CHARLES COUNTY, MARYLAND— The final day of the YETI FLW College Fishing National Championship presented by Lowrance on the Potomac River was quite the show, especially if you watched FLW Live.
After catching the biggest limit of the event worth 18 pounds, 14 ounces on day two to take the lead, the Murray State duo of Adam Puckett and Blake Albertson gave it all they had on the final day to squeak out their smallest, yet most important limit of the week. On the final day, Murray State caught 15-8, which was enough to edge out the Bethel University team of Tristan McCormick and Dakota Pierce by just 3 ounces to bring home the title.
It was the smallest margin of victory in National Championship history, and earned the Racers a Ranger Z175 with a 90-horsepower motor for the club, and entry for Puckett and Albertson into the 2019 FLW Cup on Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs, Ark., this August 9-11.
After fishing together in middle school and high school in Indiana, Puckett and Albertson decided to keep fishing together in college. Though they didn’t map it out in stone, the pair both headed off to Murray State at the same time and immediately started fishing together there as well. Now, going onto their junior years (Puckett an agriscience technology major and Albertson a business administration major), they managed to lock up their best ever College Fishing finish in the biggest tournament around.
“It was just a perfect week, everything just went right, and it was a lot of fun,” says Puckett. “I knew I was gonna enjoy this tournament, but I didn’t know we were going to win it. I was just hoping for a top 10.”
“I couldn’t even dream this; it couldn’t have gone any better,” says Albertson. “We came down here, did some research, and really made it up as we went in practice. Everything fell in place.”
With the win, which is Murray’s first FLW College Fishing National Championship, the two qualified to fish as pros in the FLW Cup. Needless to say, they’re excited.
“I was nervous coming into this,” says Puckett. “I’m nervous just thinking about that.”
THE POTOMAC PATTERN
As far as the actual fishing goes, the Racers kept it very simple. Running up into Pomonkey Creek each day, they fished a section of a flat with grass just inside the mouth and a section of bank with laydowns alongside it.
“The key on the shore was high tide,” says Puckett of the laydown potion of their pattern. “There was about a window about 30 minutes before high tide and 30 minutes after – there had to be water moving. It was tough, but we waited this morning and fished the grass. Then we pulled up on it, and we went up and started catching them on the wood. Then, while I was doing that, Blake was catching big ones off the side.”
It was really dead-simple fishing, which is exactly what the Potomac should be when things are good. Throughout, the pair really didn’t have to do anything too out of the ordinary, other than make every bite count and cull their way up. Catching quite a few fish each day, Puckett and Albertson reckon they landed about 20 keepers on the final day, but were just lacking one or two really big bites to have another big bag.
While their approach seemed simple, one edge they may have had over the field was the amount of bait in the area. Though things went a bit dead on the final day, their fish were coughing up shad and crawfish in the livewell each day, and the area was simply alive. Another advantage may have been the speed at which they fished. Both Albertson and Puckett could easily recall times when they were moving their baits particularly quickly or popping them out of cover when fish aggressively jumped them.
For baits they kept it simple as well, sticking with a black, blue and purple Reaction Innovations Spicy Beaver for flipping and a ½-ounce white/chartreuse Z-Man ChatterBait Jack Hammer with a Gene Larew Sweet Swimmer and a 3/8-ounce black and blue Z-Man ChatterBait Jack Hammer with a green pumpkin Lake Fork Live Magic Shad trailer. They also added a couple on a wacky-rigged Yamamoto Senko on day two.
The pair also had great chemistry on the water, fishing evenly and mixing things up for the kind of teamwork that can separate you from the pack in college competition. Having fished together since middle school the pair seem primed for a lot more success.
“We’re definitely gonna fish together some more,” says Puckett.