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Bethel duo claims Bassmaster College title

Bethel duo claims Bassmaster College title

Bethel University's Garrett Enders and Cody Huff came into the final day of the Carhartt Bassmaster College National Championship with a 6-pound, 2-ounce lead, the product of two strong days at Lake Tenkiller in eastern Oklahoma.

Still, they felt a little uneasy after Campbellsville University’s Bradley Dunagan and Nick Ratliff hauled a 6-pound kicker on stage as part of an tournament-best 18-02 stringer to snatch the leader's hot seat away from West Virginia University’s Nolan Minor and Casey Lanier, who posted 15-4 of their own on the final day.

When it was time for Enders and Huff to show their hand Saturday afternoon, their three-fish, 9-02 bag wound up being enough to erase the 7-04 deficit and seal the victory with a three-day total of 41-06.

After a few weeks to soak in their triumph, Enders and Huff will join the Campbellsville and West Virginia teams, along with Cole Burdeshaw and Peyton McCord of Auburn University at the 2018 Carhartt College Bracket, set for Aug. 14-16 at Milford Lake in Junction City, Kan. A berth in the 2019 Bassmaster Classic next March in Knoxville, Tenn., will be on the line for the eight anglers who will face off in the bracket-style, catch-and-release format.

The conditions at Tenkiller were tough and inconsistent as promised with sultry heat the first two days. On the final day, the heat relented slightly, but the recreational boat traffic added another layer of challenges.

Enders and Huff were the only anglers to limit both of the first two days, and they did it quickly each morning, and without error.

“We hadn’t lost a fish all week; we lost four keepers today,” Huff said. “I guess you have to pay your dues.”

On Saturday, they also sacrificed 14 flutter spoons to the docks of Tenkiller. The first fish lost offered an indication of the lackluster luck factor ahead as it snagged a dockside obstacle.

“He jumped up and actually got my jigging spoon’s hook caught on a rope holding a minnow bucket,” Huff said. “He was just hanging there and all we could do was watch him get off.”

All of their fish came on either a 5 1/2-inch Strike King Sexy Spoon or a 7/8-ounce Jewel Jigging Spoon as they targeted sunken cedars around docks with most hits happening between 15 and 20 feet down.

“Most everything hit it on the way down,” Huff said. “You drop it and when it gets to 20 then you just work it back up.”

Campbellsville’s Dunagan and Ratliff also worked spoons around marinas, but worked so hard at it they had to make a run to the nearest Bass Pro Shops, in Broken Arrow, to restock after Day 2.

“We just started looking for spider webs, pitching where nobody else had been,” Ratliff said. “We lost like 15 spoons today.”

Their two best lures were a 4-inch Strike King Sexy Spoon and a 3.75-inch Talon Custom Lures Lake Fork Flutter Spoon. “It’s a little heavier on a shorter frame so you can slide it back in there,” Ratliff said. A key bait their first two days was a Zoom Hand-Poured Trick Worm on a drop shot.

The Auburn anglers took a different route to the top. They targeted offshore brushpiles at 15 to 20 feet with a standup jighead and finesse worms, a strategy that proved hard with increased recreational traffic Saturday.

West Virginia’s Nolan Minor said they pieced together a variety of bites, junk fishing from the dam to a “magic tree” as far up the Illinois River as they could run.

“Today was the first day we caught more than one fish on the same bait,” Minor said. Saturday they caught two on a 6-inch Megabass Magdraft, two on a 3-inch Keitech swimbait on a spot loaded with schooling bass, and a Berkley Dredger 25.5 deep-diving crankbait.

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