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Montevallo duos capture top two places

Montevallo duos capture top two places

PARIS, Tenn. – University of Montevallo (Ala.) anglers have had a great deal of success as a program, so it wasn’t a huge surprise that a pair of the school’s teams were the final two standing Thursday at the Bassmaster College Series event at Kentucky Lake.

In the end, Blair Erickson and Jackson Pontius were on the right side of the balance, winning the tournament with a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 42 pounds, 1 ounce. They edged Montevallo teammates Easton Fothergill and Nick Dumke, the defending Bassmaster College Series Team of the Year, who placed second with 10 bass totaling 41-5.

In all, 216 college tandems competed for a total of $18,400 in prize money for their respective schools. Erickson and Pontius split $5,500 for winning, while Fothergill and Dumke split $3,600 for finishing second.

Edging their high-profile teammates was a point of pride for the victorious 21-year-old juniors — Erickson, a computer science major from Brainard, Minn., and Pontius, a Wilsonville, Ala., native studying business marketing. Both acknowledged that competing with the many other talented anglers at Montevallo puts them in a position to win whenever they compete.

“Iron sharpens iron,” Erickson said, his voice beginning to crack with emotion, even before he and Pontius weighed a 19-9 limit to push them past their teammates.

“(Competing with guys like Fothergill and Dumke) motivates you. I wouldn’t be where I am without them.”

Pontius wholeheartedly agreed.

“We are so competitive,” he said. “All these guys (at Montevallo) are hammers…We have a big support team.”

Erickson and Pontius caught 22-8 on Day 1, grabbing the lead catching smallies off a shellbar only a few dozen yards from takeoff at Paris Landing Marina. They burned that spot, though, and only caught two bass there Thursday morning for about 7 pounds.

That’s when they decided to make a 20-mile run to mid-lake and a hotspot Erickson located during practice. When they arrived, however, Fothergill and Dumke were already fishing that location. They didn’t slink off to another spot, however, rather they fished within shouting distance of their teammates, locking in on a trio of 4-pounders they marked during practice.

“It only took a few casts, and we had the limit we needed,” Pontius said.

Still, it was a kicker fish that provided the margin of victory.

“We had 18 pounds, but we still had a 2-8 in the box,” Pontius said. “We couldn’t get rid of him, and it was almost 12 o’clock. So, we rolled up to where we started and on the last cast of the day, with five minutes to go until weigh-in, Blair got hung up on a rock and a 3-12 decides to eat his bait off the rock.”

“That was the fish that won it for us,” Pontius said.

Erickson used a pair of Untamed Tackle Shitake Mushroom Head jigs, one a 3/16-ounce lure and another that was 1/8-ounce. Pontius primarily threw a 3/16-ounce tube for his best bites. Both anglers favored green pumpkin lures speckled with orange and purple flakes.

“The bedding bass were finicky,” Erickson said. “I learned ice fishing (back home in Minnesota) that when they’re like that, you want to give them something with less resistance so it’s easier for them to get more of the lure. You need something lighter.”

Light lures, perhaps, but they were a recipe for a heavy victory.

“This means so much,” Pontius said. “This is our third tournament fishing together. To get a win and qualify for Nationals at the same time is an incredible thing.”

“This has been a dream since I was in eighth grade,” Erickson added. “It’s been a dream for both of us.”

Rounding out the Top 5 were Dylan Fogerty and Hunter Filmore of Bethel University (Tenn.), third, 40-4; Banks Shaw and Nathan Reynolds of the University of North Alabama, fourth, 39-13; and Jack Hay and Eli Jaime of Southwestern Michigan College, fifth, 39-10.

The event was the first B.A.S.S. tournament on Kentucky Lake since the Bassmaster High School National Championship was held there in 2020. After a few lean years, mainly due to an influx of invasive Asian carp, Kentucky Lake’s bass bite (especially the smallmouth) has rebounded tremendously.

The teams of Sam Moll and Will Burch of Murray State (Ky.) University, and Quade Lobo and Nick Owens of Adrian College (Mich.), each weighed a 6-13 smallmouth on Day 1 to tie for the heaviest bass of the tournament.

The College Series stop at Kentucky Lake was the second of three events on the new Legends Trail, the first being held on South Carolina’s Lake Murray in January and the final tournament set for Michigan’s Saginaw Bay in June. Teams finishing in the top 10 percent of the field at any of the college events qualify for the Bassmaster College National Championship scheduled for Aug. 22-24 at Lake Hartwell in Anderson, S.C.

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