UPCOMING EVENT: Walmart Bass Fishing League - 2015 - Kerr Lake

Bennett brings it home

Duracell pro Michael Bennett holds up the winner's trophy in Birmingham.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – One of the biggest crowds in Wal-Mart FLW Tour history was in attendance for the coming-out party of 23-year-old fishing pro Michael Bennett. After catching 10 Smith Lake bass over the final two days that weighed 27 pounds, 8 ounces, Bennett became the latest Western pro to loot a six-figure payday from the state of Alabama.

In 2004, Chevy pro Luke Clausen won $500,000 at the Forrest Wood Cup on Logan Martin Lake. Two years later it was National Guard pro Brent Ehrler’s turn to cash a half-million-dollar check at the season-ending tournament. On Sunday, Bennett etched his name in the archives of bass-fishing history. Not only is the Roseville, Calif., native the third Western pro to win in Alabama, he’s also the second Western angler to win an FLW Tour event this season – the first going to Phoenix angler Brett Hite.

Bennett completed his first tour-level victory in convincing, if not dominating, fashion. While the rest of the anglers fought over the same spawning largemouths, the Duracell pro located several pods of spotted bass lying deep underneath docks. For winning the Wal-Mart FLW Tour event on Smith Lake, pro Michael Bennett earned $125,000.

Bennett did catch spawning bass during the tournament. In fact, he used them exclusively to make the top-10 cutoff. But he knew they wouldn’t hold up over four days. So he practiced with the intention of having a prespawn pattern for the final round.

His key bait was a Berkley Gulp Sinking Minnow in light green-pumpkin color. It was rigged weightless and wacky style with an O-ring on 8-pound Berkley 100% Trilene fluorocarbon. He would skip the bait under docks – but these aren’t your ordinary docks. Underneath them is water 60 feet deep.

“Yesterday they bit it at 8 to 12 feet, and today they hit as far down as 25 to 30 feet,” he said. “It varied every day, so I just let it sink for 20 to 30 seconds.”

Bennett fished roughly 20 docks that were located in the main lake anywhere from the dam to the Duncan Bridge. He said he never had a single dock that he could rely on, but two of his best keepers did come from the same dock on day four.

“In practice they were on the very front of the dock, but the last two days they were further back. The best docks seemed to be on a point. The fish would go to the point to feed, but I think they lived under the dock.” Duracell pro Michael Bennett holds up one of his five winning spots Sunday.

The pro winner caught only five keepers on the day, but they were the right size. All were spotted bass and one was plucked off a bed.

“This is unbelievable. I’m speechless. The money is great, but the win is what I was after.

“I grew up spotted bass fishing in California. In fact, the lakes I fish close to home were actually stocked from Smith Lake. It’s the exact same species. I couldn’t have asked for a better setup for a tournament.”

For eliminating 199 of the best bass anglers in the world, Bennett earned a $125,000 first-place purse.

Canterbury limits, falls short

Scott Canterbury fished to win on day four, but the big bites never came. Throwing a buzzbait and simultaneously looking for bedding bass, Canterbury caught a limit weighing 11 pounds, 14 ounces. Like Bennett, the Odenville, Ala., native never culled. His five keepers came from Rock Creek, the same area he fished throughout the week.

“I have absolutely no regrets,” said the local angler, who calls Logan Martin and the Coosa River Rookie pro Scott Canterbury earned $50,000 for his second-place finish on Smith Lake.home. “I caught only five keepers three of the days and six one day, so I wasn’t getting very many bites.”

As Canterbury paralleled the bank, he continuously threw the buzzbait. However, he did not watch the buzzbait as he retrieved it. Instead, he listened for blowups while keeping his eyes focused in a search for spawning bass. Once he located a bed fish, he pitched a green-pumpkin tube and a Net Bait Paca Craw.

“Every day I caught my biggest fish on the buzzbait, and I never missed a single sight-fish.”

For placing second, the FLW Tour rookie earned $50,000.

“This week has been phenomenal, I mean just outstanding. I don’t have the words to express how good it’s been. I said all year long if I could have a choice of what tournament to make the top 10 in, it would be Smith Lake just so I could weigh in Birmingham.”

