On Day One at Fort Loudoun Lake southwest of Knoxville, the Auburn team of Dennis Parker and Shaye Baker burst out of the gate with a 16-pound, 10-ounce stringer of six bass to lead the field of 25 two-man teams. Murray State's Kalem Tippett and Steve Miller then positioned themselves as the stalking horse with a 15-pound, 12-ounce stringer. Just when it appeared as if the event would boil down to a nail-biter between the Tigers and the Racers, Day Two spoiled the script.
As Auburn faltered with one bass that weighed 1-pound, 2-ounces and Murray State couldn't manage a single keeper, Texas State came on like a stampede. Jay McCollum and David Cosner, who started out in fourth place with 13-3, brought in 9-10 in the next round and captured the lead with 22 pounds, 13 ounces. Likewise, the University of Florida, which had seemingly taken itself out of the running on Saturday with 6 pounds, 6 ounces, posted a 15-pound, 9-ounce stringer Sunday to claim second with 21 pounds, 15 ounces. Texas A&M is the only stable influence in the field. It was in third on Saturday, and stayed in third Sunday with 4 pounds, 8 ounces and a 19-13 total.
"Oh well, even if we don't win, we can say we were in first place on the first day of the first College National Championship," said Auburn's Baker. Though that might be true, and the Tigers are in fourth place ahead of Murray State in the final round, it's still safe to say that anybody could win. It's been that kind of competition.
Auburn and Murray State's anglers blamed a lack of wind and current for making their fish go off the feed, but the final round could see another turnaround as damkeepers at Tellico Dam downstream start generating again bright and early Monday morning.
Still, that could also play into the hands of McCollum and Cosner, who are fishing the same main lake points pattern as Auburn and Murray State. The trump card might be any spawning bass a college angler can land, as swiftly warming temperatures are starting bass toward the banks and shallow flats. Might the current activate the bank runners again that Auburn and Murray State relied on to get them to the head of the pack on Day One?
Or could a couple of more lunkers such as Cosner weighed in Sunday nail it down for Texas State? Anything is possible; the only thing certain is that it's anybody's tournament to win.