Saturday, April 13, 2024

University of Montevallo Grabs Early Lead Going into Final Day at 2024 Abu Garcia College Fishing Presented by YETI National Championship

Date:

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (Jan. 10, 2024) – After strong winds and inclement weather forced the cancelation of the first day of competition on Tuesday, the University of Montevallo duo of Nicholas Dumke and Easton Fothergill – both of Grand Rapids, Minnesota – grabbed the early lead Wednesday after Day 1 of the 2024 Abu Garcia College Fishing Presented by YETI National Championship at Lake Toho . The Falcons team brought a five-bass limit to the scale weighing 27 pounds, 3 ounces, giving them a 3-pound, 15-ounce lead over the second-place Adrian College team of Gerald Brumbaugh of Martinsburgh, Pennsylvania and Mitchell Straffon of Fenton, Michigan.

Dumke and Fothergill said when they pulled up to their first spot on Wednesday morning — the best area they’d discovered during practice on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes — they found nothing. No keepers, no bites, no activity on forward-facing sonar. While that’s not an ideal start to the College Fishing National Championship, it didn’t take long for the University of Montevallo team to relocate some of Lake Toho’s big bass.

The high winds and storms the previous day had moved their fish, but Dumke and Fothergill located another school of baitfish and bass Wednesday on what Fothergill called “a wind-blown corner.” They stayed in the area for the rest of the day, which paid off in the form of a massive 27-pound, 3-ounce limit.

“It was a pretty wild day, definitely something I won’t ever forget,” Dumke said. “There were some key times throughout the day and we just were fortunate to be in the right place at the right time.”

Fothergill and Dumke discovered during practice that the biggest bass on the Kissimmee Chain could be finicky, only willing to eat during a few key “bite windows” each day. So, once they found some quality fish, the duo hunkered down, targeting the bass using forward-facing sonar.

Dumke said they caught all their weight within three 30-minute periods. A 7-inch glide bait provoked the biggest bites, including a 7-11 brute caught by Fothergill that anchored the team’s limit and took home Berkley Big Bass honors.

“Our main deal is LiveScoping, so we’re throwing at fish every single cast we make,” Fothergill said. “We can tell how the fish are reacting to our baits and what we’ve seen from practice is they’ll just kind of react a few times and then all of a sudden, they’ll explode on your baits. It was like that for about a half hour, and then things would die off again. We found that we really had to capitalize on it when the bite windows opened up. When we noticed that happening today, we just made sure we were around where the big ones were, and it worked out.”

Dumke and Fothergill also competed in the 2023 College Fishing National Championship on the Kissimmee Chain last February, finishing 22nd. While Dumke said that experience helped them get a feel for how the lakes in the chain set up and which areas to focus on, they’ve found the fishing to be quite a bit different this time around, largely due to the amount of aquatic vegetation they’ve had to work through.

“Last year, there wasn’t much grass and any grass you did find was pretty good,” Dumke said. “But this year, there’s grass absolutely everywhere.”

Dumke and Fothergill hope to replicate their Day 1 pattern on Thursday. But they also said if there’s one place where things can shift overnight, it’s Florida. Wednesday’s results illustrated the boom-or-bust nature of the Kissimmee Chain in early January. While seven teams topped 20 pounds, more than half the field failed to reach double digits. Especially with the full field of 135 boats taking the water again in the weather-shortened event, no lead is safe.

“I’m guessing things are going to change,” Dumke said. “It’s that time of the year, plus it’s Florida. That’s the magic recipe for things completely flipping on you. A cloud goes in front of the sun, and all of a sudden things are really good or really bad.”

If Dumke and Fothergill can hold on, it would mark the second straight title for Montevallo. Peyton Harris and Dalton Head took home the trophy at the 2023 College Fishing National Championship and the Falcons had 11 teams qualify for this year’s championship, more than any other school.

Fothergill admitted that adding a trip to Wheeler Lake for the Toyota Series Championship — where he and Dumke would duke it out for a berth to REDCREST 2025 — to his 2024 schedule has crossed his mind. But he’s learned by now not to get ahead of himself. He said his focus Thursday will be “catching the fish that’s in front of us” and enjoying the moment.

“I’m super excited,” Fothergill said. “I had a blast today. It was actually some of the best glide bait fishing I’ve had. I’m not expecting them to hit it as good tomorrow with less sun, but we’ll just keep an open mind, and hopefully we can run into a couple more.”

