Cool-hand Luke

Wal-Mart FLW Tour rookie Luke Clausen of Spokane, Wash., continued his momentum Friday at the $1.5 million Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship, hauling in a field-leading limit of 14 pounds, 3 ounces.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Under almost any other circumstances, at almost any other fishing tournament, Luke Clausen would probably feel pretty good about himself right now. After all, he just caught another limit worth more than 14 pounds and led all pros in total weight for the third day in a row at the Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship. But this is competitive fishing bracket-style, and Clausen's 40 pounds, 6 ounces of bass caught thus far won't mean squat when he hits Logan Martin Lake Saturday in search of the $500,000 prize. All weights are reset to zero for tomorrow's 12-man shootout for the title. "Man, it really makes me wish this was a cumulative-weight tournament," Clausen said Friday after catching the heaviest limit of the semifinal round - 14 pounds, 3 ounces - to beat Greg Hackney of Gonzales, La., and advancing to Saturday's finals. With his second limit over 14 pounds in three days, Clausen has caught the most bass two out of the first three days of the championship. Tournament-fishing traditionalists can probably sympathize with Clausen's lament, but remember this: Before there were brackets, there was no fishing for a half-million dollars. Another perspective, to use a hypothetical NCAA basketball analogy, is that it doesn't matter if Duke scores 140 points per game from the Round of 64 all the way to the Final Four; they're only as good as the last team they beat until after the tournament's final game. Clausen seems to understand this. He didn't set out to catch the heaviest limit again Friday. Instead, his clearly stated goal was to beat Hackney, who was arguably the most consistent heavy hitter on the pro circuit in 2004. That, by definition, meant he had to catch a lot of bass. "You're probably going to hear a lot about him from me on the (TV) tape," Clausen said. "I was just scared that I was going to be a victim of the Hack Attack today. He can catch a huge sack on any day." The Hack didn't attack Friday, catching a smaller limit worth 9 pounds, 5 ounces. But he did mentally victimize Clausen a little bit by exaggerating his day's catch both before and during weigh-in - much like he did to Todd Ary in the opening round, except in reverse. Clausen is an FLW rookie, which makes his run this week that much more impressive. The Spokane, Wash., pro is no greenhorn, however, having won scores of tournaments in the West prior to this year's FLW season. What is remarkable, though, is that this is Clausen's first trip ever to Logan Martin Lake. The guy's never seen the place before, and he's fishing it like he owns it. "I caught all of my fish off of new water today," said Clausen, whose biggest bass of the day weighed around 3 1/2 pounds. "I only had three fish by 11 o'clock, but I ended up with about 20 keepers. I didn't catch many little ones, just a lot of 2-pounders. I'm really excited about how I did the first three days, but I don't really know if it will hold up tomorrow." While he did admit that he caught a few fish throwing finesse worms around docks, all week the rookie Clausen has taken a decidedly old-school approach to describing his winning technique: He's revealing nothing. "Can't I tell you tomorrow?" he responded when asked what's working for him. In a tournament this high-stakes, Clausen is probably right. Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand. Kevin Vida of Clare, Mich., brought in the day's second-heaviest limit, handily defeating No. 6 seed Tracy Adams of Wilkesboro, N.C., thanks to a 12-pound, 6-ounce stringer.Vida, Gagliardi stay sharp One pro who's not shy about revealing his secrets is Kevin Vida of Clare, Mich., who caught the day's second-heaviest limit - 12 pounds, 6 ounces - to defeat Tracy Adams of Wilkesboro, N.C., (8-10) in semifinals. "I went down(river) to the dirty water and caught a small limit, then I went looking for bigger fish," Vida said. "The fish just got bigger and bigger as the day went on. I was just running and fishing a pattern." Like Clausen, Vida's been a force all week running his pattern. He said he's caught all of his fish on just two jigs: one a white, ¼-ounce Hildebrandt jig and the other a green-pumpkin, 3/8-ounce Berkley jig. Like many semifinalists dealing with the cooler, sunnier weather Friday, Anthony Gagliardi of Prosperity, S.C., found the bite to be a little "off." Nevertheless, he caught six keepers and culled out to the third best limit of the day - 12 pounds, 3 ounces - and defeated Dean Rojas of Grand Saline, Texas, (9-6) to advance to the finals. In the opening round, he topped Randy Blaukat of Lamar, Mo., in a tough heavyweight showdown. "So far, all of my fish the first three days have come from pretty much the same places," said Gagliardi, an FLW winner earlier this season at Kentucky Lake. "I have some places that I didn't visit today. I figured, if he beats me with 13 pounds, then he beats me. I took my chances and saved my best fish for tomorrow. But, regardless of what happens tomorrow, I'm proud of myself. I beat two really tough fisherman to get this far." The close ones Logan Martin proved itself to be a great leveler again Friday, serving up a few more closely fought matchups like in the opening round. Scott Martin of Clewiston, Fla., this year's FLW Lake Champlain winner, edged out Lee Bailey Jr. of Amston, Conn., by weight of 11 pounds, 10 ounces to 10-9. "I'm scared to death," Martin said. "But if I can figure out how to catch a good bag of fish tomorrow, I'll feel pretty confident." After surviving big weights by Castaic, California's Aaron Martens in the opening round, Mickey Bruce of Buford, Ga., caught them again and ended the amazing season of FLW Angler of the Year Shinichi Fukae of Osaka, Japan. Bruce caught 11 pounds, 4 ounces and Fukae landed 10-2. Glenn Browne of Ocala, Fla., squeezed by Mark Hardin of Canton, Ga., by just a half pound. Browne caught 9-8 and Hardin had 9-0. Even the mighty Clark Wendlandt catches them like you and I do sometimes. The difference? When he does it, heThe lightweights It's hard to call two-time FLW AOY Clark Wendlandt of Cedar Park, Texas, a "lightweight" with a straight face, but that's exactly what he has been this week. He advanced to the half-million-dollar finals with a catch weighing just 5 pounds, 8 ounces Friday, defeating Shawnee, Kansas' Brent Chapman's 4-7. Wendlandt's catch was the lightest qualifying weight for the finals, and he has averaged just under 7 pounds of fish the first three days to make it this far. "Hey, all I've got to do is make it to tomorrow," he said. "I've said all along that this is a tournament of adjustments. Hopefully, I can make the right adjustments tomorrow. You just never know in this format." John Crews of Jetersville, Va., landed the second-lightest sack - 6 pounds, 14 ounces - to defeat Chris McCall of Jasper, Texas, (5-6). Dave Lefebre of Erie, Pa., topped Mark Rose of Marion, Ark., by 9 ounces with a weight of 7-5 to 6-12. Jimmy Millsaps of Canton, Ga., beat local favorite Matt Herren of Trussville, Ala., by a weight of 7-12 to 3-15.Jimmy Millsaps of Canton, Ga., beat local favorite Matt Herren of Trussville, Ala., by a weight of 7 pounds, 12 ounces to 3-15. In the middle The rest of the 2004 championship final-round field will consist of Jason Kilpatrick of Satsuma, Ala. - who beat David Walker of Sevierville, Tenn., by a weight of 8 pounds, 13 ounces to 7-11 - and Charlie Ingram of Sante Fe, Tenn., who defeated Andy Morgan of Dayton, Tenn., 8-13 to 6-0. For all the marbles The entire 2004 FLW season has been boiled down to this: 12 pro anglers vying against each other for the $500,000 winner's check. All weights will be reset to zero for Saturday's final round as the field competes in a one-day shootout to determine the champion. Heaviest sack of bass wins. Saturday's takeoff is 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.

