May 18, 2008 by Rob Newell
ROGERS, Ark. - On day one of the Wal-Mart Open on Beaver Lake, Mark Pack of Mineola, Texas, made a prophetic remark: "We're on the winning pattern, there's no doubt about that; it's just a matter of who is going to get the better bites off those places."
Pack made that statement after taking the lead on day one of the Wal-Mart FLW Tour event. The allusion was to the fact that he and several other competitors were dialed in to the same pattern and same places on a high and muddy Beaver Lake.
Over the next two days, Pack took a trip backward in the standings. He drifted to third on day two and then back to sixth on day three.
But even then he still maintained his belief: "It may not be me, but someone is going to win the tournament fishing this pattern ... there are several guys doing it."
Today, Pack proved he was right by bringing in 14 pounds, 5 ounces of Beaver Lake bass to the scales to win the Wal-Mart Open and $200,000 with a two-day total of 21 pounds, 10 ounces.
Pack's big limit rocketed him from sixth place to first and gave him an untouchable 3-pound, 7-ounce margin of victory.
"It's great to win a major league tournament like this," said Pack, who has fished the FLW Tour for nine years without a win. "It's been a dream of mine since I was young."
Pack's journey to his Wal-Mart Open victory actually began several years ago when he fished this event in high water. During that event he scored a top-10 by fishing road beds and long rock points that stuck way out in the main river.
The series of bars, points and road beds were located within five miles of the Highway 12 Bridge. This week he fished those exact same places for the win.
"Each of these places had some kind of hard structure up on top - rock, asphalt, concrete, even old submerged boat ramps - and the fish were relating to those hard places," he said. "The reason why they bit so much better today was because of the current. Yesterday there was no current, and the lake was backing up; it had the fish really scattered. But today the current was running, and it had the fish congregated. I had a limit by 7:30 this morning and probably caught 35 keepers all day."
Pack, who is the owner of Lake Fork Trophy Tackle, used some of his own creations to catch his fish. He used a homemade 3/16-ounce jig teamed with one of his new Hyper Worms, which features a big paddle tail on a segmented body.
He also credited a Lucky Craft RC 2.5 crankbait for producing his big fish today, which weighed about 5 pounds.
When he did occasionally flip, he used a jig teamed with a Lake Fork Hyper-Freak trailer.
"Most of the fish came on the 3/16-ounce jig with the Hyper Worm," he said. "I was kind of swimming the jig over the bottom in 3 feet of water. With the water being so muddy, that paddle tail on the worm helped the fish find the bait."
Wal-Mart pro George Cochran of Hot Springs, Ark., finished runner-up with a two-day total of 18 pounds, 3 ounces.
Cochran, who made the top 10 by virtue of Joel Richardson's (Kernersville, N.C.) disqualification, collected $50,000 for his finish.
"I do feel sorry for Joel," Cochran said. "He just made an honest mistake that cost him his top-10 qualification. But at the same time, I was excited to represent two of my best sponsors - Wal-Mart and Ranger Boats - right here on their home grounds."
Cochran spent the entire tournament doing what he loves: fishing a spinnerbait.
"I pretty much used one lure all week: a 3/16-ounce Strike King Little Mr. Money spinnerbait that I designed," he said. "It's a smaller-profile, tandem spinnerbait with a Colorado blade in the front and an Indiana blade on the back. My favorite color is called emerald shad, and that's what I used all week."
Cochran primarily fished the spinnerbait around floating boat docks on 15-pound P-Line.
"Throwing it down the shady sides of the dock was definitely the key," Cochran added.
Local pro Greg Bohannan of Rogers, Ark., finished third with a two-day total of 17 pounds, 14 ounces worth $40,000.
And while Bohannan may have finished third, he certainly received the loudest roar from his hometown crowd in the John Q. Hammons Center in Rogers, Ark.
Bohannan was one of the other competitors that Pack referred to who was working the "winning pattern."
"Mark and I were fishing the exact same way and in some of the same places," Bohannan said. "I don't know why, but when the water gets high and dingy here, those fish get on those long pea-gravel points. I knew where about 15 of those type places were, but these guys out here are good and several of them found those spots this week."
Like Pack, Bohannan said the fish were relating to old foundations or bigger groups of rock on the points in 2 to 7 feet of water, and the current helped his bite today.
"I really have to credit my (fish finder) for helping me relocate some of those places," he added. "I'd idle alongside those long points, scanning the bottom until I'd find the exact sweet spot along the point that I was looking for."
Bohannan's key baits included a 1/2-ounce War Eagle football jig teamed with a Berkley Chigger Craw trailer, a Berkley Flicker Shad crankbait and a Norman Deep Little N crankbait. Both of the crankbaits were in a red color.
"The jig and Chigger Craw combo produced most of my fish," he added. "I'd just kind of swim it along the bottom, contacting the rocks."
Mike Hawkes of Sabinal, Texas, finished fourth with a two-day total of 17 pounds, 10 ounces worth $35,000.
For much of the week, Hawkes relied on a 3/8-ounce Oldham's jig and a Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver in a Big Texan color to catch his fish.
"The biggest key for me this week was to swim those two baits through the flooded bushes and limbs," Hawkes said. "If I just pitched it in there and let it go to the bottom, I rarely got a bite. Most of my bites came when I was swimming it through the cover."
Matt Arey of Shelby, N.C., finished fifth with a two-day total of 16 pounds, 2 ounces worth $30,000.
Arey, too, was working patterns and areas similar to Pack and Bohannan.
Several of Arey's better areas included flooded lawns where shad and minnow were up feeding on the nutrient-rich lawn grass.
"Any rocky flats out in front of those flooded yards were the key for me," Arey said. "It was like the bass didn't want to get too far from all that bait. If there was a big flooded field or yard with baitfish up in it, there was a pack of bass somewhere nearby."
Arey's lure lineup included white ChatterBaits (in 3/8- and 1/2-ounce sizes) and a selection of Bandit 200 crankbaits in various hues of chartreuse. When he flipped, he used a Gambler Little Otter and Flappin' Daddy.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros in the Wal-Mart Open on Beaver Lake:
6th: Kyle Mabrey of McCalla, Ala., two-day total of 15-1, $28,000
7th: Sam Newby of Pocola, Okla., two-day total of 14-13, $26,000
8th: Dan Morehead of Paducah, Ky., two-day total of 14-7, $24,000
9th: Alvin Shaw of State Road, N.C., two-day total of 6-14, $22,000
10th: Richard Strother of Tyler, Texas, two-day total of 6-13, $20,000
The next event on the FLW Tour will be held on the Fort Loudoun-Tellico lakes near Knoxville, Tenn., June 19-22.