Fleetwood’s finest hour

BULL SHOALS, Ark. - With 16 top-10 finishes to his name, Tim Fleetwood is a seasoned FLW Outdoors professional angler. Fourteen of his top-10 finishes have come from the deep, clear impoundments of the Ozark region. Despite an admirable local resume, he's finished in just about every position in the top 10 except for one: first. A determined Fleetwood changed that today, and he did so amid brutal conditions that included heavy snow showers and westerly winds gusting up to 40 mph. Fishing in his first Stren Series event since 1999, Fleetwood made an ultratough Bull Shoals Lake look like child's play. This event was, to some extent, a redemption tournament for Fleetwood. At the 1999 BFL All-American, he officially finished fourth, less than 4 pounds shy of victory. What the official results don't say is that the tournament, held on the Mississippi River near Onalaska, Wis., was a no-cull event. Fleetwood had his fifth fish stuck several times, but he decided to chuck it back and fish for the win. Had he weighed a fifth fish, he would have been just ounces away from the most prestigious title in weekend angling. There were no crucial decisions like that to be made today, as Fleetwood went into Saturday's final round with nearly a 9-pound lead. With his Tim Hughes custom jerkbait leading the way, the Forsyth, Mo., pro caught five fish for 11 pounds, 9 ounces and was able to keep hard-charging Mark Rose at bay. Pro Tim Fleetwood celebrates after winning the 2006 Stren Series Central Division event on Bull Shoals Lake."I feel like I'm still out on the water," he said. "I was so focused all week, it hasn't really sunk in yet. I was always thinking about what to do to get my next bite." Fleetwood was the only pro who was able to catch a five-bass limit each of the four days of Central Division competition. Fittingly, he had to adjust today as the brutal conditions wouldn't allow him to reach his best area. Running north this morning, instinct told Fleetwood to stop and fish a small cove just south of Big Creek. The detour turned out to be a profitable one as he ended up spending the whole day there. "I felt like if I could just catch a limit, I could win this thing. When I put that fifth fish in the boat at noon, I thought I had it." In addition to dominating the bass this week, Fleetwood put a hurting on the Bull Shoals walleye population. Yesterday the pro winner caught a walleye that registered 19 pounds, 5 ounces on his digital scale. Although rare, Bull Shoals Lake is no stranger to trophy walleyes. In fact, the current world record was caught on Greers Ferry, also located in the Ozark region of Arkansas. For some perspective, Fleetwood's fish would be a record in most Midwestern states, and was only 3 pounds short of the current world record. He wanted to keep the fish at the time, but it wouldn't fit in his livewell, plus he was plenty busy with the tournament at hand. A look at Tim FleetwoodWhile he fished several areas, they were all located on the extreme north end of the lake. Day four was the first day he fished near Big Creek. At all his areas, Fleetwood focused on suspended fish located near channel swings. The specific colors of his Tim Hughes custom jerkbait were mainly red and orange. The bait, which included spots of chartreuse and flake, was actually designed by Fleetwood himself. After receiving the specifications, Hughes airbrushed and finished the bait, which was presented on 8-pound-test Stren monofilament. In all, Fleetwood's four-day total of 52 pounds, 12 ounces earned him a $25,000 cash purse and a fully loaded Ranger boat. Rose finishes runner-up Rose came after Fleetwood with guns blazing today, turning in the best catch of the day - 14 pounds, 8 ounces - but his day-one performance ultimately came back to haunt him. Rose, who is from Marion, Ark., finished second with a four-day combined weight of 46 pounds, 12 ounces worth $13,301. Marion, Ark., pro Mark Rose caught the heaviest limit of the day and finished the tournament in second place.For most of the opening round, Rose threw a brown 3/8-ounce jig in 10 to 15 feet of water. Late in the day yesterday, he discovered that he was just a few feet from the ultimate honeyhole. Accidentally backing off the bluff wall he was