Victory unexpected

Joined by his son William, Mike Ward celebrates his Stren victory on Kentucky Lake.

GILBERTSVILLE, Ky. - When Tennessee pro Mike Ward left the weigh-in stage just an ounce shy of taking the lead at the final day of Stren Central Division action on Kentucky-Barkley lakes, he probably wished one of his bass had eaten another shad. Ten minutes later, when he raised the prize check, Ward realized his fish had eaten just enough. Entering the final round in second place, Ward weighed right after David Young of Mayfield, Ky., whose 20-pound, 10-ounce limit - the day's largest - had given him the lead with 57-8. Stepping to the scale with a two-day total of 37-9, Ward needed an even 20 to take the lead. By that expectation, his 19-15 seemingly fell just a baitfish short. However, by tying Young and holding off day-two leader Tommy When cranking didnEllis, who weighed last and took fourth with 54-3, Ward earned the victory through his higher day-two ranking. Saturday marked Ward's second Stren Central win, the other having come from Kentucky Lake as well. During a tournament that saw anglers, including Young, catching quality fish on deep structure, Ward stuck with flipping the buck bushes with a Texas-rigged Strike King Rodent in the Bama Bug color. The decision, he admitted was partially by default. "Flipping isn't really my strength," Ward said. "I love to crank ledges, but I couldn't find good fish on ledges. I looked for them, but I couldn't find them, so I had to go to the bushes. Top pro Mike Ward said he chose a Strike King Rodent because of its soft composition."I threw a BangOlure about three times, I threw a spinnerbait about two, a crankbait about five casts and a Strike King Rodent probably 369 casts. I like the Rodent because it's soft, and the way the fish were eating, you could hardly feel the bites. I think they were holding on to the Rodent longer because it's soft." Ward targeted classic backwater spawning habitat with clear water. His ideal scenario was a single buck bush with a gap in the middle. Dropping his bait in a dead-stick presentation with the occasional wiggle worked best. Ward started the event with a 19-pound, 5-ounce limit that earned him ninth place on day one. He moved up seven notches to second on day two with 17-10. His 57-8 total earned him $25,000 and a Ranger boat, motor and trailer package. Deep bite delivers for second-place Young While many of his competitors pounded the buck brush, Young spent most of his time working ledgesCranking deep ledges produced the day for postspawn fish. Slinging a Norman and Lucky Craft crankbaits in chartreuse and blue, Young did not have a fish in the boat at 9:30, but day two saw his spots turn on later in the morning, so he was confident he'd fare well in the final round. "I had a good week because I got to do what I love to do," Young said, earning $10,000 for second. "I did flip some, but what I like to do is get a crankbait in my hand and go. The fish were in the bushes so good that (many anglers) were fishing the bushes. I just knew that the first waves (of postspawn bass) were coming out." Fishing his baits on 12-pound Gamma fluorocarbon line and loosening his reel tension enabled the long casts that were vital to his productivity. "That's the whole key - getting the bait out as far as you can, getting it down to the bottom and keeping it there for long periods of time." Bever scrambles, moves into third When he found his main spots muddied by recent storms, third place pro Cary Bever got it done with a crankbait. Rhinelander, Wis., pro Cary Bever was Mr. Consistency for the first two days of competition by weighing consecutive bags weighing 18-6. His day-three limit of 17-13 wasn't far from the trifecta, and it was still enough to bring him up one spot to third place with 54-9 worth $8,000. "I had to do some scrambling this morning because the lake had muddied up so bad down south," Bever said. "I ran all the way down there before I realized it wasn't going to get any flatter. I was able to put a few things together and come up with a decent sack." Throwing mostly a Lucky Craft crankbait, Bever said he kept busy with Kentucky Lake's abundant bass: "I'm going to have to get a finger transplant when I go home because I don't have any fingerprints left from all the fish I've caught. The FBI wouldn't get anything out of me." Ellis goes deep, slips to fourth For two days, Paris, Tenn., pro Tommy Ellis led his division by flipping buck brush with a Strike King After leading for two day, Tommy Ellis slipped to fourth place.Rodent in the Okeechobee Craw color. Storms during the previous day and evening had left his spots muddy, so Ellis turned to cranking. Working Strike King Series 3 crankbaits (sexy shad color) at the mouths of feeder creeks with cleaner water flowing into backwater spawning bays, he caught a limit weighing 15-11 and ended up fourth with a total of 54-3 worth $7,000. Powers pops up to fifth He loves fishing a Pop-R, but fifth place pro Craig Powers has a new fondness for cranking ledges.Early May on Kentucky Lake is Pop-R heaven for Rockwood, Tenn., pro Craig Powers, but he candidly admitted falling smitten with another local attraction. "In the first week of May, if there's a better place to fish Pop-R's, you're going to have to prove it to me. But after this week, I might have to change (that view.) I can see how everyone gets addicted to Kentucky Lake ledge fishing. My hands are torn up from catching so many bass." Powers came into day three in seventh place with 36-2. He added 17-13 in the final round for a 53-15 total worth $6,000. Best of the rest Rounding out the top 10 pro leaders at the Stren Series Central event on Kentucky-Barkley: 6th: Patrick Hailstones of Cincinnati, 50-3 7th: Ramie Colson Jr. of Cadiz, Ky., 49-8 8th: Larry Sisk of Evansville, Ind., 49-2 9th: Phil Cannady of Waverly, Tenn., 46-15 10th: Mark Rose of Marion, Ark., 46-9

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/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 »

/news/2015-04-26-beaver-lake-day-4-coverage

Beaver Lake Day 4 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Beaver Lake presented by Rayovac. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-25-morgan-maintains-his-lead

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 »

/news/2015-04-25-gordon-and-gagner-crowned-tbf-champs

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 »

/news/2015-04-25-top-5-patterns-from-beaver-lake-day-3

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 »

/news/2015-04-25-beaver-lake-day-3-coverage

Beaver Lake Day 3 Coverage

Daily updates from the Walmart FLW Tour event on Beaver Lake presented by Rayovac. READ MORE »

/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

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

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 »