Tags: headline-story  jeff-schroeder 

/news/2015-04-25-morgan-maintains-his-lead

Morgan Maintains His Lead

One of Andy Morgan’s fishing mottos is to make the best of what you have got “in front of you” to survive and fish another day. Beaver Lake doesn’t give much. So when an angler as resourceful as Morgan gets to a lake that doesn’t give out many resources, the two work well together. Instead of worrying about hitting it out of the park or putting immense pressure on himself to come up with a grand winning strategy, Morgan just scraps, scrapes and claws at the ground right in front of him, making the best of what he’s got. Morgan’s performance on day three of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac on Beaver Lake was a prime example of his “make the best of it” attitude. After burning up the spawning fish he had located in practice during the first two days of the tournament, he was forced to fish by the seat of his pants today – something he thoroughly enjoys. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-25-top-5-patterns-from-beaver-lake-day-3

Top 5 Patterns from Beaver Lake Day 3

Andy Morgan didn’t light up the world on day three of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac on Beaver Lake, but he caught what he needed to maintain the lead and put a 1-pound, 9-ounce cushion between he and Matt Arey. Most of the rest of the top 20 scrambled today, abandoning their patterns and trying new options to try and make the final-day cut. Here’s how the top five got it done. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-25-gordon-and-gagner-crowned-tbf-champs

Gordon and Gagner Crowned TBF Champs

Two more anglers qualified for the Forrest Wood Cup today by winning the 2015 The Bass Federation National Championship on Grand Lake in Grove, Okla. Shawn Gordon of Russellville, Ark., earned the TBF crown on the boater side by catching a three-day limit of 50 pounds, 2 ounces, capped by the largest limit caught today – 18 pounds, 10 ounces. Gordon earned $5,000 for his win, but more importantly, he’ll be competing against the best pros in the business in August at the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita. Gordon also won the TBF “Living The Dream” package, which includes paid entry into the 2016 Walmart FLW Tour, a travel stipend, and use of a wrapped truck and Ranger bass boat. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-25-beaver-lake-day-3-coverage

Beaver Lake Day 3 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Beaver Lake presented by Rayovac. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-24-make-way-for-morgan

Make Way for Morgan

“Hidden largemouths” is quickly becoming the buzz term at the Walmart FLW Tour event on Beaver Lake presented by Rayovac, as those atop the leaderboard are using the term to refer to spawning largemouths that are so well hidden that other competitors never found them. These hidden fish are covered by thick brush, hidden so deep that they were only found during the very rare windows of sunshine during practice or located off the beaten path. The latter are not in obvious pockets or places where one would expect to find beds, but rather out on the main bluff channels where few ever look. On day one, Jacob Wheeler caught hidden largemouths to take the lead. On day two, former Beaver Lake champion Andy Morgan caught hidden largemouths to take over the pole position going into the weekend. His catch of 15 pounds, 7 ounces today gives Morgan a two-day total of 28-09 to take the lead by just 11 ounces. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-24-top-5-patterns-from-beaver-lake-day-2

Top 5 Patterns from Beaver Lake Day 2

At halftime of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac, the top five reads like a who’s who of Beaver Lake. Leader Andy Morgan is a former Beaver Lake champion. Behind him, Darrel Robertson has been very close to winning here with a runner-up finish in 2005. In third is 2014 Beaver Lake champion Matt Arey. Bryan Thrift, in fourth, has never won on Beaver Lake, but has led here before. And finally, fifth-place pro Stetson Blaylock knows his way around this lake pretty well, too, with a couple of top 10s. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-24-heckman-heads-up-tbf-championship-field

Heckman Heads up TBF Championship Field

Some bass are still spawning in Grand Lake, and others are yet to make their way up to the shallows, but none of that interests Sam Heckman. Diligent commitment to his postspawn plan here Friday landed Heckman atop the boater field with 34 pounds, 3 ounces and locked up his Southwest Division win at the 2015 The Bass Federation National Championship. Saturday, the top boater from each of seven TBF divisions will vie for the TBF National Championship and the “Living the Dream” package that goes with it. The package includes paid entry in the 2016 Walmart FLW Tour as a pro, a Forrest Wood Cup berth and use of a custom-wrapped truck and Ranger boat on Tour for the year, as well as a travel stipend for each event. Seven non-boaters – one from each TBF division – also will fish in tomorrow’s final round for a chance at paid entry into a Rayovac FLW Series division of choice. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-24-beaver-lake-day-2-coverage

Beaver Lake Day 2 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Beaver Lake presented by Rayovac. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-23-wheeler-with-a-slim-lead

Wheeler with a Slim Lead

Jacob Wheeler has a plan to win the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac on Beaver Lake this week. That plan involves primarily the largemouth species, a target weight of 14 pounds per day and a lot of fish management. Today, Wheeler surpassed his target by nearly 2 pounds with a 15-pound, 14-ounce catch that puts him in the driver’s seat at Beaver Lake, in the lead by just a scant 5 ounces over second-place pro Bryan Thrift. “Largemouths are the way to win here at Beaver Lake,” Wheeler says. “They are the fish to go the distance here, and that’s what I’m focusing on.” READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-23-top-5-patterns-from-beaver-lake-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from Beaver Lake Day 1

