Big day on the Bull

Robert Harkness loads one of his big bass into the tank.

BRANSON, Mo. - Typically, when anglers enter a tournament's final round over 7 1/2 pounds out of the lead, their only realistic goal is to make a respectable showing. Well, Robert Harkness did that and much more en route to winning the TBF National Championship presented by the National Guard on Bull Shoals Lake. Entering the tournament's final round in fifth place with 27 pounds, 2 ounces, Harkness ended his day with a bag of fish that more than justified a confident stride as he made his way to the stage. On a day when four of the six finalists fell short of their limits, Harkness pulled out a quintet of keepers, one of which went 5-plus pounds with another nearly 4 pounds. The Elizabeth, W.Va., angler took the lead with a 13-pound, 11-ounce stringer that combined with the 13-0 and 14-2 he weighed on days one and two for a 40-13 total. Harkness held off the next three anglers,Robert Harkness, right, watches closely as day two leader Nick Smyers weighs his fish. but the drama thickened when day-two leader and Northern Division champion Nick Smyers took the stage, already with 34-11, and asked, "How much do I need?" Tournament host Charlie Evans, president and CEO of FLW Outdoors, stated that Smyers needed 6 pounds, 3 ounces for the win. Harkness fidgeted nervously as his final competitor pulled out a good first fish and followed up with a chunky second. He showed no sign of relief at the short bag, as all knew it was too close to call. Cue the drum roll. Smyers' weight: 5 pounds, 7 ounces for a tournament total of 40-2. Harkness wins by 11 ounces. For his efforts, Harkness won $10,000 cash, the use of a "Living the Dream"-wrapped Chevy truck and Ranger boat powered by Evinrude or Yamaha, sponsor merchandise, paid entry fees into either the 2010 Walmart FLW Tour or Walmart FLW Series and travel-expense money. He and all divisional winners advance to the 2009 Walmart BFL All-American presented by Chevy. Harkness also qualifies for the 2009 Forrest Wood Cup presented by Castrol. A strong final round effort gave Robert Harkness an incredible come-from-behind victory in the TBF Championship.Evans teased Harkness about "leaking" when he won his Mid-Atlantic Divisional title on day two. Harkness managed to keep his eyes fairly dry during what was clearly an emotional experience, but he described his TBF Championship victory as simply overwhelming. "It's probably going to take a day before I even (comprehend) what I've done," he said. "The biggest tournament I had ever won (paid) $5,000, so this is unbelievable." Harkness said he carried plenty of optimism, tempered with realism, into the final round: "I had no inclination that this could even happen. This morning, I told my wife that I'm just going to go fishing. I'm not fishing against any of these guys - I'm fishing against myself." During three days of competition, Harkness caught all of his fish on shad-colored MegaBass Vision 110 twitchbaits. Targeting deep bluffs, he positioned his boat in 35 feet of water and cast right to the shoreline. Most strikes came about halfway to the boat. For the past three days, Harkness and his fellow competitors faced a frustrating roller coaster of meteorological mayhem. In summary: a 20-degree temperature drop Tuesday night; bitter cold on day one; sunny, high-pressure conditions for day two; and then a cloudy, drizzly scene for the final round. In what should have been a prime prespawn aggregation scenario, many anglers struggled to find consistency worthy of Bull Shoals' reputation. Smyers runs out of fish, slips to second Using a Strike King Series 5 Sexy Shad crankbait, Smyers fished rock bluffs and chunk rock. Throughout the event, he caught his fish toward the back of a creek where warmer, off-colored water Despite a 4-pound lead going into day three, Nick Smyers could only manage two keepers and settled for second.and lots of threadfin shad had created an attractive environment. Unfortunately, his game plan fell victim to the week's weather fluctuations and a little too much fishing pressure. "The weather conditions were most of it, because the big fish pulled of off of the spot," he said. "Also, yesterday I beat the keepers that were there, and the spot just didn't replenish. "I fished my same area (from days one and two) and worked all the spots back there, but it just didn't work out for me. I tried moving around to find some new areas, but the bite was just dead today. They were completely off the reaction baits. I even tried a jig, but couldn't get them to bite it." Smyers experienced a flurry of activity early - a period with mixed results. "When I pulled up on the spot, I caught two keepers right away. I missed one before the first one I caught, so that made the difference. I'm sure it was a keeper because it was the first bite on this spot." King finishes third despite breakdown Engine trouble limited his range, but Zachary King still caught a limit and took third.Central Division champion Zachary King of Clarksville, Ark., entered the final round in fourth place with 27 pounds, 10 ounces. Throwing a jerkbait, he added 11-3 and improved one notch to third with 38-13. Engine trouble threatened to kill his day, but King persevered and salvaged the day with the only other limit catch. "About five miles down the lake, my engine (malfunctioned)," he said. "I didn't make it to where I was going, but fortunately there were some fish where I was." Southern Division champion Daniel Ellis of Gleason, Tenn., finished fourth with 34-7. Brandon Craner (Western) of Filer, Idaho, took fifth with 34-3 and won the TBF Ranger Cup competition. Rob Lamoy (Eastern) of Chazy, N.Y., was sixth with 21-8.

Tags: headline-story  david-a-brown 

/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-spawn-looming-at-beaver-lake

Spawn Looming at Beaver Lake

As the pros who fish the Walmart FLW Tour begin practice on Beaver Lake, this jewel of northwestern Arkansas could be setting up for another spring spawn showdown. 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

READ MORE »

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

Bryan Slows Down for Chickamauga Win

READ MORE »

/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

READ MORE »

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

Lanter Wins on Rend Lake

READ MORE »

/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 »

/news/2015-04-18-gamecocks-win-college-title

Gamecocks Win College Title

READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-18-gamecocks-win-national-title

Gamecocks Win National Title

As any good Palmetto State bass fisherman will tell you, home lake advantage only works if you’re consistent in your catches from day to day. Anthony Gagliardi proved it here on Lake Murray last summer in the Forrest Wood Cup, and the University of South Carolina proved it again in the FLW College Fishing National Championship that concluded Saturday. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-18-hallman-prevails-on-grand

Hallman Prevails On Grand

READ MORE »