COLUMBIANA, Ala. — McKendree University teammates Blake Jackson and Trevor McKinney won their individual matchups in the semifinal round of the Carhartt Bassmaster College Classic Bracket presented by Bass Pro Shops at Lay Lake on Wednesday, advancing to the championship round of the elimination-style event.
It is the second-straight season when regular season teammates will compete for a spot in the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk after Cody Huff and Carter McNeil from Bethel University squared off last season.
“It’s superexciting, especially coming in being the seven seed and eight seed,” McKinney said. “I think it says a lot about our program at McKendree and the caliber of our anglers. We just fish hard. It wasn’t likely we were going to make it to the last round, but I think it says a lot about Blake and I and a lot about McKendree as a whole.”
Using a shad colored Rapala DT 6 crankbait, Jackson caught 9 pounds, 8 ounces on Day 2 to defeat University of North Alabama’s Cole Thompson, who caught 4-9. Jackson said he has been running main-lake points and channel swings and has found success on a few key areas that have baitfish present.
“There is a lot of bait on a few of these points in 15 to 30 foot,” Jackson said. “These fish are pushing the bait on these points and that’s when I’m catching them. It’s really a timing deal.
“When you catch one, normally you are going to have a little bit of a flurry for 15 to 20 minutes.”
After an afternoon flurry lifted him to victory on Day 1, Jackson caught most of his bass on Day 2 in the morning hours. His final keeper came around 9 a.m., a 2-13 spotted bass that anchored his bag.
“I did lose a couple fish today that I thought were going to cost me,” Jackson said. “Going into tomorrow I’m pretty confident. I didn’t have to pressure my fish too badly today. I went looking for a lot of new areas and found one more area that I will have in my back pocket.”
While he wasn’t able to match his 12-4 bag from Day 1, McKinney secured 7-12 to win his semifinal matchup against Benson Dowler, who weighed in 2-6. Unlike Day 1, the morning bite was productive for McKinney, who caught his first two bass in the first few minutes and caught his limit before the 10:30 a.m. break.
“After that, it got slow for me,” McKinney said. “My bite turned off a little bit which was surprising to me because yesterday the afternoon bite was actually my best bite. It got tough this afternoon for me.”
McKinney caught almost every fish he weighed on Day 2 on a jerkbait. The largemouth bite has been the most productive, he said, but added he lost two quality spotted bass during the morning hours.
Although his afternoon areas did not pan out, McKinney said he saw a 2-pounder jump out of the water in pursuit of shad as he idled away and headed to check-in.
“I’m pretty sure they are there,” he said. “This might sound crazy, but God might just be saving them for tomorrow, the most important day.”
McKinney and Jackson will takeoff from Beeswax Landing Thursday at 6:30 a.m. CT and fish until 3 p.m. Bassmaster LIVE coverage will begin on Bassmaster.com at 8 a.m.
The winner will not only qualify for the Bassmaster Classic, they will also receive $7,500 from Carhartt and paid entry into all eight 2021 Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens, plus the use of a Toyota Tundra and Nitro Z20 powered by Mercury and equipped with Humminbird electronics and Minn Kota Trolling Motor and Shallow Water Anchors.
“We both can put them in the boat,” Jackson said. “He’s just as good if not better than me. I would love to fish the Bassmaster Classic, but I’m going to walk away with my head held high even if I don’t make it tomorrow because I know a really good angler and a best friend in life is getting to.”
Discover Shelby County, AL is hosting the event.
Photo courtesy of Kyle Jessie/B.A.S.S.