Though there were plenty of fish caught off beds at Beaver Lake on day one of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac, the top five is rounded out by a group of anglers who relied on sight-fishing very little. Opinions on where exactly bass are in the spawning cycle at Beaver Lake vary greatly from angler to angler, but a few common denominators did come to light on day one. For starters, most agree that one major spawning cycle has already occurred. Plenty of empty beds and a lot of gaunt, postspawn fish at the scale were evidence of that. Second, there are still some bass (of all species) trying to spawn, but the ones left on beds are extremely wary. Finally, the order of difficulty to catch each species ranks as follows: smallmouth bass – extremely easy; spotted bass – not as easy; largemouth bass – extremely difficult. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-23-griffith-grabs-tbf-lead-

Griffith Grabs TBF Lead

By midday, the prospects were unclear for Jon “Scooter” Griffith here in The Bass Federation National Championship on Grand Lake, but in a roundabout way it provided just the clarity he needed to dial in a pattern that helped him take the day-one lead with an 18-pound, 13-ounce limit. Griffith began his day by sight-fishing the clear water down by the Pensacola Dam. This opening move, he says, gave him some early comfort, as it matched the transparent water he’s used to fishing near his home in Mesa, Ariz. Targeting windblown points, Griffith got his early bites with reaction baits in about 4 to 8 feet of water. Unfortunately, the plan turned out to be less productive than he had expected. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-23-beaver-lake-day-1-coverage

Beaver Lake Day 1 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Beaver Lake presented by Rayovac. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-23-tbf-championship-tips-off

TBF Championship Tips Off

The spawn is on at Grand Lake, but that’s not the only game in town. As the 2015 The Bass Federation National Championship plays out for the next three days, anglers will find this northern Oklahoma impoundment abounding with lots of fishing options. Brian Maloney, the 2012 Walmart Bass Fishing League All-American champion, says he was impressed with what he found in practice. “The quality of fish on Grand is just amazing,” notes the Missouri angler. “This lake continues to put out 3- and 4-pounders, and right now there’s a variety of things we can do. “There are guys sight-fishing for spawning fish, and we’re probably looking at another wave or two of fish coming in soon. I’m sure the full moon coming up in another week or so will move them in.” Adding that the lake currently has fish in all prespawn, spawning and postspawn stages, Maloney thinks that TBF contenders will be greeted by a mix of water conditions typical for Grand this time of year. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-20-top-10-baits-from-lake-murray

Top 10 Baits from Lake Murray

Competitors in the FLW College Fishing National Championship mostly targeted bass feeding on spawning blueback herring on shallow points and main-lake pockets. Across the board, herring-imitating baits such as soft jerkbaits, swimbaits, topwaters, wake baits and umbrella rigs dominated the event. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-20-jig-bite-carries-holmes-on-wateree

Jig Bite Carries Holmes on Wateree

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/news/2015-04-20-bryan-slows-down-for-chickamauga-win

Bryan Slows Down for Chickamauga Win

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/news/2015-04-20-morfis-dominates-with-34-pound-limit

Morfis Dominates With 34-Pound Limit

OKEECHOBEE, Fla. – Joshua Morfis of Cape Coral, Florida, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 34 pounds, 14 ounces Saturday to win the fourth Walmart Bass Fishing League Gator Division tournament of 2015 on Lake Okeechobee. For his victory, Morfis earned $6,336. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-20-salzman-cracks-31-pounds-on-guntersville

Salzman Cracks 31 Pounds on Guntersville

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/news/2015-04-20-lanter-wins-on-rend-lake

Lanter Wins on Rend Lake

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/news/2015-04-19-top-10-patterns-from-lake-murray

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Murray

As contestants in the FLW College Fishing National Championship on Lake Murray discovered last week, fishing the blueback herring spawn can be backbreaking work. All that stooping over to grab a different rig to cast at bass busting their favorite forage, and then quickly straightening, is hard on the old spinal column. Flexing up and down is what it took to contend in the championship, however, as bass couldn’t make up their minds whether they wanted their grub served on the surface or closer to the bottom. Typically, the collegians were fan-casting Carolina rigs, umbrella rigs, hard jerkbaits and even crankbaits to likely looking points and broad flats. Sometimes they caught fish with such random prospecting, but perhaps more bass were taken when anglers found themselves within casting distance of blowups and were quick enough to grab a soft jerkbait rig or topwater lure and virtually spoon-feed it to the fish. READ MORE »