Kreiger maintains third, takes AOY lead

Like many others, Prilosec pro Koby Kreiger hedged his bets on spawning largemouths. The Okeechobee, Fla., native had a similar plan to Canterbury. Instead of throwing a buzzbait, he used a Bomber Long-A as a search bait for bedding bass. Instead of fishing Rock Creek, he fished Ryan Creek. Occasionally the spawners would eat the Long-A, but they were mainly just showing themselves. Koby Kreiger caught 22 pounds over the final round and placed third in the Pro Division.

Once he had the fish located on bed, he would pitch a 3/8-ounce Oldham’s jig with an 8-inch Zoom lizard. If the water was muddy like on day three, he used a Texas-rigged 4-inch white Gambler Bacon Rind.

On day four, three of his weigh fish committed to the Long-A. Throughout the week he was catching primarily largemouths, but four of his five keepers Sunday were spotted bass. In an attempt to coax a kicker, he also threw a black Spro frog for part of the day.

“I had two big fish boil up on my frog,” he said. “If I had caught both of them, I think I could have won. If I had caught one, I would have taken second.”

For placing third with a two-day total weight of 22 pounds, Kreiger earned $40,000. Combined with his 11th-place finish on Lake Toho, Kreiger has accumulated 388 points and leads the Land O’Lakes Angler of the Year race.

Clausen takes fourth as fish shrink

Anytime there is a spotted-bass tournament in Alabama, there is a good chance Clausen will be in contention to win. And this week’s FLW Tour event on Smith Lake was no exception. The Chevy pro caught a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 21 pounds, 6 ounces. His limit Sunday weighed 10 pounds, Chevy pro Luke Clausen concentrated on spotted bass to finish fourth with 21-6.10 ounces.

“I just love how this lake fishes,” he said. “I love using a shaky head, and I love catching Alabama spotted bass.”

Clausen said his only mistake was underestimating the size of his fish. In practice, he caught several 3-pounders and felt they were indicative of the overall size of fish he was around.

“Once the tournament started, they shrank. I didn’t anticipate catching so few 3-pounders.”

Clausen estimates he caught 30 spotted bass on day four – 12 of which were keepers. He, too, fished Rock Creek, but Canterbury was much farther down the creek.

“My hands are sore from catching all these fish. In hindsight, I probably would have prefished a little different and looked deeper for bigger spots.”

The former Forrest Wood Cup and Bassmaster Classic champion used mainly a Fat Dover crawler on a homemade 1/8-ounce finesse jig. Under cloudy conditions, he chose green-pumpkin color, and under sunny skies, he used watermelon-candy. He rigged the bait on Spiderwire Extreme fluorocarbon, a prototype line that will be available to the public in June.

For finishing fourth, Clausen earned $30,000.

Pugh limits, claims fifth

Climbing from sixth to fifth on day four was Cullman, Ala., native and pretournament favorite Greg Pugh. The Snickers pro caught a limit of bass weighing 10 pounds, 5 ounces today to push his final-round total to 20 pounds even, good for $20,000. Snickers pro Greg Pugh finished fifth on his home lake and earned $20,000.

On day two, Pugh dropped jaws as he put a 17-pound, 11-ounce stringer on the scale. That went down as the heaviest single-day catch of the tournament. Those fish were spawners from Ryan’s and Simpson’s creeks.

On day four, he stayed fairly close to the ramp and quickly picked up a limit of spotted bass. He then returned Ryan’s and Simpson’s to upgrade. Although he did cull all five of his initial keepers, he never got any giants. To catch the spawners, Pugh used a 5/16-ounce PJ’s jig with a green-pumpkin Zoom Skinny Chunk trailer.

“When I’m sight-fishing, that’s my go-to bait,” Pugh said. “The big ones were setting around this afternoon. If we would have had sun yesterday, I could have had an explosive bag. I’m talking 25 pounds or more.”

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 pro finishers in FLW Tour competition at Smith Lake:

6th: Darrel Robertson of Jay, Okla., 17-1, $19,000
7th: Jason Christie of Park Hill, Okla., 16-4, $18,000
8th: Brandon Coulter of Knoxville, Tenn., 13-15, $17,000
9th: Glenn Browne of Ocala, Fla., 11-14, $16,000
10th: Danny Pierce of Greenbrier, Ark., 7-10, $15,000

Coming up

The next FLW Tour qualifying event, the National Guard Open, is scheduled for Lake Norman in Charlotte, N.C., April 24-27.

