BEMIDJI, Minn. — The first day of the 2017 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship presented by Bass Pro Shops on Lake Bemidji started under gloomy conditions as storms pushed through the region, but it didn’t seem to hurt the fishing.
Jake Lee and Jacob Foutz of Bryan College lead after Thursday’s action with 16 pounds, 6 ounces. Their field-topping weight consisted of only four fish, one short of their five-bass limit.
Storylines for the event consisted of tough and crowded fishing, but Thursday shined light on the quality bass that live in the Minnesota fishery. While 21 teams brought limits to the scales, several other teams stayed in contention by bringing three or four quality fish to the Bassmaster stage.
As for the crowded fishing on Lake Bemidji, Lee and Foutz were able to find an area all to themselves, and it paid dividends for the first round of this three-day event.
“The caliber of fish in our area is just unreal,” Lee said. “There actually aren’t many boats around us. If we can get five more bites, they will be like the fish we weighed in today.”
Their impressive first-place weight wasn’t anchored by a giant largemouth, as one might expect, but rather by four good-sized bass. And those didn’t come as easy as it may seem because of the weather change. Stabilizing weather may help the duo, according to Foutz.
“The winds really blew out our areas and made it harder, but we should be able to duplicate the quality if it settles down some,” Foutz said.
“The bites were about as slow as anything I’ve experienced in my life,” Lee said. “Today was slow and painful, but it worked out.”
Bryan College carries a 10-ounce lead going into Friday’s competition day over their nearest pursuer, which happens to be one of the local Bemidji State University teams.
Brothers Thor and Mitch Swanson took the lead early in the weigh-in and held it right until the end, when Lee and Foutz dethroned them. The Swansons are in good position and well within contention to make the final day cut, as long as they can survive Day 2.
With numerous teams in their area, they aren’t sure they can match their first-day weight of 15-12 again, but the good start is extremely crucial to staying within the projected cut line after Friday’s weigh-in.
“We went out today just hoping not to lose this event on Day 1,” Thor said.
“Any fish tomorrow will be key if we want to stay in the hunt. During the middle of the day we were thankful not to be scratching around still with just one or two fish; having a limit was huge,” Mitch said.
Logan Laprarie and Aaron Belgard of Northwestern State University brought the big bass on Day 1 to the scales, and it topped out at 6-6.
Friday’s take off will happen at Paul Bunyan Park at 6 a.m. CT, and weigh-ins will begin at 2:30 at the same location.
The event is hosted by Bemidji State University and Visit Bemidji.