Cory and Sledge Win Bassmaster College Classic on Keystone Lake

March 24, 2024
College Fishing Tournaments

SAND SPRINGS, Okla. — With a team from the University of Montevallo in the lead and only one other team (also from Montevallo) yet to weigh in, the Falcons already were guaranteed winners in the Bassmaster College Classic. Tyler Cory and Scott Sledge emerged victoriously with the five-bass, 22-pound limit they sacked Sunday on Keystone Lake. The last of nine teams in the tournament to weigh in, they knocked Montevallo teammates James Willoughby and Nick Dumke from atop the standings, dropping them to second with an 18-3 limit.

The dramatic ending took place at Tulsa’s BOK Center prior to the final day of the Bassmaster Classic. The thousands of fishing faithful inside the arena sent up a roar of cheers for Cory and Sledge, who thanked the throngs for sharing the experience with them.

“This is just incredible,” said Sledge, a 22-year-old senior from Greenwood, Ind. “You dream about this opportunity. And in front of this crowd — Tulsa really showed up.”

So did the Cory-Sledge duo. 

“We started today at a place not far from takeoff that we figured was gonna get blown out early with all this wind,” Cory said. “We left there about 7:45 (a.m.) with a limit, one of them almost a 4-pounder. So, we knew we had one keeper there. Then we ran up the lake to some creeks we fished in practice. Then it was a matter of just picking away at them. We got one here and there. It wasn’t fast.”

The pair fished channel swings and banks in up to 6 feet of water. They didn’t use LiveScope technology, either, preferring to “throw at the places that looked like they should have fish,” Cory said. He fished from the front of the boat, leaning on a shallow-diving jerkbait that imitated the shad in abundance at Keystone. Sledge followed with a shad-colored 1/2-ounce War Eagle spinnerbait with a gold Colorado blade and a silver willow blade. He paired it with a 3-inch Keitech swimbait that was also shad color.

“I was working it as slowly as a I could, maybe a foot off the bottom,” he said. 

Cory and Sledge qualified for the Bassmaster College Classic after finishing second in the 2023 Strike King Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops Team of the Year standings, behind Montevallo teammates Dumke and Easton Fothergill. Fothergill, of course, won the Bassmaster College Classic Bracket in October and fished in the Bassmaster Classic this week.

Cory and Sledge said winning the College Classic tournament on Sunday helped dull the pain of the second-place finish in last year’s TOY standings.

“We knew the Team of the Year race was probably gonna come down to us and Easton and Nick,” Cory said. “They’re two of the best in college fishing right now, so to lose to them wasn’t anything too hard to swallow. But you only get so many opportunities. To win something like this makes up for it.” 

Sledge agreed.

“This is a different feeling, really,” he said. “It feels bigger, winning in front of all these people, hearing that crowd.”

Cory and Sledge began fishing together as freshmen at Montevallo. Both 22 years old and seniors, they know their successful college run is nearing its end. They both hope to land jobs in the fishing industry upon graduation and eventually try to fish the St. Croix Bassmaster Opens presented by SEVIIN and beyond.

But on Sunday, they preferred to relish the Bassmaster College Classic win.

“Scott’s the best co-angler you can ask for,” said Cory, who hails from Amherst, Wis. “Three or four that we weighed in today were his. He played cleanup back there today and that’s usually how it is. We work well as a team.”

“We’re always thinking the same thing on the boat,” said Sledge, a Greenwood, Ind., native. “He’ll say something and I’ll say, ‘I was just about to say that.’ I couldn’t ask for better from my time fishing with him.”

Montevallo had three of the nine teams in Sunday’s competition. Tandems qualified by finishing first or second in a 2023 Strike King Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops event. The Team of the Year and the defending champions also took part.

Logan Barrett and Luke Glasgow of Mississippi State University placed third with 17-11. Hayden Marbut and Tucker Smith of Auburn University were fourth with 16-11, and John Mark Berry and Blake Bullock of Blue Mountain Christian University were fifth with 14-3.

2024 College Classic Keystone Lake 3/24-3/24
Keystone Lake, Sand Springs  OK.
(BOATER) Standings Day 1

    Angler                                       Club/School                       Pts

1.  Tyler Cory - Scott Sledge                    University of Montevallo              0
  Day 1: 5   22-00   Total:   5  22-00
2.  James Willoughby - Nick Dumke                University of Montevallo              0
  Day 1: 5   18-03   Total:   5  18-03
3.  Logan Barrett - Luke Glasgow                 Mississippi State University          0
  Day 1: 5   17-11   Total:   5  17-11
4.  Hayden Marbut - Tucker Smith                 Auburn University                     0
  Day 1: 5   16-11   Total:   5  16-11
5.  John Mark Berry - Blake Bullock              Blue Mountain Christian Universi      0
  Day 1: 5   14-03   Total:   5  14-03
6.  Dalton Head - Peyton Harris                  University of Montevallo              0
  Day 1: 5   12-10   Total:   5  12-10
7.  Cole Holloway - Brandon Martin               Emmanuel University                   0
  Day 1: 5   11-15   Total:   5  11-15
8.  Tyler Flacke - Aric Szambelan                Missouri State University             0
  Day 1: 3   10-04   Total:   3  10-04
9.  Dale Hansard -                               Jacksonville State University         0
  Day 1: 1   02-04   Total:   1  02-04
Day   #Limits    #Fish      Weight
 1         7        39       125-13
           7        39       125-13