Down to 24

Todd Ary (right) looks on in disbelief as Greg Hackney pulls a nice 4-pounder out of his sack Thursday. They tied at 18 pounds, 15 ounces, and the higher-seeded Hackney advanced by tiebreaker.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - A car crash on Interstate 20 Thursday morning held up traffic and kept a number of Wal-Mart FLW Tour employees and even competitors from reaching takeoff at Logan Martin Lake on time. (Co-angler Simon Morrow was involved but, thankfully, was unhurt.) But at the end of the fishing day, the person who most felt like he was broadsided by a Mack truck was probably Todd Ary, who missed the FLW Championship's semifinal cut on his home lake by virtue of a tiebreaker. "I'm about to throw up," Ary said on first reaction to seeing his weight - and fate - Thursday. In what quickly became the most compelling bracket corner of the opening round, Greg Hackney vs. Todd Ary and Luke Clausen vs. Shad Schenck made for a captivating first two days at Logan Martin. First, Clausen and Schenck - fishing against each other - pounded together the two best limits of the entire pro field on day one. Then, in the other half of the bracket, Hackney and Ary battled it out into a tie, of all things, on day two. There's a half-million dollars on the line at this thing. Who could blame them if all four of these guys had a Pepto Bismol dinner tonight? And if they did, it certainly might have tasted better than what Ary and Schenck had to swallow Thursday afternoon. Letting the Ary out In a tight battle, both Hackney and Ary caught between 7 and 8 pounds Wednesday. (Hackney had 7 pounds, 5 ounces and Ary had 7-14.) Not great weights for either of them, but enough to advance if Thursday went well. Thursday did go relatively well for both of them - once again, almost equally well. Both came to the podium together and Hackney proceeded to place a limit of 11 pounds, 10 ounces of bass on the scale. With each good-size fish that Hackney pulled out of his opaque sack, one could see the disbelief cross Ary's face. Hackey's opening-round total: 18-15. Then Ary, one of the local favorites this week, unloaded his sack: five bass weighing 11 pounds, 1 ounce. His total: also 18-15. FLW weighmaster Charlie Evans quickly announced that Hackney, who was seeded No.2 coming into the championship, would be the one to advance to the semifinals by virtue of the tiebreaker. Ary, who was seeded No. 47, was out. The Birmingham crowd let out an audible groan. "I can't put it into words. It's disappointing," said Ary, who hails from Birmingham. "Yesterday, I sucked. I didn't fish well. But I fished well today. I just beat myself yesterday. Everybody has to go by the rules and FLW puts on the best tournaments around, so I can't complain. This is definitely fuel for next year, man. I was just glad to be here this year, but now I think it's time to break out a can of whoop --- for next year." The characteristically low-key Hackney, obviously, was less distressed by Thursday's outcome. No stranger to tight finishes in big events, Hackney finished second at Kentucky Lake earlier this year due to an 8-ounce penalty. "That was a squeaker, wasn't it?" said the pro from Gonzales, La. "I felt bad for him, but I've been there, too - so not too bad." Clausen keeps clobbering In Friday's semifinals, Hackney will face Clausen, who has caught the most fish so far this week. The pro from Spokane, Wash., pieced together another limit Thursday - weighing 11 pounds, 15 ounces - and topped all pros in the opening round with a two-day total of 26-3. "I was fortunate to catch that today," Clausen said. "And I was fortunate that Shad stumbled." Schenck, from Waynestown, Ind., did indeed stumble. After weighing in the second-heaviest limit on day one behind Clausen, he caught four bass weighing just 4 pounds, 4 ounces on day two and ended the opening round with 18-2. What was billed Wednesday night as a heavyweight battle quickly turned into a second-round knockout by