Blaylock blossoms into FLW Tour’s youngest winner

Stetson Blaylock holds up his biggest bass from day four on Lake Norman. With a two-day total of 23 pounds, 15 ounces, the Berkley pro won the National Guard Open and $200,000.

CONCORD, N.C. - In 2008, Stetson Blaylock won the Walmart Open on Beaver Lake and the FLW Tour Co-angler of the Year award. He was fully prepared to make the difficult transition of moving to the front of the boat and fishing as a professional in 2009. Expectations were high, but nobody thought the young phenom would claim victory in year one - not even himself. Ten years ago, Blaylock was washing and waxing boats at the Walmart BFL All-American. As a teenager, Blaylock spent three nights a week fishing tournaments on lakes around central Arkansas. At 16, he began fishing the Walmart FLW Tour as a co-angler. His dream was to become a professional fisherman and to eventually win a tournament that boasts the toughest competition in the sport. That dream became reality today as Blaylock won the National Guard Open on Lake Norman. The 21-year-old will go down in the annals of bass fishing as the youngest pro to ever win an FLW Tour event. The five names next to Blaylock on that same list include Michael Bennett, Luke Clausen, Brent Ehrler and David Dudley. That's some pretty lofty company, and incidentally, all four of those anglers have won the Forrest Wood Cup. When Blaylock arrived in North Carolina, he started attacking Norman with a homemade 5/16-ounce jig. As practice continued, he was told by his peers that the bass on this particular lake don't bite a jig once the spawn begins. With his fiance at his side, Stetson Blaylock shows off his trophy for winning the 2009 National Guard Open on Lake Norman. "I guess I proved that theory wrong," said the Benton, Ark., native. "I think everybody missed out on the jig bite. It was really strong at first, and I know that it triggered the big fish. It wasn't good for getting a lot of bites, but it was good for getting the right bites." Blaylock said the jig had a Texas-colored skirt and was tipped with a 3-inch Berkley Power Craw in green-pumpkin color. As the tournament progressed, the jig bite slowly died. Today Blaylock had to resort to throwing a Berkley Power Bait Slim Shaky Worm, which was also in green-pumpkin color, on a shaky head. Blaylock tied the big jig on 12-pound Berkley 100% Fluorocarbon line and the finesse jig with 10-pound Spiderwire braid with an 8-pound Berkley fluorocarbon leader. "I think if the tournament was held next week, the jig wouldn't produce. It was getting worse and worse. Today only three of my five came on the jig, whereas before just about everything came on it." Blaylock caught nine keepers today, which was the highest number he recorded in four tournament days. Unbelievably, his three biggest fish were all caught twice. After coming unbuttoned the first time, all three came back and bit his bait again. The biggest of the three was accompanied by a smaller male. After catching the buck, Blaylock turned his attention to the female who took position on the bed. He tried, but was unsuccessful and decided to leave the fish for later in the day. Blaylock returned at 11:30 a.m., but the fish was still lackadaisical. Finally the 5-pound largemouth bit, he set the hook, and the fish jumped twice and came loose 5 feet from the net. Despite the unsuccessful attempt, Blaylock decided that this was the winning fish. "I went back to her, and she was swimming around; I pitched my bait back in there, and she came right over and sat on the bed. I could not believe it. It took me about 30 more minutes to catch her." Throughout the tournament, the pro winner claimed he didn't have a pattern and was just "fishing." As it Berkley pro Stetson Blaylock receives his winner's check with Lindsey, his fiance.turns out, there was some method to the madness. "I think all the ones I weighed today were sight-fish. The prior days I spent a lot of time blind-casting docks. But today I decided to do some more looking, and I guess I picked the right pockets." Those docks and pockets were located in the middle of the lake, from the Highway 150 Bridge down to the southern third of the impoundment. "I just love this lake - I love dock fishing and Norman is loaded with them." Blaylock's five best keepers weighed 12 pounds, 13 ounces, which was the heaviest limit of the final round. For a two-day total of 23 pounds, 15 ounces, the Berkley pro will head back to Arkansas with a first-place check for $200,000. "I really don't know how it feels yet. But this is it; it doesn't get any bigger. You've got 150 of the best out here. When I stop and look at the list of guys who fished this tournament, then I'll realize how big it really was." Blaylock and his fiance plan to use the money to build a home just outside Benton. The couple is scheduled to tie the knot Sept. 5, 2009. Morgan misses several opportunities Andy Morgan had the perfect game plan. In practice, he shook three bass over 5 pounds. Throughout the event, he was carefully saving both bed fish and some key areas for the final round. On day two, he fished mainly docks in order to conserve his best shallow-water stuff. Second-place pro Andy Morgan holds up his kicker bass from day four on Lake Norman.When the final round began, he went to work. The bite was adequate