was definitely a grind, though. I was sweating it at the halftime break.”
On Day 1, Smith caught close to 30 bass to upgrade to his 8-11 total, but many of those were small and he narrowly defeated Bethel’s Matthew Cummings to advance to the semifinal round.
“A lot of those fish were a pound or less than a pound,” Smith said.
The morning started particularly slow for Smith, who fished several different areas with a topwater first thing without much success. After landing three bass for just over 6 pounds before the midday break, Smith hooked up with the biggest bass of the tournament so far, a 4-8 smallmouth that keyed him into a particular area.
“I was surprised it was a bass for sure. I had been catching some drum, and I caught a buffalo carp today too, so I wasn’t sure at first if it was a bass,” he said. “But when it came up, I saw it jump and started to freak out a little.”
From there, the 2023 Bassmaster College Series National Champion milked the area and filled out his limit before making several key upgrades that put him out of reach of Robison.
“I don’t think I had any other bass over 2 pounds today, but when that one came up, I knew it was the one I needed. If I got it in the boat, I knew I had a good chance at making it tomorrow,” Smith explained.
Throughout the week, Smith said he has attempted to pattern the lake as best as he can, but there is very little that is consistent from day to day except the heavy winds. He has seen smallmouth that are relating to structure, but has also seen some pelagic smallmouth that are chasing bait.
A Ned rig and a topwater have been his two most consistent baits.
“It has been really tough to catch good ones. In practice, it seemed a lot easier to catch fish over 2 pounds. But since the tournament started it has been really tough,” Smith said.
Fothergill paced the field on Day 1 by catching 10-15 to advance past his teammate Jack Alexander — and while his best spot from Day 1 didn’t pan out like he hoped on Day 2, he still managed to fill his limit of 9-1 within the first two hours.
“I started where I did yesterday, but as expected, it wasn’t as special. I left there with two bass I believe,” Fothergill said. “I looked for spots on Google Earth last night that were set up like that and I found two areas. I went to one of those and caught two quickly, one good one. From there, it was a grind.”
The afternoon hours, however, left Fothergill scratching his head as he was unable to upgrade. His smallest bass weighed 1-7 and at one point, he caught three straight bass that weighed 1-6.
“I’ll definitely be doing a lot of brainstorming tonight to figure out how I can catch them in the afternoon,” Fothergill said. “If I can figure out how to catch some consistently in the afternoon, I could be pretty dangerous.”
Two baits were the most productive for Fothergill, who added another largemouth to his tally on Day 2. He has also noticed several distinct bite windows. His map study after the Day 1 weigh-in paid off in the morning hours, and he hopes he can find another spot or two on the map tonight that will help carry him to victory on Monday.
With a chance to make the Bassmaster Classic on the horizon, Fothergill knows there will be some anxious moments before the final takeoff.
“I’ve been thinking about fishing for a spot in the Classic for a long time, but for it to actually become a reality is something really special, no matter how it shakes out,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it and am ready to get things rolling.”
Fothergill and Smith will launch from Farnum Creek Boat Ramp at Acorns Resort beginning at 7 a.m. CT and end their fishing day at 3 p.m. The final weights will be revealed at the boat ramp at 3:30 p.m. Bassmaster LIVE will be broadcasting live starting at 7 a.m. on Bassmaster.com and will broadcast the final results live.
In addition to the Classic berth, the College Classic Bracket winner will receive a prize package that includes full use of a Toyota Tundra, Nitro boat and paid entry fees into the St. Croix Bassmaster Opens.
The event is being hosted by the Geary County, Kansas Convention and Visitors Bureau.
2023 Bassmaster College Bracket presented by Lew’s 9/30-10/2
Milford Lake, Junction City KS.
(BOATER) Standings Day 2
Tucker Smith Auburn University
Day 1: 5 08-11 Day 2: 5 11-02 Total: 5 11-02
Brody Robison University of Montevallo
Day 1: 5 10-11 Day 2: 5 09-00 Total: 5 09-00
Easton Fothergill University of Montevallo
Day 1: 5 10-15 Day 2: 5 09-01 Total: 5 09-01
Hayden Marbut Auburn University
Day 1: 5 10-12 Day 2: 5 06-11 Total: 5 06-11
Day #Limits #Fish Weight
1 8 40 76-14
2 4 20 35-14
12 60 112-12