Thursday. "Yeah, I kind of wish this wasn't a bracket tournament," Clausen said. "I'd have a pretty good accumulated weight." As for his upcoming matchup against Hackney tomorrow, Clausen said he would try to keep pounding. "I'm just going to go out and do my deal," he said. "I'm going to go out and catch as much as I can." Fukae, Martin make comebacks Two of the biggest names of the 2004 FLW season rebounded big Thursday. Shinichi Fukae of Osaka, Japan, and Scott Martin of Clewiston, Fla., both overcame day-one deficits to make the cut on day two. This year's Land O'Lakes Angler of the Year, Fukae, who was more than 2 pounds behind Chad Grigsby coming into Thursday, caught his second limit of the week and upended the Colon, Mich., pro with a opening-round weight of 16 pounds, 4 ounces to Grigsby's 15-6. "I had a really rough day," Grigsby said. "I had a lot of bites on a buzzbait, and I probably should have been done fishing by 8 o'clock, but I just didn't execute." Martin, this year's Forrest Wood Open champ, overcame more than a pound deficit on Alvin Shaw of State Road, N.C., and handily defeated him by more than 4 1/2 pounds. Martin caught 21 pounds, 12 ounces in the opening round and Shaw caught 17-0. "If the sun comes out tomorrow, I feel pretty good about it. I'm looking forward to tomorrow," said Martin, who, it seems, fished out of a jet boat Thursday in order to gain access to some extremely inaccessible backwater up in creeks. That option will no longer be available to Martin or anyone else, however, because in Friday and Saturday's fishing, competitors will be fishing from Ranger boats provided to them. The 20-pounders Besides Clausen and Martin, six more pros notched more than 20 pounds in the opening round and advanced to the field of 24. Mickey Bruce of Buford, Ga., had the second-heaviest two-day weight with 25 pounds, 10 ounces and handed a tough defeat to Aaron Martens of Castaic, Calif., who also caught some good fish and totaled 20-11. Dave Lefebre of Erie, Pa., caught 23 pounds, 3 ounces and beat another local favorite, Greg Pugh of Cullman, Ala., by more than 5 pounds. "I haven't caught fish doing what I thought I'd be doing coming into the tournament," said Lefebre, who pointed to rising water as the main adjustment most pros have had to make this week. "I'm fishing super-shallow. Today, I lost two bites - a 6-pounder and and 3 - and if they turn on to the deal that I'm doing, it's going to be awesome tomorrow." David Walker of Sevierville, Tenn., handily defeated Wesley Strader of Spring City, Tenn., by more than 9 pounds with a weight of 22-6 to 13-3.David Walker of Sevierville, Tenn., handily defeated his East Tennessee buddy, Wesley Strader of Spring City, Tenn., by more than 9 pounds with a weight of 22-6 to 13-3. Kevin Vida of Clare, Mich., won a tough big-weight matchup against Ray Scheide of Russellville, Ark., by a weight of 22 pounds, 13 ounces to 20-6. Andy Morgan of Dayton, Tenn., topped Ricky Shumpert of Lexington, S.C., by a weight of 20 pounds, 10 ounces to 14-7. Also in the 20-pound range was Mark Rose of Marion, Ark., who upended Emory, Texas' Takahiro Omori's bid to become the first angler to claim both the Bassmaster Classic and FLW Championship titles in the same year. Rose caught 20 pounds, 3 ounces and Omori had 15-2. Bracket reality For the record, the heaviest opening-round catch that didn't qualify for the semifinals was Martens' 20 pounds, 11 ounces. The lightest weight to make the cut was 13 pounds, 3 ounces caught by Matt Herren of Trussville, Ala. Semifinal Friday FLW Championship action continues at Friday's takeoff, scheduled to take place at 7 a.m. at Pell City Lakeside Park Marina on Logan Martin Lake, located at 2801 Stemley Bridge Road in Pell City, Ala. The pro field has been cut in half to 24 anglers and weights have been reset to zero. They will each face off in one-day, head-to-head competition within their brackets to determine the top 12 advancing to Saturday's final round.

