By Miles Burghoff
Special to BassFan
With the closing of the inaugural BASSfest event on Lake Chickamauga, all eyes are on the story of Jacob Wheeler’s dominating performance against the best professional anglers B.A.S.S. has to offer in this new summertime festival concept tournament.
Though it may have been slightly overshadowed by Wheeler’s victory, BASSfest also coincided with the College Eastern B.A.S.S. Regional Championship on Watts Bar Lake, which saw the local team of Lance Geren and Robbie Moore from UT Chattanooga take the title for the home crowd.
What was exceptional about Geren and Moore’s win is the fact that they did it with absolutely no practice on Watts Bar immediately preceding the event, and only a limited amount of experience overall on the TVA fishery.
Here's how they were able to break down the competition waters and claim the win, along with a pair of tickets to the College B.A.S.S. National Championship.
Since neither Geren nor Moore could get any practice time in for the event, they had to rely on past knowledge of Watts Bar to formulate their strategy.
“One thing that I did know from past experience was that Watts Bar sets up much differently than Guntersville or Chickamauga," Geren said. "It’s just not a lake where you usually can win fishing a single school of fish. They just don’t group up like that."
Before the first day of competition, the duo had about eight places, ranging from the dam to the Piney River area, on their list of spots to check.
The spots they considered their best bets happened to be in Piney, where the launch area was, but this close proximity to their best areas was just coincidental.
“We were under the impression that the event was launching from the dam, so we thought that our stuff would be out of the way,” said Geren. “It turned out that our best spot was literally right outside of the off-limits area. I mean right there!”
> Day 1: 5, 11-12
> Day 2: 5, 19-06
> Total = 10, 31-02
The duo started day 1 by going through their predetermined milk-run, with lackluster results.
“We were running all our spots and it was really hard to get bit,” lamented Geren. “I usually like stroking football jigs, but we really had to slowly drag our jigs to get them to bite, and we would only make a few casts on key spots and then move on.”
The day saw very few notable flurries of activity for the team, and they struggled to catch a limit until a clutch keeper at the very end of the day.
Geren and Moore finished the day with a limit just shy of 12 pounds and settled into 11th place.
After a hard day of grinding to catch a limit they considered mediocre on day 1, the exhausted team had a hard time seeing themselves even catching five keepers on day 2.
“Going into day 2, I think both of us couldn’t even imagine catching a limit,” said Geren.
The slow day-1 action was a key factor in their decision to focus on the areas they felt they could catch a limit. They ended up on one of their favorite spots – a hump within sight of the launch ramp – where they had caught a few of their keepers on the first day.
The decision paid big dividends and the duo proceeded to fill their livewell with a quick limit weighing approximately 14 pounds.
Following their morning of excitement, the action slowed, and in an effort to catch a kicker to get them within striking distance, they decided to visit some new areas of the lake.
After running through these different areas, the team decided to go back to the hump they had done most of their damage on in a quest for some last-minute heroics.
This decision turned out to be the one that won the event for them. With only a few minutes left – while watching other teams check in – they caught a 5-11 bruiser to push their bag to just under 20 pounds.
When Geren and Moore trailered their boat with the rest of the teams, they still weren’t sure where they'd end up in the final standings.
“We really had no idea if it would be enough (to win),” recalled Geren. “We ended up stopping at a gas station and another team said that they heard most of the teams on the top struggled. That’s when we started to think we had a chance.”
When the dust settled they did indeed have enough to hold off the rest of the field and claim the win, as well as their place among the 12 teams to qualify for the National Championship.
“We are so stoked,” exclaimed Geren. “It's especially exciting to be this close to home and win. It's also amazing to do it in front of the BASSfest crowd.”
Geren and Moore now join the group of teams looking to qualify for the Classic Bracket through the National Championship at Chatuge Reservoir in Georgia.
“We are definitely excited about that event and we're already doing a lot of research on Chatuge,” said Geren.
Winning Gear Notes
> Jig gear: G. Loomis BCFR893 MossyBack series casting rod; Abu Garcia Revo SX casting reel (6.4:1 gear ratio); 20-pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon line; 3/4-ounce Jenko Jig (summer craw), Strike King Rage Craw trailer (summer craw).
The Bottom Line
> Main factor in their success – “I think the biggest reason we won is because we didn’t have many expectations going into it and just focused on the things that we're confident in,” said Geren.