MONTGOMERY, Ala. — This weekend, Ben Cleary and John Hickman from the University of Georgia fished together for the first time and managed to take the title from a strong field of local Alabama teams.
After catching 16.31 pounds on Day Two, the duo jumped from eighth place to first, leaving the Alabama River as East Super Regional champions.
"Being in the middle of Alabama, you probably have 10 schools within a few hours of the Alabama River," Cleary said. "When you are fishing in Alabama, you are going up against the best of the best. Luckily, we were up for the task."
Finishing as runner-up was Jonas Ertel and Kyle Raymer from Eastern Kentucky University with a two-day total of 27.25 pounds. The local team from Auburn University-Montgomery, Jacob Nummy and Larry Haag, caught the biggest bag of the day at 16.49 pounds and finished third with 26.99 pounds.
Rounding out the top five was Auburn University's Jason Mitja and Shane Powell in fourth place with 26.38 pounds and the University of Alabama's Warren Hoffman and Ben Weldon in fifth place with 25.65 pounds.
For Cleary and Hickman, a bad practice Friday quickly turned around on Day One, when they figured out that the falling water was pulling the fish out from the back of Cooters Pond and onto a stretch of riprap the team would work back and forth along for the majority of the tournament.
"That area was right next to a channel, the shad were there ready to spawn and all the fish have to go through that area to spawn in the back," Cleary said. "Once we got on that riprap, we just milked it all day. It seemed like you would hit it five times and then the sixth time, you would catch four fish."
Georgia fished an Ol'Nelle white and chartreuse spinnerbait with a white Zoom trailer on the back. While many of the other local anglers were also throwing spinnerbaits, Cleary and Hickman used a different style to entice bites.
"Everybody was fishing it too fast, sometimes burning it across the surface," Cleary said. "You almost had to fish it like a work, very slow across the bottom. The shad were key in that area. They would follow the spinnerbait and we could see them. They were big shad, so we knew big bass were not far away."
Hickman was fishing in his very first collegiate tournament, and wanted to thank his teammates, the school and everyone who helped out this week.
"Fortunately for me, Ben's original partner couldn't make it and I got to fish with him," Hickman said. "I hope I don't get spoiled with the way this week went. The dinner in Montgomery was great, with every piece of chicken you could want, and then we went on to win the tournament."
The Day One leaders from Faulkner University, Kyle Tindol and John Nicks Galloway, struggled on Day Two with only 7.88 pounds, falling to 12th place.
In the in-state rivalry between Auburn and Alabama, Auburn came back on Day Two to get the upper hand, averaging 9.97 pounds per team each day compared to Alabama's 9.17 pounds.
The next event for College Bass anglers will be the West Super Regional in Tyler, Texas, on Lake Tyler from April 24-25. Coverage from all the events can be found on CollegeBass.com.
East Super Regional final results