(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)—In only its second contest since registering as a student organization, the IU Southeast bass fishing team won the Indiana Qualifier tournament, defeating rivals from IU, IUPUI, Purdue University and Indiana State University.
With the win, the team becomes eligible for the College Bassmaster National Championship at Lake Tenkiller in Tahlequa, Okla., July 19-21.
The team of Gavin Lagle and Atom Ward recorded the limit of five fish totaling 16 pounds, five ounces at Lake Monroe in Bloomington.
“I think we were able to win because we were fishing differently than everyone else,” Ward said.
At other local tournaments held the weekend of the event, he and Lagle had noticed that fishermen were fishing with jigs, or small lures, along bluff walls. It wasn’t working. So they opted for heavier lures such as squarebill crankbaits.
They also had success fishing off a bridge where others had tried and failed, even with crankbaits.
“I discovered in practice the day before that fishing a swimbait [a lure that imitates the size, shape and movement of a small fish] slowly would trigger the pressured fish to bite,” Ward said.
Sure enough, the team caught two fish from the bridge in the waning moments of the tournament to seal the win.
They also adjusted their strategy to the conditions—blue skies, 15-mile per hour winds, and waters that were slightly murky or “stained.”
“The winds allowed us to fish with moving baits—deep diving crankbaits, squarebill crankbaits, swimbaits—while the stained water kept the fish between one and ten feet deep,” Ward said. “Knowing this we targeted high-percentage areas within this depth range.”
When Lagle landed a six-pound fish off the back of the boat within the first 20 minutes of the tournament, the team thought it was going to be a good day, but it was only after they had caught the final two fish off the bridge that they believed they had a shot at victory.
The win shows that the club’s first tournament in May, when they placed 93rd out of 263 teams at Cherokee Lake in Tennessee, was no fluke.
The College Bassmaster National Championship will feature teams from an estimated 90 colleges, large and small.
The tournament and associated activities will be broadcast on ESPNU.
“Beating the big Indiana schools was awesome,” Ward said. “To be honest the best feeling is knowing that we are able to bring this kind of credit to our newly formed team and IU Southeast.”
Homepage photo: Gavin Lagle with two of the five fish caught by him and teammate Atom Ward. Photo courtesy of Atom Ward.