NATCHITOCHES, La. — Seth Elkins and Dale Hansard burned an estimated 80 gallons of gas over two days of the Strike King Bassmaster College Series at Red River presented by Bass Pro Shops.
It was worth every last drop.
The tandem from Jacksonville (Ala.) State University finished with a total of 10 bass that weighed 29 pounds, 9 ounces, which was enough to win the derby in northwest Louisiana.
Elkins and Hansard claimed their spot in the College Series National Championship with authority, but they had to work for the win. They made a 2 1/2-hour, one-way run from Grand ECORE Recreational Area to Pool 5 of the Red River, where they fished a creek in the Caspiana area.
That left them with only three hours of fishing time each day, but they made the most of it. They fished in about 9 feet of water on Thursday but went a bit deeper on Friday.
“It was about 12 feet today,” Elkins said. “We noticed the fish had pulled off the tree stumps and some were closer to the bank. We were throwing a black Whopper Plopper 110 yesterday and a lighter-colored model today.
“But the main lure for us was an Ima Skimmer walking bait in a pearl or bone color. That was drawing the bigger bites. And really, those are the only two lures that were working for us at all.”
Hansard caught a 6-5 largemouth on Day 1 which anchored their bag of 13-12 and also was the big bass of the tournament. They didn’t have one as big on Day 2, but the catch was consistent.
“The heaviest today was a 4-pounder, but we had more quality bites,” Elkins said. “We had to fish slow. You really had to make the bait look appetizing or make them mad enough to eat it.”
Hansard said winning a tournament was a special way to qualify for the College National Championship.
“It’s the first time either of us have made it,” Hansard said. “It feels good like a weight is off our shoulders. And I’d like to think the win is for our past teammates … We had (eight people on our team) last year and now we’re the only ones here.”
Day 1 leaders Cole Holloway and Brandon Martin of Georgia’s Emmanuel College slipped to second overall with 10 bass weighing 28-9. Rounding out the Top 5 tandems were Brayden Nichols and William Tew of LSU-Shreveport, third, 23-11; Tripp Bowman and Matthew Nesbit, also of LSU-Shreveport, fourth, 23-2; and fifth, Nicholas Holtgrave and Colsyn Head, of McKendree University in Illinois, 23-0.
B.A.S.S. officials will verify Team of the Year standings in the coming days, which will earn one duo a spot in the Bassmaster College Classic Bracket presented by Lew’s later this year. The Top 3 teams (six anglers in all) from the Strike King Bassmaster College Series National Championship presented by Bass Pro Shops will earn the other three spots in the head-to-head competition.
Those eight anglers then will compete for a spot in the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Toyota when it’s held next March in Tulsa, Okla., with fishing on Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees.
A total of 135 teams competed, and 14 of them punched their tickets to the College National Championship, which will be held later this year on a fishery yet to be announced.
The fishing action isn’t complete just yet here on the Red River, though.
Following a day off on Saturday, the Strike King Bassmaster High School Series presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors will hit the water Sunday, as will the Junior Series anglers. Coverage from those two events will be available on Bassmaster.com.
The tournaments all are hosted by the Red River Waterway Commission.