Every lock that’s unlocked

MOLINE, Ill. - In an increasingly erratic bite spiced by a cold front after a dash of warm, stable weather, it didn't even take a five-fish limit to seal victory in the Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Championship on the Mississippi River out of the Quad Cities. What it took was four walleyes weighing 6 pounds, 9 ounces to capture victory and $300,000 for Ranger pro Nick Johnson of Elmwood, Wis. It didn't take much time on any of the four days of competition, either. Johnson, who was fishing two pools up from the launch on Pool 16, had to get his fish - and fast - because of a 25-mile one-way run and a lock schedule that required him to head back downstream by 12:45 p.m. "I took the gamble on locking through two locks," Johnson said. "When they announced the lock times, it cut me down to 2 1/2 hours fishing." Upstream of an island a couple of miles upstream from the Interstate 80 bridge, Johnson depended on perhaps the simplest, most old-fashioned method to catch the fish: a three-way rig with a floater and a night crawler. More important, it seemed, was the spot itself. Underwater, upstream from the island, was a sandbar pocked by three clam beds, key holding and feeding areas for the walleye. There, Johnson eased up and across the current with a gas kicker motor to pull his three-way rigs - specifically, a 1 1/2-ounce weight on a 10-inch dropper and a 6-foot lead to a Northland Tackle Phelps floater. In something of a departure from the standard rigging of half a crawler, Johnson says he gobbed one on so the head and tail dangled in a V. Pro Nick Johnson caught four walleyes weighing 6 pounds, 9 ounces Saturday to win the Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Championship on the Mississippi River near Moline.Slight change of location The acumen Johnson employed comes from his fishing back home on Pool 4 of the Mississippi, near Red Wing, Minn. In a change from prior days, when Johnson caught the fish that bit, he says he missed a bite and lost a fish - a sign, it would seem, of the fishes' diminished mood. If the mood was changing, so was the location, however slightly. Over the last two days of the semifinals and finals, the water started falling and, according to Johnson, the fish started repositioning. "The drop in the water affected me," Johnson said. "They went into current areas. I didn't catch it until later (Friday). Today I dropped back down into the current and they were there, a little shallower in the faster water." The fish were, in fact, a little shallower than the 9- to 10-foot clam beds he had been working. Russell McDonald gets to work under a bridge piling Saturday morning.While Johnson managed four fish, the next closest competitor was Lund pro Russell McDonald of Dryden, Ontario, who cast jigs to 3 to 5 feet of water near a bridge piling on Pool 15. McDonald weighed three fish for 5 pounds, 6 ounces and a check worth $65,000. Meanwhile, Ranger pro John Hertensteiner of Victoria, Minn., weighed three for 4 pounds, 12 ounces and a check worth $37,500. He did it on Pool 16 with a pattern of trolling leadcore line with crankbaits. "The cold front killed me," Hertensteiner said. "I was catching 10 to 15 fish a day, then I went to five to keep three, and today just three." Four through six Next up in the standings was Ranger pro Rick LaCourse with a lighter trifecta of 4 pounds, 1 ounces caught on Pool 17 by handlining with Rapala #9 stickbaits in clown, blue and fire-tiger colors. "Thinking back, there was nothing I would have done differently," LaCourse said. Not that LaCourse does much differently on most river systems, where he handlines with heavy lead weights at the end of wire line trailed by two leads - a shorter one on the bottom, a longer one on top. Handlining earned LaCourse a third place in the 2004 RCL Tour qualifying tournament on the Illinois River and a semifinals spot in the 2002 RCL Championship on the Mississippi River, Red Wing, Minn. In this instance, LaCourse says he ran a No. 9 Rapala Original Minnow on the top lead, a No. 7 on the bottom, but most fish, many of them saugers, ate the No. 9. "I have so much confidence in this program, especially on a river system," LaCourse said. Rounding out the six finalists were fifth-place Ranger pro Brad Knoll of Menasha, Wis., who fished in the adjoining Rock River all four days with a final-day catch of one fish weighing 1 pound, 9 ounces, and sixth-place Crestliner pro Dan Plautz of Muskego, Wis. Plautz also caught a single fish - his weighing 1 pound, 4 ounces. Nick Johnson receives a congratulatory hug from his dad following his big win.`Four little fish' The final day and, therefore, the championship win belonged to Johnson, both in spite and because of his, well, lesser catch. "I can't believe the four little fish I had would win $300,000," Johnson said. They were good enough for not only for Johnson but also the winning weight, earning him first place out of a field of 219 competitors who started fishing Wednesday. Nick Johnson: the 2004 Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Tour champion.

Tags: headline-story  dave-scroppo 

/news/2015-05-23-brown-rallies-for-seminole-win

Brown Rallies for Seminole Win

When the Rayovac FLW Series event on Lake Seminole started on Thursday, hot, slick conditions prevailed. The air temperatures pushed into the 90’s, water temperatures hovered between 80 and 85 degrees – summertime was on. Or was it? READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-23-jeter-takes-co-angler-crown

Jeter Takes Co-Angler Crown

Call it a local’s sweep at the Rayovac FLW Series on Lake Seminole. While local pro Clint Brown of Bainbridge, Ga., won the boater Division, his Bainbridge neighbor, Greg Jeter won the Co-angler Division to make it a local twofer. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-23-lake-seminole-day-3-midday-update

Lake Seminole Day 3 Midday Update

Second place pro Clint Brown was gaining some serious ground on Reneau as Brown had boxed four solid keepers for about 11 pounds on his very first spot – all caught from protected backwaters with a topwater. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-22-reneau-grabs-lead-on-seminole