on day three, but strong on day four. During the last two days, he started by throwing a Skinny Dipper in bad-shad color. After a few hours, he switched to flipping bushes with a Beaver and a Super Hog in 10 to 18 inches of water. He fished the extreme north end of the lake and started at the mouth of the creeks with the Dipper and worked all the way to the back. At 11:30 this morning, he received back-to-back bites that would have won him the tournament had he converted on either one of them. "There was a little bottleneck in the area with current ripping by. I pitched up there and caught a 3-pounder. I knew I needed one good bite, and I told myself I was staying there." Morgan then hooked up with a 4-pounder, but the fish came off when it swam toward the boat and created slack in the line. He then focused his efforts on the remaining four bushes along the bottleneck. A 3 1/2-pounder bit and got hung in a bush, and Morgan quickly moved the boat toward the fish. "It's in the bush, and its twisting and flopping just like a catfish in a trotline. It just fell off and that was at exactly 11:36. I threw down my rod and said that was it. I never caught anything of substance after that. That fish rolled off to the tune of about $100,000. It made me sick." Morgan finished with 12 pounds, 9 ounces and two-day total of 22-15. His consolation was $55,000. With that check, he surpassed $1 million in career earnings with FLW Outdoors. Kreiger slips to third Iams pro Koby Kreiger slipped from first to third on the final day of the National Guard Open. Like many others, Iams pro Koby Kreiger hedged his bets this week on spawning largemouths. The difference is that the Okeechobee, Fla., native is perhaps the best sight-fisherman in the world. Kreiger's bread and butter was sight-fishing for spawners, but he also searched the banks with a Bomber Long A and a Rebel Pop-R. All of his sight-fish came on a white-pearl Zoom Super Hog. Kreiger caught a limit Sunday, but they only weighed 9 pounds, 2 ounces. In addition, he missed three blowups on his topwater baits this morning. Combined with his day-three total of 12-9, he finished with a final-round total of 21 pounds, 11 ounces. "I knew it was going to come down to who got the big bite today. Stetson did and I did not." For finishing third, he earned $45,000, which, like Morgan, pushed him to over $1 million in career FLW Outdoors earnings. "It's been a goal of mine to win an FLW Tour since I started fishing for a living. I've still got four more events left this year." Pugh rises to fourth If Kreiger is the Michael Jordan of sight-fishing, that means Greg Pugh is Magic Johnson. Anytime there Alabama pro Greg Pugh finished the tournament in fourth place with 19 pounds, 4 ounces. Pugh earned $35,000.is a sight-fishing tournament, there is a good chance Pugh will be in contention to win. And this week's FLW Tour qualifier on Lake Norman was no exception. The Cullman, Ala., pro caught a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 19 pounds, 4 ounces. His limit Sunday weighed 10 pounds, 12 ounces. "It was a little bit better for me today," said Pugh, who used a green-pumpkin Berkley Shaky Worm and a 5/16-ounce PJ's jig with a green-pumpkin Zoom Skinny Chunk trailer. The PJ's jig and trailer is his go-to bait when sight-fishing. This was Pugh's third consecutive top-10 finish on Norman. In 2007 he finished eighth and last year he also finished fourth. "I saw a good one that had to weigh 6 pounds, and it actually went down on my bait, but then it just swam off. I think it stuck its fins at me as it swam by." Pugh also had to release a 3-pounder that was foul-hooked. For finishing fourth, he earned $35,000. Hoernke up to fifth Sean HoernkeDay four of the National Guard Open was eventful for defending champion Sean Hoernke. In addition to receiving a surprise visit from his father, he had his main tournament boat stolen. For more on that, see Quick Bites. As for the fishing, Hoernke climbed from sixth to fifth via a limit of bass weighing 8 pounds, 14 ounces. He finished with 17-14, good for $30,000. Hoernke strongly believed that in order to be successful on Norman, it was critical to cover new water and find fresh fish that had just moved up to spawn. He used a brand-new swimbait called a Revo Shad SH in ghost and blue-black heron color as a search tool. Once a fish identified itself, Hoernke would throw a Hoern Toad Tackle shaky head with a 4-inch watermelon-candy finesse worm. "The swimbait helped with finding bed fish, but also with finding good, key docks," he said. During the final round, the Texas pro fished the extreme north end of the lake, past the Highway 150 Bridge. He worked just below the bridge the first two days of competition. "I fished my tail off. I have no regrets and no remorse. I never found the fish to win this tournament and go back to back." Rest of the best Rounding out the top 10 pro finishers at the National Guard Open on Lake Norman: 6th: Jim Moynagh of Carver, Minn., 16-12, $28,000 7th: Jacob Powroznik of Prince George, Va., 16-3, $26,000 8th: Eric Ambort of Mabelvale, Ark., 13-10, $24,000 9th: Dale Evans of Summerville, S.C., 12-6, $22,000 10th: Keith Williams of Conway, Ark., 10-9, $20,000 Coming up The next FLW Tour qualifying event, the Walmart Open, is scheduled for Beaver Lake in Rogers, Ark., May 14-17.

