FLORENCE, Ala. — The University of North Carolina Charlotte team of Eric Self of Lawndale, N.C., and Shane Lehew of Charlotte won the FLW College Fishing Southeastern Conference Invitational on Wheeler Lake with a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 35 pounds, 13 ounces. The UNCC team beat second-place Auburn University of Montgomery by a mere 1 ounce. The victory earned the UNCC bass club $4,000, and the team will now advance to the 2014 FLW College Fishing National Championship.
“Neither Eric or I have fished this lake before,” said Lehew, who is coming off a second-place finish at the 2013 FLW College Fishing National Championship held in April. “I guess I did fish it once, but that was like seven years ago. So we Google Earthed it, found docks, and fished what we are most comfortable with the entire weekend.
“We basically flipped shallow docks and any wood we could find with E.R. Lure jigs and stuck with our plan,” Lehew said.
According to the UNCC team, the water dropped significantly between Saturday and Sunday and seemed to plague the remainder of the top 10 teams. Self indicated that most of the other teams were flipping shallow brush, and when the water dropped the fish left the areas that the other teams were fishing. Not so for Lahew and Self; because they were fishing docks, the fish just moved out toward the end of the docks and stayed in the same areas.
“We fished our strength both days,” Self said. “We targeted the same stretch of docks both yesterday and today. There was a seawall between the docks where we could see the shad spawn going on yesterday. It stopped today, but we figured a few bass would still be hanging around, so we stuck to the same area. With the exception of one fish — which I caught yesterday on a white spinnerbait — all of our bass came off a black and blue jig.
“I lost a pretty big one on my fourth cast this morning,” he said. “Shane finally caught another nice one in the last 15 minutes of the tournament. That really took some of the pressure off me. That lost fish haunted me pretty much the entire day. We were finally able to cull a 2 ½-pounder after carrying it around most of the day, and if we hadn’t culled, we wouldn’t have won.”
This was the last chance that each of the anglers would have to qualify for the FLW College Fishing National Championship, as both graduated this month with a degree in Criminal Justice. Self will be making his first trip to the National Championship. Lehew will be making his second visit.
Rounding out the top 10 are:
• 1st: University of North Carolina-Charlotte: Self and Lehew, 10 bass, 35-13, $4,000
• 2nd: Auburn University-Montgomery: Tyler Strock, Slapout, Ala., and Dalton Darnell, Millbrook, Ala.,10 bass, 35-12, $2,000
• 3rd: University of North Alabama: Dawson Lenz, Peachtree City, Ga., and Evan Horne, Florence, Ala., 10 bass, 34-6, $1,000
• 4th: Troy University: Connor Bedsole, Arab, Ala., and Bradley Norred, Morris, Ala., 10 bass, 31-4, $1,000
• 5th: Young Harris College: Grayson Payne, Blairsville, Ga., and Furman Thompson, Clayton, Ga., 10 bass, 28-12, $1,000
• 6th: Auburn University: Timmy Ward, Childersburg, Ala., and Garrett Roberts, Cullman, Ala., 10 bass, 27-12
• 7th: Georgia Southern: Dean Mullett, Marietta, Ga., and Dalton Anderson, Peachtree City, Ga., 10 bass, 26-7
• 8th: Lincoln Memorial University: Chris Hunt, Loudon, Tenn., and Kyle Warwick, Oak Ridge, Tenn., 10 bass, 25-12
• 9th: Florida State University, Nicholas Harris, Marianna, Fla., and Brooks Woodward, Thomasville, Ga., 10 bass, 25-5
• 10th: University of Tennessee-Chattanooga: Parker Bacon, Nashville, Tenn., and Taylor Bolton, Chattanooga, Tenn., seven bass, 23-1
FLW College Fishing teams compete in four qualifying events in one of five conferences – Central, Northern, Southern, Southeastern and Western. The top fifteen teams from each regular-season tournament qualify for one of five conference invitational tournaments. The top ten teams from each conference invitational tournament will advance to the 2014 FLW College Fishing National Championship.
College Fishing is free to enter and FLW Outdoors provides boats and drivers for each competing team along with travel allowances. All participants must be registered, full-time undergraduate students at a four-year college or university and members of a fishing club recognized by their college or university.
For more information, visit FLWOutdoors.com.