Reneau Grabs Lead On Seminole

Though Reneau has weighed in 15-1 and 20-7 over two days for a total of 35 pounds, 8 ounces, he says he is only getting about six bites per day. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-22-top-5-patterns-from-seminole-day-2

Top 5 Patterns From Seminole Day 2

A shake-up occurred on day two of the Rayovac FLW Series presented by Evinrude on Lake Seminole. Day one was all about slow, summertime fishing in the lake’s deep timber. Overnight a frontal passage dropped water and air temperatures and left a north wind howling down the lake. As a result, the timber bite cooled off and those fishing shallower waters climbed up the leaderboard. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-22-lake-seminole-day-2-midday-update

Lake Seminole Day 2 Midday Update

The hot summer at Seminole turned back into spring this morning as a cold front blew through the area dropping air temps some 10 degrees with a blustery north wind. Sweatshirts were needed again as the cold air felt more like April than May. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-21-enfinger-leads-on-seminole

Enfinger Leads On Seminole

Enfinger said he got off to a “fast start” this morning, sacking a limit by 10 a.m., but he only upgraded twice after that, catching about eight keepers on the day. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-21-top-5-patterns-from-seminole-day-1

Top 5 Patterns From Seminole Day 1

Bradley Enfinger took the day-one lead at the Rayovac FLW Series presented by Evinrude on Lake Seminole fishing suspended bass in timber. Others in the top-5 fished both wood and grass on day one. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-21-lake-seminole-midday-update

Lake Seminole Midday Update

Lake Seminole is known to be more of a quality lake than a quantity lake and that trait showed on the morning of day one as anglers who were catching fish were not necessarily getting many bites, but 3-pound pluses seemed to be the norm for the ones hauled in over the gunnel. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-19-ledges-lift-wilson-to-top

Ledges Lift Wilson to Top

Tim Wilson of Gas City, Indiana, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 29 pounds, 10 ounces Saturday to win the fourth Walmart Bass Fishing League Choo Choo Division tournament of 2015 on Lake Guntersville. For his victory, Wilson earned $5,584. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-19-two-in-a-row-for-fox

Two in a Row for Fox

Dwight Fox of Gainesboro, Tennessee, weighed four bass totaling 16 pounds, 2 ounces Saturday to win the third Walmart Bass Fishing League Mountain Division tournament of 2015 on Lake Cumberland. For his victory, Fox earned $4,463. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-19-bluff-walls-carry-meredith

Bluff Walls Carry Meredith

GROVE, Okla. – Mitch Meredith of Hulbert, Oklahoma, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 18 pounds, 4 ounces Saturday to win the third Walmart Bass Fishing League Okie Division tournament of 2015 on Grand Lake. For his victory, Meredith earned $7,165. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-19-tidwell-slows-down-for-title

Tidwell Slows Down for Title

MCCORMICK, S.C. – Brian Tidwell of Seneca, South Carolina, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 17 pounds, 11 ounces Saturday to win the fourth Walmart Bass Fishing League South Carolina Division tournament of 2015 on Clarks Hill Lake. For his victory, Tidwell earned $3,021. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-19-ginter-gets-the-win

Ginter Gets the Win

CELINA, Ohio – Gary Ginter of Maplewood, Ohio, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 13 pounds, 4 ounces Saturday to win the first Walmart Bass Fishing League Buckeye Division tournament of 2015 on Grand Lake. For his victory, Ginter earned $3,963. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-19-jig-does-the-trick-for-roselle

Jig Does the Trick for Roselle

MARBURY, Md. – Mike Roselle of La Plata, Maryland, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 16 pounds, 13 ounces Saturday to win the third Walmart Bass Fishing League Shenandoah Division tournament of 2015 on Potomac River. For his victory, Roselle earned $6,235. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-17-thrift-by-3

Thrift by 3

The “numbers game.” It’s a term that Bryan Thrift used to describe his fishing on Lake Eufaula back in 2013 when he finished runner-up to Randy Haynes in a Walmart FLW Tour event. The method to his numbers madness was to hit as many solitary objects – stumps, brush piles, rocks, logs – on the bottom of Lake Eufaula as humanly possible in an eight-hour tournament day. When Thrift saw that Lake Eufaula was back on the 2015 Walmart FLW Tour schedule for May of this year, he grinned that patented Bryan Thrift grin because he already knew how to crunch the numbers at Eufaula. And Thrift is still grinning. After sacking up a final-day catch of 15 pounds, 5 ounces to top off 69-14 for the week, Thrift made the numbers work for his fourth FLW Tour win. He added another $125,000 to his bank account. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-17-lake-eufaula-day-4-coverage

Lake Eufaula Day 4 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Eufaula presented by Quaker State. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-16-morrow-thrift-neck-and-neck

Morrow, Thrift Neck and Neck

Georgia pro Troy Morrow brought in 15 pounds, 4 ounces on the third day of competition at the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Quaker State on Lake Eufaula to increase his tournament total to 54-13. Morrow maintains his lead for the second consecutive day, but he won’t sleep comfortably tonight with North Carolina hammer Bryan Thrift just 4 ounces off the lead with 54-09. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-16-top-5-patterns-from-lake-eufaula-day-3

Top 5 Patterns from Lake Eufaula Day 3

Troy Morrow is leading the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Quaker State on Lake Eufaula. However, with one day left to fish, he has a big problem going into the last day: Bryan Thrift. The Shelby, N.C., pro is just 4 ounces behind Morrow. Here’s how Thrift and the rest of the top five caught their fish. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-16-lake-eufaula-day-3-coverage

Lake Eufaula Day 3 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Eufaula presented by Quaker State. READ MORE »