The 15th annual College Fishing National Championship is a three-day event – hosted by Experience Kissimmee – featuring the top 135 college bass fishing teams from across the nation competing in an internationally televised, no-entry-fee tournament for a $43,500 prize package, including a new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat with a 115-horsepower outboard and an additional $10,000.

For the first time ever at the College Fishing National Championship, teams will only fish two days, with the full field of 135 teams competing on Wednesday and Thursday. The National Champions will be crowned on Championship Thursday based on the cumulative two-day weight total.

In addition to the boat package, both members of the winning team and the runners-up at the 2024 Abu Garcia College Fishing National Championship will advance to the 2024 Toyota Series Championship, where they’ll compete as pros for a top prize of up to $235,000. In addition, the winning team’s highest finishing team member at the Toyota Series Championship will advance to REDCREST 2025 to compete against the world’s best pros for the sport’s top prize of $300,000.

Both members of the third-place team at the College Fishing National Championship will advance to the 2024 Toyota Series Championship to compete as co-anglers for a shot at winning a $33,500 Phoenix 518 pro with a 115-horsepower outboard.

The top 10 teams after Day 1 on Lake Toho are:

1st:    University of Montevallo – Nicholas Dumke and Easton Fothergill, both of Grand Rapids, Minn., five bass, 27-3
2nd:   Adrian College – Gerald Brumbaugh of Martinsburgh, Penn., and Mitchell Straffon of Fenton, Mich., five bass, 23-4
3rd:   Tarleton State-Stephenville – Garett Cadenhead of Fort Worth, Texas, and Jared Mizell of Pearland, Texas, five bass, 22-15
4th:    Campbellsville University – Carter Doren of Las Vegas, Nev., and Ryan Lachniet of Gum Spring, Va., five bass, 21-15
5th:    Emmanuel University – Robert Miller of Savannah, Ga., and John Micheal Ortman of Douglas, Ga., five bass, 21-11
6th:    University of North Alabama – Dylan and Carter Nutt, both of Nashville, Tenn., five bass, 21-7
7th:    Northeastern State University-Tahlequah – Levi Juby and Cooper Park of Sperry, Okla., five bass, 20-7
8th:    Lander University – Kaleb Brown of Northfield, Mass., and Cole Moulton of Enfield, N.H., five bass, 19-7
9th:    Erskine College – Lane Clark of Anderson, S.C., and Adam Seagle of Lincolnton, S.C., five bass, 18-12
10th:  Carson-Newman University – Ben Cully of Rockwall, Texas, and Hayden Gaddis of Seymour, Tenn., five bass, 18-11
10th:  Adrian College – Braylon Eggerding and Lucas Washburn of Grand Rapids, Mich., five bass, 18-11

For a full list of results, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com.

Overall, there were 598 bass weighing 1,412 pounds, 2 ounces caught by 132 teams Wednesday. The catch included 104 five-bass limits.

Anglers will take off from Big Toho Marina (located at 69 Lakeview Dr. in Kissimmee) at 7:30 a.m. ET on Thursday. Championship weigh-in will be held at the marina starting at 3:30 p.m. and will be livestreamed. Fans are welcome to attend the event or tune in to the weigh-in and follow the online coverage at MajorLeagueFishing.com .

The MLFNOW!® broadcast team of Chad McKee and Rob Newell will break down the extended action on Championship Thursday from 8 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. ET. MLFNOW!®  will be livestreamed on  MajorLeagueFishing.com and the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app. 

Abu Garcia College Fishing Presented by YETI teams compete in nine regular-season qualifying tournaments around the country. The top 12% of teams from each qualifying event advance to the following year’s Abu Garcia College Fishing Presented by YETI National Championship.

Proud sponsors of the 2024 MLF Abu Garcia College Fishing Presented by YETI include: 7Brew, Abu Garcia, B&W Trailer Hitches, Berkley, Bubba, E3, Epic Baits, General Tire, Lew’s, Mercury, Mossy Oak, Onyx, Phoenix Boats, Polaris, Power-Pole, Strike King, Suzuki, Tackle Warehouse, T-H Marine, Toyota and YETI.

For complete details and updated tournament information, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com. For regular College Fishing updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow MLF5’s social media outlets at Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.



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