Tags: headline-story  brett-carlson 

/news/2015-04-26-arey-does-it-again

Arey Does it Again

Quaker State pro Matt Arey of Shelby, N.C., wowed the crowed in Rogers, Ark., today with an incredible 17-pound, 3-ounce five-bass limit to come from behind and win the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac on Beaver Lake. This is Arey’s second consecutive Beaver Lake FLW Tour victory. Arey’s final-day surge was enough to surpass two-time reigning Angler of the Year Andy Morgan, who led yesterday but weighed in only 9-08 today and fell to third. Arey’s four-day total was 55-06, earning the pro $125,000. READ MORE »

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Beaver Lake Day 4 Coverage

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Morgan Maintains His Lead

One of Andy Morgan’s fishing mottos is to make the best of what you have got “in front of you” to survive and fish another day. Beaver Lake doesn’t give much. So when an angler as resourceful as Morgan gets to a lake that doesn’t give out many resources, the two work well together. Instead of worrying about hitting it out of the park or putting immense pressure on himself to come up with a grand winning strategy, Morgan just scraps, scrapes and claws at the ground right in front of him, making the best of what he’s got. Morgan’s performance on day three of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac on Beaver Lake was a prime example of his “make the best of it” attitude. After burning up the spawning fish he had located in practice during the first two days of the tournament, he was forced to fish by the seat of his pants today – something he thoroughly enjoys. READ MORE »

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Gordon and Gagner Crowned TBF Champs

Two more anglers qualified for the Forrest Wood Cup today by winning the 2015 The Bass Federation National Championship on Grand Lake in Grove, Okla. Shawn Gordon of Russellville, Ark., earned the TBF crown on the boater side by catching a three-day limit of 50 pounds, 2 ounces, capped by the largest limit caught today – 18 pounds, 10 ounces. Gordon earned $5,000 for his win, but more importantly, he’ll be competing against the best pros in the business in August at the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita. Gordon also won the TBF “Living The Dream” package, which includes paid entry into the 2016 Walmart FLW Tour, a travel stipend, and use of a wrapped truck and Ranger bass boat. READ MORE »

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Top 5 Patterns from Beaver Lake Day 3

Andy Morgan didn’t light up the world on day three of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac on Beaver Lake, but he caught what he needed to maintain the lead and put a 1-pound, 9-ounce cushion between he and Matt Arey. Most of the rest of the top 20 scrambled today, abandoning their patterns and trying new options to try and make the final-day cut. Here’s how the top five got it done. READ MORE »

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Beaver Lake Day 3 Coverage

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/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 »

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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 »

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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 »

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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 »

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Jig Bite Carries Holmes on Wateree

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Bryan Slows Down for Chickamauga Win

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/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 »

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Salzman Cracks 31 Pounds on Guntersville

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