Tags: headline-story  jeff-schroeder 

/news/2015-03-28-birge-buzzes-ahead

Birge Buzzes Ahead

Today started off with a slightly miserable 31-degree air temperature, but it didn’t take long for the top 20 pros to really heat up on Lewis Smith Lake at the second stop of the 2015 Walmart FLW Tour presented by Evinrude. Reports poured in throughout the day of big bass – especially big largemouths – being caught off beds. It looked at first as if one of the “largemouth lookers” might piece together a big enough bag to snatch the lead away from Oklahoma rookie Zack Birge, who struggled early to make his shallow topwater pattern work. Unfortunately for the rest of the field, the young gun Birge has the coolness and patience of a veteran, and he stuck with his game plan of throwing a buzzbait and soft jerkbait rig until the sun had time to warm the shallows and spur the fish to become more active. Birge tallied 17 pounds, 11 ounces today, raising his three-day total to 54-8 and giving him a lead of 3-11 over Texas veteran Clark Wendlandt in second place. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-28-lewis-smith-lake-day-3-coverage

Lewis Smith Lake Day 3 Coverage

Day 3 reports from the Walmart FLW Tour on Lewis Smith Lake READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-27-topwater-takes-birge-to-the-top

Topwater Takes Birge to the Top

On a day when chilly, windy post-front conditions challenged many Walmart FLW Tour anglers who were relying on sight-fishing for spawning bass, Zack Birge bucked the trend and pulled out a pair of topwaters to haul in 17 pounds, 14 ounces. Birge jumped from third place past day-one leader Drew Benton to take over the top spot on Lewis Smith Lake in the event, which is presented by Evinrude. Birge’s two-day total of 36-13 has him positioned 1 pound ahead of Benton. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-27-top-5-patterns-from-lewis-smith-day-2

Top 5 Patterns from Lewis Smith Day 2

While air and water temperatures plummeted on day two of the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lewis Smith Lake presented by Evinrude, the big surprise came in the stability of the fishing patterns amidst such change. Zack Birge found plenty of production on his primary pattern to send him to the top of the leaderboard, and those under him held true to their patterns as well to secure a ticket to day three’s top 20. Among the biggest surprises was the number of pros who were still able to pluck fish off beds. Most pros that were sight-fishing say the bass are committed to beds and that the cold snap will not run them off at this point in time. Despite the cold, some even found new fish on beds that were not there yesterday. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-27-lewis-smith-lake-day-2-coverage

Lewis Smith Lake Day 2 Coverage

Day 2 reports from the Walmart FLW Tour on Lewis Smith Lake READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-26-benton-blasts-20-12-on-lewis-smith

Benton Blasts 20-12 on Lewis Smith

Panama City, Fla., pro Drew Benton jumped into the early lead at the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lewis Smith Lake presented by Evinrude with a five-bass limit weighing 20 pounds, 12 ounces. Benton caught a mix of largemouths and spotted bass, and revealed that both black bass species are spawning. He leads a tight top 20 that includes 18 pros that caught more than 15 pounds each. The first day was an absolute fish-fest. Of the 154 pros fishing this tournament, 138 weighed limits. Brad Roberts of Faubush, Ky., has a 2-ounce lead in the co-angler division with a 13-pound, 4-ounce limit. Tomorrow he’ll try to defend his lead on the final day of co-angler competition. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-26-top-5-patterns-from-lewis-smith-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from Lewis Smith Day 1

While Drew Benton was busy bugging bedding fish for his day-one tournament lead, several others behind him were scoring big with other fishing options on Lewis Smith Lake. Sight-fishing also played a role in the top limits produce by Tracy Adams, Scott Martin and Ish Monroe, but Clayton Batts and Zack Birge both brought in big bags with other patterns. Click here to read about Benton’s day-one performance at the second Walmart FLW Tour event of 2015, which is presented by Evinrude. Here’s how the rest of the top five got it done. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-26-lewis-smith-lake-day-1-coverage

Lewis Smith Lake Day 1 Coverage

Day 1 reports from the Walmart FLW Tour on Lewis Smith Lake READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-22-arkansas-anglers-win-college-open

Arkansas Anglers Win College Open

Consistency was the key for the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville here in the FLW College Fishing Kentucky Lake Open as Zachary Pickle and Drew Porto won the event with a two-day total of 43 pounds, 12 ounces. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-21-kendrick-king-on-guntersville

Kendrick King On Guntersville

Kendrick, who is fishing the Rayovac FLW Series in hopes of qualifying for the FLW Tour, caught more than 25 pounds each day of the event and finihsid in fine fasion when it counted. Kendick was catching nearly all of his bass around big schools of bait with a Houdini pearl-colored Scottsboro Tackle swimbait from 15- to 25-feet of water. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-21-epting-s-30-pounds-tops-on-santee-cooper

