The Top 4 college anglers move on to the second day of the 2018 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Classic Bracket presented by Bass Pro Shops. From left to right: Garrett Enders of Bethel University, Nick Ratliff of Campbellsville University, Cody Huff of Bethel University and Nolan Minor of West Virginia University.

Photo by Kelly Bostian/B.A.S.S.

College Anglers Go Head-To-Head In Battle For Bassmaster Classic Berth

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JUNCTION CITY, Kan. — Only two of the eight competitors in Tuesday’s opening round of the 2018 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Classic Bracket presented by Bass Pro Shops on Milford Lake near Junction City, Kan., caught double-digit limits of bass today. And one of those two will be sent packing after Wednesday’s semi-final session.

Nick Ratliff of Campbellsville University and Garrett Enders of Bethel University weighed in 12 pounds, 13 ounces and 11-4, respectively, but each will start with zero as they fish head-to-head in their quest to earn an invitation to the 2019 Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.

Ratliff could do no wrong Tuesday. He landed what he thought would be his last cull for the day with plenty of time to spare. But after he left his hot spot to go “mess around,” he was able to upgrade his catch twice more. He caught nine fish with his Top 5 totaling 12-13.

“I caught my biggest fish of the day doing something completely different,” he said, although he declined to say more about what that “something different” was. “I hope I can do it again tomorrow.”

Ratliff went head-to-head with West Virginia University angler Casey Lanier, who struggled to bring two fish on board and fell to his competitor with a 3-pound total.

Enders caught 12 keeper bass today, and the weight of his heaviest five, 11-4, was just enough to edge Auburn University’s Peyton McCord, who made a strong charge with his own limit but fell short with 9-11.

“I’m around some big ones, I just have to make them bite tomorrow,” Enders said. “I need to get those 2 1/2- and 3-pounders. I think the potential is there to catch them where I’m fishing; it’s just making them bite and getting them in the boat.”

Cody Huff, also of Bethel and Ender’s teammate in winning the Bassmaster College Series National Championship held last month in Tahlequah, Okla., posted a five-bass total of 9-9.

Huff bested Cole Burdeshaw of Auburn, whose two bass weighed a total of 5-13.

Huff is looking forward to a better day Wednesday. “I didn’t fish that ‘clean’ today,” he said. “I lost probably the biggest smallmouth I’ve ever seen. I lost two that would have helped me. They’re wild, and sometimes it’s just hard to get them in the boat.”

West Virginia University angler Nolan Minor topped his bracket with 7-15. He knocked Campbellsville’s Bradley Dunagan out of the running as he was cursed with two small fish weighing a total of 1-11.

Minor said he plans to “stick to his guns” Wednesday and mine a spot he knows has the weight he needs.

“I know the quality is there,” he said. “Today I was pretty sure (Dunagan) didn’t have the weight so I backed off it as soon as I had a limit.”

Still, he confessed, “I’m glad I’m not fishing against Nick or Garrett tomorrow. They had the bigger bags today.”

Weather may play into the game, and perhaps make the bite stronger. The opener was overcast and relatively calm with scattered showers. With partly cloudy skies and more wind Wednesday, the bite may improve.

“In Kansas, I guess an 8 or 10 mph wind is calm,” Minor said. “The bite was better in practice, and it was windy, so it should be better tomorrow.”

Surface action is playing heavily into the contest with smallmouth bass hitting surface lures from a foot to 7 feet deep. Anglers commented that the deeper water also holds bass, but hybrid striped bass also are there and on the bite, as are drum, which all the anglers spent time unhooking Tuesday.

The eight college standouts also had a similar reaction when asked how they liked the elimination bracket format, offering responses like, “intense” and “nerve-wracking.” A midmorning break from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. ET with a reveal of current weights also played into the sense of nerves for the anglers.

Enders and Huff both commented they are especially enjoying being in the tournament because they missed the cutoff to qualify for the contest by just 2 ounces in the 2017 Championship.

“It’s exciting to be in this and for both of us to be fishing tomorrow,” Huff said of his Bethel teammate.

The bracket-style faceoff continues from 7:20-10:30 a.m. ET and 11:30-2:30 p.m. Wednesday at Acorns Resort on Milford Lake. Follow the anglers at Bassmaster.com with BASSTrakk Leaderboard and the Bass Live Blog all day plus B.A.S.S. LIVE 10:45 a.m. and 2:45 p.m.

The semi-final round will whittle the Top 4 to the final pair of anglers, who will face off in Thursday’s title round.

The winning angler not only lands a berth in the 2019 Classic, to be held March 15-17 on the Tennessee River at Knoxville, but also the use of a fully-rigged Toyota Tundra, a Nitro Z-20, a $7,500 stipend courtesy of Carhartt and paid entry fees into the 2019 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens.

For more information, visit Bassmaster.com/college.

Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Classic Bracket presented by Bass Pro Shops
8/14/2018 – 8/16/2018

Milford Lake – Farnum Creek – Junction City, KS
STANDINGS BOATER DAY 1

Match 1
Name # Fish # Live Lbs – Oz # Fish # Live Lbs – Oz
WINNER: Garrett Enders Bethel University 5 5 11- 4 5 5 11- 4
Peyton McCord Auburn University 5 5 9-11 5 5 9-11

Match 2
Name # Fish # Live Lbs – Oz # Fish # Live Lbs – Oz
WINNER: Nick Ratliff Campbellsville University 5 5 12-13 5 5 12-13
Casey Lanier West Virginia University 2 2 3- 0 2 2 3- 0

Match 3
Name # Fish # Live Lbs – Oz # Fish # Live Lbs – Oz
WINNER: Cody Huff Bethel University 5 5 9- 9 5 5 9- 9
Cole Burdeshaw Auburn University 2 2 5-13 2 2 5-13

Match 4
Name # Fish # Live Lbs – Oz # Fish # Live Lbs – Oz
WINNER: Nolan Minor West Virginia University 5 5 7-15 5 5 7-15
Bradley Dunagan Campbellsville University 2 2 1-11 2 2 1-11

TOTALS
Day # Fish # Live Lbs-Oz # Limits
1 31 31 61-12 5

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