fishing, he suddenly saw a flurry of activity on his electronics. After changing from the finesse jig to a football-head jig, he immediately began to reap the benefits. On day four, as his snow-filled Ranger boat idled up to that same area, Rose wasn't sure if he was going to catch them again. "Once I put my line in, it was every cast for about an hour," he said. "It seemed like they were all 3-pounders though. I never really could get that big bite." Had Rose made the change earlier in the tournament, it could possibly have been enough to overcome the 6-pound difference between Fleetwood and him. Weisinger third Oklahoma angler Jerry Weisinger rebounded on day four and finished third in the Pro Division.Pro Jerry Weisinger rebounded nicely on day four with a five-bass limit weighing 10 pounds, 8 ounces. In fact, day three was the only day the Wyandotte, Okla., pro failed to bring a limit to the scale. His total weight spanning four days was 38 pounds, 7 ounces. That placed him third and earned him a check for $7,471. Weisinger's primary area was located on the Missouri side of the lake and consisted of steep, bluffy banks. His main lures this week were a chrome and blue Smithwick Rogue jerkbait, an Eakins jig and a Wiggle Wart crankbait. "I think the pockets that I was fishing were getting too cold," he said. After taking last year off to refresh and spend time with his family, Weisinger's 2007 season is off with a bang. Hutson falls to fourth Randall Hutson of Washburn, Mo., finished fourth with a four-day total of 36 pounds, 8 ounces worth $6,641. Hutson led each of the first two days of the tournament, but only caught four keeper bass over the final two days. "I knew when the wind changed I was done," said Hutson, who used a 4 1/2-inch Smithwick Rogue jerkbait and a Lucky Strike jig. "With the water being this cold, the fish wanted something real slow." The former Wal-Mart FLW Tour champion may not be a household name in professional bass fishing, but his accolades stack up against the best anglers in the sport. As proof, Hutson has accumulated over $450,000 in FLW Outdoors career earnings. His major accomplishments include an FLW Tour win on the Connecticut River in 1998, which at the time was the richest bass tournament in the history of the sport. His other major paydays have come in the Ozarks, a surprise to no one. He took second at the Wal-Mart Open on Beaver Lake in 2002 and again in 2003. Each of those tournaments earned Hutson $100,000. Nixon fifth Pro Larry Nixon finished his first Stren Series event in fifth place.FLW Tour veteran Larry Nixon of Bee Branch, Ark., finished fifth with a combined total of 36 pounds even. Fishing in the first Stren Series event of his career, Nixon earned $5,810. He got there by improving his catch as the tournament progressed. It's a rarity when one of the best anglers to ever pick up a rod and reel sneaks up on the competition, but that's exactly what happened. After only one and a half days of practice, Nixon struggled out of the gate with only 3-4 on day one. Each of the next three days he returned to form by catching double-digit limits. Like many of the other finalists, Nixon ran nearly 50 miles from the Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock to get to his fish. He used both a green and gold Rapala Husky Jerk and a 6-inch Smithwick Rogue jerkbait to trigger his strikes. The Chevy pro said he was able to fish shallower (7 to 10 feet) than most because his water had a darker stain to it. "This morning it was so cold that I didn't really want to go fishing, but I knew I better because I was on some good fish," Nixon said. "But I had a ball at my first Stren. I just love these clear-water lakes." Rest of the best Rounding out the top 10 pros at the Stren Series Central Division event on Bull Shoals: 6th: Robbie Dodson of Harrison, Ark., four-day total of 35-12, $4,980 7th: Jeff Evans of Benton, Ky., 31-2, $4,566 8th: Brent Maurer of Ledbetter, Ky., 28-0, $4,150 9th: Matthew Jones of Spokane, Mo., 25-15, $3,735 10th: Ben Kurtz of Elkhorn, Wis., 25-13, $3,321 The next Stren Series event will take place March 7-10 on Lake Eufula, the third qualifier in the Southeast Division. The next Stren Series Central Division event will be held on Kentucky Lake May 2-5.

