Cop Beats College Kid

Jeff Freeman hoists the winner's trophy as the Co-Angler Champion of the Carolina Clash at Lake Murray. Larry Towell

COLUMBIA, S.C. — No, it's not some headline from a 1960s newspaper story. But Saturday, a cop beat a college kid in the Carolina Clash presented by Evan Williams.

Max Meadows, Va., deputy sheriff Jeff Freeman came from almost three pounds behind to overtake Life University student Travis McDermott in the co-angler final of the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament on Lake Murray.

"I'm still a deputy sheriff," said the 36-year-old Freeman. "Maybe not when I get back home, but I am right now."

Freeman was alluding to the fact that Saturday's $25,000 victory has put him even closer to changing careers from policeman to professional bass fisherman. He qualified for the Bassmaster Classic in February and finished 28th after winning the BASS Federation Mid-Atlantic Division championship to earn a spot in the Classic.

Freeman now has two Elite Series co-angler trophies to put on his mantel; he won his first title in the 2007 Smith Mountain Lake tournament.

When asked by Elite Series emcee Keith Alan if he were considering bass fishing full-time, Freeman said, "More and more every day now. My wife is not going to want to hear that, either."

Freeman started in 11th place Thursday, with a five-bass limit weighing 10 pounds, 4 ounces. He moved into second place Friday with 15-7, which was the co-angler Berkley Big Bag of the tournament. He overtook McDermott with 12-7 Saturday for a three-day total of 38-2. That would have put him in 28th place among the pros.

"I'm looking for someone to jump on board and help me a little bit, and get me started," Freeman said. "I've got all the product sponsors I can ever get. I just need some cash now. I know I'm going to have to pay for some of it myself, but as soon as I don't have to pay for all of it myself, I'll make the jump."

It's a big jump, as Elite Series tournament entry fees are $55,000 per year. It's a jump that the 25-year-old McDermott hopes to make one day, too. The Williamstown, W.V., native plans to earn his chiropractic degree from Atlanta's Life University before making that decision.

But this week certainly fed the pro bass fishing fire for him: McDermott has been competing in BASS Federation events since he was 16. However, this marked his first Elite Series co-angler entry and earned him a $10,000 second-place check for his three-day total of 33-7.

"I'm happy to have second," McDermott said. "It was my first time, so I'm just excited to be here. Hopefully I'll get to come back and fish again because I won a little money. Maybe in June (at Fort Madison, Iowa) on the Mississippi River."

Clay Lowder of Mayesville, S.C., held third place all three days on the co-angler side and collected $5,000 for his total of 30-4. Lane Wright of Loganville, Ga., held fourth place from Friday and won $3,500 for his 28-3 total.

Both Freeman and McDermott relied on the drop shot technique.

"I caught two fish on a jig today, but every fish I weighed this week came off a drop shot," Freeman said. "I try to keep the sinker in contact with the bottom the whole time. That leaves my worm about 15 inches off the bottom. It constantly looks like it's swimming along; it's not up and down.

"It's sort of subtle. They've got a lot of time to think about whether they want to bite it or not."

Freeman primarily used a 6-inch red crawler-colored Roboworm on 6-pound test Gama line and a 6-foot-9 Castaway drop shot rod. Depending on the wind, his drop shot weight varied from 1/8th to 3/16th of an ounce.

McDermott also caught his fish on a Roboworm — a 6-inch fat tail-style, with a 12-inch leader on Segar 8-pound test fluorocarbon line, cast on a Loomis 801 drop shot rod.

"I was just trying to work it right behind the boat," McDermott said. "I'd shake it as much as I could, then stop it and let it rest. Then pick it up, shake it as much as I could, stop it and let it rest."

Paul Ham of Columbia, S.C., earned Purolator Big Bass honors with a 5-0 Saturday. Jason Seaton of Martinville, Ind., won the Purolator daily title Friday with a 6-1, which also was the Purolator Big Bass of the tournament on the co-angler side.

Visit Bassmaster.com for full coverage of the Elite Series Carolina Clash, May 15–18, 2008. Thursday through Saturday, daily weigh-ins with live streaming video and real-time leaderboards start at 3:00 p.m. ET. On Sunday, "Hooked Up" will air at noon and 2:45 p.m. ET, with the final weigh-in and live streaming video to start at 3:15 p.m. ET.