Louisiana duo hold top spot at College Series Central Tour

Tyler Craig (left) and Spencer Lambert of the University of Louisiana at Monroe

UPDATE: The week has been full of twists and turns for Hunter DeSplinter and Conner Choate of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville at the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Central Tour presented by Bass Pro Shops on Toledo Bend.

After catching 25 pounds, 9 ounces on Friday, they took the lead as the Top 30 teams prepared for the final day of competition. Little did they know they wouldn’t need another cast on Toledo Bend to take the Central Tour title.

Saturday’s action was canceled after heavy fog hung over Toledo Bend, and Choate and DeSplinter were named champions with a two-day total of 41-6. Conditions weren’t conducive to send teams onto the 185,000-acre reservoir — and as the minutes ticked by, the fog seemed to settle into the Sabine River impoundment more and more.


The record-setting field of 248 teams expected an early start at the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Central Tour presented by Bass Pro Shops at Toledo Bend, but that didn’t come to fruition as fog settled on the lake and delayed takeoff until 8:45 a.m. CT.

The one-hour, 45-minute delay meant anglers had less time on the water to figure out Toledo Bend Reservoir, which has been stingy. But Tyler Craig and Spencer Lambert of the University of Louisiana at Monroe figured it out enough to take command on Thursday with 20 pounds, 13 ounces.

This is familiar territory for Craig and Lambert as they led Day 1 last year at Sam Rayburn Reservoir and eventually finished second in the three-day event. The duo brought the only 20-pound bag to the scales as Toledo Bend was certainly as tough as the grumblings at the pre-tournament meeting suggested.

“We only got five bites today,” Craig said. “It’s slow out there, but when we get bit, they have been solid fish.”

They landed their two biggest fish within the last 15 minutes of fishing time, which suggests they needed every minute to put together their 20-pound bag. Craig and Lambert’s area isn’t based on a certain feeding window; they get bit throughout the day, but the fog delay hurt the amount of time they could spend on their spot.

“We set out with the mindset of catching quality over quantity,” Craig said.

The final day of practice revealed their spot’s capabilities as Lambert landed a 6 1/2-pounder. Then Craig caught the same size fish Thursday during the final minutes. That key big bite was the difference maker in a 14-pound bag and breaking 20 pounds.

The weather conditions weren’t ideal Thursday, Jan. 25, with bluebird skies and zero wind. But a switch is expected for the remainder of the event, with clouds and rain in the forecast for Friday and Saturday. Craig and Lambert don’t expect the change to make a difference because the fish are congregated on their spot for another reason.

“These fish are related to shad big time,” Craig said. “The clouds should keep the shad there, and the fish should stay as well because they are in the feeding mood this time of the year.”

Although they go to school almost three hours away, Craig and Lambert have spent extensive time on Toledo Bend and are prepared to pull out all the stops to remain in the top spot.

Behind Craig and Lambert are Sam Houston State University teammates Jackson Carrell and Kyle Pasket with 19-5; Jake Biram and Rhett Meyer of Oklahoma State University are third with 17-15. The rest of the field is stacked closely in weight as the margin between fifth and the final cut spot of 30th is only 3 1/2 pounds.

The full field of 248 teams will fish on Day 2, and after Friday’s weigh-in the field will be cut to the Top 30. There is a tie for the bubble spot as Gregory Green and Dustin Nash of Northwestern State University and KJ Queen and Brad Ableman of Bethel University both have 13-5.

Daily takeoffs will be at 7 a.m. from Cypress Bend Park, and weigh-ins will begin back at the park each day at 3 p.m.

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