Tags: headline-story  brett-carlson 

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Liberty Leads College Championship

A 22-pound, 2-ounce stringer anchored by a 7-pound, 9-ounce largemouth boosted Liberty University’s Travis Rulle and Caleb Eppler into the opening-round lead of the FLW College Fishing National Championship presented by Lowrance Insight Genesis College Cup here on Lake Murray. Rulle and Eppler were the last anglers to weigh in on day one, and their five-fish limit gave them a lead of more than 3 pounds ahead of Eastern Kentucky University veterans Kyler Raymer and Ethan Snyder, who had 18-15. The surprise team of the tournament so far is Colorado Mesa University’s Josh Worth and Kennedy Kinkade, who brought in 18-10 despite never having fished east of the Mississippi River before. Worth and Kinkade are in third place, followed by Cade Laufenberg and Wyatt Stout of Winona State University, and Benn Curry and Tim Ward of Auburn University, both teams with 17-8. Lamar University’s Cameron Lafleur and Justin Royal in 10th place set the cut mark at 16-8. The entire field will fish again tomorrow, and only the top 10 based on two-day cumulative weight will fish in Saturday’s final round. READ MORE »

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Castledine Stands Tall On Grand

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Top 5 Patterns from Grand Lake Day 1

The first day of the Rayovac FLW Series Central Division tournament was all about the sight-bite – from day-one leader Todd Castledine on down. The event, presented by Power-Pole and hosted by the Grand Lake Association, undoubtedly featured other patterns, but every angler who did well relied in large part on bedding bass. READ MORE »

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Lake Murray Midday Update Day 1

With precipitation ranging from an incessant mist to torrential downpours sweeping the area throughout the morning, the odds favored a slow start to the FLW College Fishing National Championship being presented by the Lowrance Insight Genesis College Cup here on Lake Murray. As it turns out, however, the bass apparently liked the extra water and reacted accordingly. A number of the teams that found prime spawning areas for blueback herring in practice earlier this week returned on day one and were rewarded with limit catches of largemouths and spots by midmorning. Among them was the local favorite, the University of South Carolina, which reportedly had culled up to about 13 pounds by 11 a.m. Likewise, the Oregon State University was sitting on about 15 pounds and had culled five times. Tanner Masters and Wyatt Ryan of East Central University (of Oklahoma) caught their limit fishing seawalls and riprapped banks during the sporadic herring spawns that fired up as soon as boats reached their first fishing destinations. READ MORE »

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Hanselman Wins Back-to-Back

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White Takes Bragging Rights on Kentucky Lake

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Taylor Targets Bluebacks for Hartwell Win

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Chenoweth Wins on Kerr

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Rayburn Day 3 Midday Update

A chilly morning greeted the top 10 pros and co-anglers for the final day of Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division competition on Sam Rayburn Reservoir presented by Mercury, but a warm sunrise filtered by scattered clouds bespoke the gorgeous conditions forthcoming. Winds have dropped off to barely a breeze, main-lake running is easy, and the coves and creeks where most anglers are fishing are glassy smooth. Fish surely pulled tighter to cover with the sunny conditions, but that probably makes little difference, as the majority of anglers have been flipping close to trees and into dense buck brush since day one. The heavy, tangled spots with vines seem to be the prime targets again today. READ MORE »

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Hansen Holds Lake of the Ozarks Title

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Frog Carries Lowery to Victory

ALEXANDER CITY, Ala. – David Lowery of Phenix City, Alabama, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 14 pounds, 8 ounces Saturday to win the second Walmart Bass Fishing League Bama Division tournament of 2015 on Lake Martin. For his victory, Lowery earned $4,385. READ MORE »

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Gordon Grabs Title on Dardanelle

RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. – Shawn Gordon of Russellville, Arkansas, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 19 pounds, 7 ounces Saturday to win the third Walmart Bass Fishing League Arkie Division tournament of 2015 on Lake Dardanelle. For his victory, Gordon earned $7,244. READ MORE »

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Hanselmania Returns

He’s back at it again. Ray Hanselman of Del Rio, Texas, won the season-opening Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division tournament on Lake Amistad, and today he weighed in 23 pounds, 5 ounces on the second day of competition at stop No. 2 on Sam Rayburn Reservoir. Hanselman vaulted into the tournament lead with a two-day total of 43-14. “Hanselmania” leads by 5 pounds, 6 ounces over Denny Brauer, also of Del Rio, who is in second place for the second consecutive day. The leader’s stringer is even more impressive considering that Hanselman lost three 5-pounders this morning and caught 23-5 on a day when only one other pro weighed more than 20 pounds, and only three others weighed more than 18 pounds. Day-one leader Joe Don Setina weighed in only four keepers for 11 pounds today. READ MORE »

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Rayburn Day 2 Midday Update

With only one fish in the livewell at 10:30, Joe Don Setina was probably hoping for a repeat of day one – at least the part where he sacks ’em up in the second half. We found the leading pro fishing the Black Forrest area that he worked the first day, and he’s sticking with the same routine of flipping heavy cover. READ MORE »

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Setina Overcomes Slow Start

Pittsburg, Texas, pro Joe Don Setina is off to a hot start in the Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division this season. After a top-10 finish at the opener on Lake Amistad, Setina jumped out to the day-one lead on Sam Rayburn today. It wasn't all smooth sailing for Setina, however. He says nothing went right for him this morning, when he lost fish, snagged trees and finally had to sit down and collect himself before continuing on. After refocusing, Setina caught his first keeper at about 11 a.m. and proceeded to sack up 23 pounds, 6 ounces for a slim 8-ounce lead over second-place pro Denny Brauer, who also finished in the top 10 at the Amistad opener. READ MORE »