Epting's 30 Pounds Tops on Santee Cooper

SUMMERTON, S.C. – Chris Epting of Chapin, South Carolina, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 30 pounds, 2 ounces Saturday to win the second Walmart Bass Fishing League South Carolina Division tournament of 2015 on Santee Cooper. For his victory, Epting earned $3,679. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-21-wood-rock-key-for-middleton-s-victory

Wood, Rock Key for Middleton's Victory

HUDDLESTON, Va. – Dennis Middleton of Madison Heights, Virginia, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 19 pounds, 11 ounces Saturday to win the first Walmart Bass Fishing League Shenandoah Division tournament of 2015 on Smith Mountain Lake. For his victory, Middleton earned $7,199. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-21-johnson-wins-on-dale-hollow

Johnson Wins on Dale Hollow

BYRDSTOWN, Tenn. – Robby Johnson of Byrdstown, Tennessee, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 22 pounds, 7 ounces Saturday to win the first Walmart Bass Fishing League Mountain Division tournament of 2015 on Dale Hollow Lake. For his victory, Johnson earned $5,689. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-21-griffin-gets-win-on-ross-barnett

Griffin Gets Win on Ross Barnett

BRANDON, Miss. – Jason Griffin of Benton, Mississippi, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 23 pounds, 2 ounces Saturday to win the first Walmart Bass Fishing League Mississippi Division tournament of 2015 on Ross Barnett Reservoir. For his victory, Griffin earned $5,349. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-20-top-5-patterns-from-guntersville-day-2

Top 5 Patterns from Guntersville Day 2

The second day of the Rayovac FLW Series Southeast Division tournament on Lake Guntersville proved as remarkable as the first – or perhaps better, considering today’s parade of big fish included a 12-pound, 10-ounce behemoth caught by fourth-place pro Trevor Fitzgerald for the day’s Big Bass prize. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-20-hall-holds-steady-for-lead

Hall Holds Steady For Lead

Joe Hall of Lake City, Minn. wasn’t confident about his chances going onto the second day of competition of the Rayovac FLW Series Southeast Division event on Lake Guntersville. Nonetheless, he held steady with a 27-pound, 5-ounce catch that only barely fell short of the 28-1 he weighed on the first day. With a two-day total of 55 pounds, 6 ounces, Hall holds a 1-pound, 12-ounce lead over Cameron Gautney going into the final day of the Mercury presented tournament. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-20-missouri-anglers-lead-college-open

Missouri Anglers Lead College Open

Andrew Nordbye and Adam Almohtadi of Northwest Missouri State University of Maryville, Mo., took the lead in the opening round of the FLW College Fishing Open on Kentucky Lake with 25 pounds, 2 ounces. Heading into Saturday’s second and final round, the University of Kentucky’s Ryan Collins and Hunter Fulcher sit in second place with 22-14, while Ethan Flack and Konnor Kennedy of the University of Alabama are currently third with 22-9. Details to follow. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-20-day-1-patterns-from-the-college-open

Day 1 Patterns from the College Open

The Northwest Missouri State University team of Andrew Nordbye and Adam Almontadi took the day-one lead in the FLW College Fishing Open on Kentucky Lake. While their pattern seems to be effectively refined – they were using only one lure and had no others out on the deck – Nordbye and Almontadi don’t have this one sewed up yet. The rest of the top five is just a few pounds behind the leaders. Here’s how they made it into contention going into the final day. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-20-gautney-under-pressure

Gautney Under Pressure

Day two of the Rayovac FLW Series Southeast Division event on Guntersville is just as misty and nasty as the first. Lucky for us, the first day of the Mercury-presented event featured huge catches throughout the field. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-20-college-open-day-1-midday-update

College Open Day 1 Midday Update

“You should have been here yesterday” might have been the motto for the first day of fishing in the FLW College Fishing Open on Kentucky Lake. Though many of the 194 teams entered in the two-day event out of Moor’s Resort & Marina reported good to excellent practices, many of the same anglers were complaining about a lack of fish on opening morning of the competition. READ MORE »