Tags: lewis-smith-lake  michael-bennett  berkley-gulp-sinking-minnow  spotted-bass-docks  headline-story  brett-carlson 

/news/2015-08-29-matual-masters-erie

Matual Masters Erie

David Matual of Chicago, Ill., leaned on his spot hard and sacked up the biggest bag of day three weighing 22 pounds, 6 ounces. For his final-day rally he claimed the Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division victory on Lake Erie with a three-day total of 65 pounds, fending off Jared Rhode by a mere 7 ounces. Drop-shotting over shallow reefs delivered all of Matual’s fish and earned him a check worth more than $31,000. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-29-lake-erie-day-3-midday-update

Lake Erie Day 3 Midday Update

Lake Erie put on a different face for day three of the final Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division event. After a rough day one, yesterday’s calm and mostly sunny conditions offered comfortable running and fishing conditions. Today was still a far cry from the brutal waves of day one - and prior practice days - but windier conditions and overcast skies seemed to present a more challenging scenario. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-28-top-5-patterns-from-lake-erie-day-2

Top 5 Patterns From Lake Erie Day 2

Pennsylvania pro Dave Lefebre and Ohio pro Jared Rhode tied for the day-two lead in Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division action on Lake Erie with 43 pounds, 9 ounces. Both pros caught their fish on drop-shots. Here are the details of the rest of the top five. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-28-lefebre-rhode-tied-at-the-top

Lefebre, Rhode Tied at the Top

Notching his second day of 20-plus pounds, FLW Tour pro Dave Lefebre tallied 43 pounds, 9 ounces and tied day-one leader Jared Rhode for the day-two top spot at the Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division event on Lake Erie. Lefebre caught his 22-3 limit on Rapala DT-10 crankbaits, while Rhodes tempted his 19-15 catch with drop-shots. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-28-lake-erie-day-2-midday-update

Lake Erie Day 2 Midday Update

With winds shifting from yesterday’s northerly blow to a warmer southerly direction, day two of the Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division event on Lake Erie brought calmer conditions with greater ability to methodically work key spots. Offshore, waves ran 1 to 2 feet, with leeward areas behind the Lake Erie Islands nearly flat. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-27-rhode-cracks-23-10-for-erie-lead

Rhode Cracks 23-10 for Erie Lead

Jared Rhode played his cards and the gamble paid off better than expected, as the pro from Port Clinton, Ohio, took the day-one lead at the Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division event on Lake Erie with a limit catch weighing 23 pounds, 10 ounces. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-27-top-5-patterns-from-lake-erie-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from Lake Erie Day 1

Taking off this morning, the FLW Tour pro from Erie, Pa., knew the day’s north wind would keep him from making a long run to a big-fish spot close to his home. However, keeping it local and fishing a little past Pelee Island to the west delivered a solid second-place catch. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-27-lake-erie-day-1-midday-report

Lake Erie Day 1 Midday Report

Winds have subsided considerably since practice, but Lake Erie’s still showing her temperamental side to Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division anglers fishing the last divisional event out of Sandusky, Ohio. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-25-top-10-patterns-from-the-forrest-wood-cup

Top 10 Patterns from the Forrest Wood Cup

If you don’t believe that summertime bass fishing in the dog days of August is all over the map, just take a look at the top 10 patterns from the best bass pros on earth at the 2015 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita. Brad Knight captured the Cup by mining one small creek end for four days. But beyond that, the rest of the top 10 patterns ran the gamut, from targeting schoolers over 40 feet to wolf packs of bass on the bank to brush piles to grass to mud flats and everywhere in between. Here’s a rundown. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-23-knight-slays-ouachita

Knight Slays Ouachita

Lancing, Tenn., pro Brad Knight won the 2015 Forrest Wood Cup presented by Walmart on Lake Ouachita with a four-day total of 51 pounds, 12 ounces. In front of a standing-room-only crowd at Bank of the Ozarks Arena in Hot Springs, Ark., Knight weighed in 11-07 on day four to surpass Jacob Wheeler, who started the day with a 12-ounce lead. Fishing in just one area all four days, Knight locked up the first win of his FLW career. He earned $500,000 for his victory and pushed his career earnings total to more than $688,000. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-23-forrest-wood-cup-day-4-coverage

Forrest Wood Cup Day 4 Coverage

Daily updates from the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-22-wheeler-back-in-front

Wheeler Back in Front

Jacob Wheeler loves Lake Ouachita. It’s where he fished his first Forrest Wood Cup in 2011, and it’s where he’ll take the tournament lead into the final day of competition at the 2015 Forrest Wood Cup presented by Walmart and hosted by Visit Hot Springs and the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. Wheeler, the 2011 Cup champion, led this tournament on day one and slipped a couple spots on day two. He now has a very slim 12-ounce lead over Tennessean Brad Knight. The anglers will square off tomorrow on Ouachita starting at 7 a.m. against the rest of the top 10 pros for the top prize of $500,000. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-22-top-5-patterns-from-the-cup-day-3

Top 5 Patterns from the Cup Day 3

Jacob Wheeler may have regained his lead in the Forrest Wood Cup on day three, but Brad Knight is right on his heels. Going into the final day, the two pros are separated by just 12 ounces. The margin is tight, and what’s going to make the final day fun to watch is the difference in the two anglers’ strategies. Wheeler is running a topwater pattern on the main lake, and fishing new water is part of his plan. Knight, however, has caught almost all of his weight from one 250-yard stretch of bass-rich creek channel. He literally knows every target he is fishing by heart. On the surface, Knight’s area looks to be the better bet. But he has shared the general area with Brandon Cobb and Mark Daniels Jr. for three solid days. And the bad news, at least for Knight, is that both Cobb and Daniels will be sharing the water with him again on the final day as both made the top-10 cut. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-22-forrest-wood-cup-day-3-coverage

Forrest Wood Cup Day 3 Coverage

Daily updates from the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-21-ramie-races-into-the-lead

Ramie Races into the Lead

On the back of a 17-pound, 14-ounce limit, which is the biggest of the tournament thus far, Ramie Colson Jr. jumped from seventh place to take over the lead at the halfway point of the 2015 Forrest Wood Cup presented by Walmart. Colson’s two-day total is 31 pounds, 1 ounce, which puts him almost 3 pounds ahead of Tennessee’s Brad Knight. The Forrest Wood Cup, which is hosted by Visit Hot Springs and the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, moves into its top-20 round on Saturday. The top 10 pros after Saturday’s weigh-in advance to Sunday’s final round for a shot at the $500,000 top prize. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-21-top-5-patterns-from-the-cup-day-2

Top 5 Patterns from the Cup Day 2

At times, bass fishing can be a lot like real estate, where the three most important rules are location, location and location. The 2015 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita presented by Walmart is starting to become a bit of a real estate game where location is the primary consideration in who climbs the leaderboard. And those mining the backs of creeks and tributaries are on the prime pieces of real estate. Consider that after day two, four of the top five pros are concentrating their fishing efforts in the back ends of creeks or rivers. All of these areas fit a classic late-summer, early-fall pattern where shad pack into the back of creek ditches that meander through shallow flats. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-21-forrest-wood-cup-day-2-coverage

Forrest Wood Cup Day 2 Coverage

Daily updates from the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-20-wheeler-hunting-history

Wheeler Hunting History

It’s never been done before, and it hasn’t happened yet, but Jacob Wheeler is in prime position to become the first two-time Forrest Wood Cup champion in history. Wheeler, of Indianapolis, Ind., brought in a 16-pound, 2-ounce limit of Lake Ouachita bass on the first day of the Cup, which is presented by Walmart and hosted by Visit Hot Springs and the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-20-top-5-patterns-from-the-cup-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from the Cup Day 1

After day one of the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita, several things have come to light. For one, this event is not likely to produce a runaway win for anyone like it did when Scott Martin won here in 2011. Second, when the pros said Ouachita was going to be stingy, they meant it – only 29 of the 50 pros checked in limits today. Third, firm patterns are hard to come by on Lake Ouachita in August. Jacob Wheeler took the lead on day one in the event that’s presented by Walmart and hosted by Visit Hot Springs and the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. With the help of a 5-pound bass, Wheeler weighed in a limit of 16 pounds, 2 ounces, but he had to sample a lot of different areas for his catch. Here’s how the rest of the top five got it done. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-20-forrest-wood-cup-day-1-coverage

Forrest Wood Cup Day 1 Coverage

Daily updates from the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita. READ MORE »