Pickett’s winning ticket

Lloyd Pickett, Jr., of Bartlett, Tenn., claims his first Stren Series win with a wire-to-wire victory at Wheeler Lake.

DECATUR, Ala. - From the moment Lloyd Pickett Jr. laid 22 pounds, 12 ounces of bass into the scales on day one of the Stren Series Southeast event to take the early lead on Wheeler Lake, it was clear the Bartlett, Tenn., pro had dialed into something special on the TVA impoundment. While much of the field struggled to get into the 10-pound range with their limits, Pickett made catching big bass on Wheeler look easy. His tournament-opening salvo was followed by a 16-pound catch on day two to maintain his lead, and he followed that up Saturday with a 12-pound, 7-ounce limit to hold on for his first Stren Series victory. Pickett's three-day total of 51 pounds, 3 ounces gave him a wire-to-wire win on Wheeler, complete with a check for $21,336 and a brand new Ranger Boat. "I've probably led four or five of these Stren events going into the last day and then blown it, so it's quite a relief to finally win one," said Pickett, who has been competing in FLW Outdoors events since 1997. "I love fishing summer patterns when the fish are postspawn, and this lake is just full of those kinds of offshore places where fish stack up, so I was in my element this week." Simply put, Pickett's winning ticket centered on mussel beds or shell bars. The interchangeable termsLloyd Pickett, Jr., made catching big bass like these look easy by figuring out a lethal mussel-bed and shad spawn combination. are often used to describe huge piles of freshwater clams and mussels, which accumulate by the millions on the bottom of TVA lakes. The shell deposits are often located near the river channel, where the filter feeders can maximize the feed bag in current, and consequently they provide the best current-breaking cover for postspawn bass. But Pickett took his shell game one step further to isolate the bigger bass this week: He discovered a few select shell beds that featured giant gizzard shad. "Wheeler is loaded with mussel bars and a lot of them hold fish, but a vast majority of those fish are small," Pickett explained. "What I found were a few shell beds where the skipjack - or great big shad - were spawning. And wherever I would find those big 5- to 6-inch shad, there were 4- and 5-pound bass eating them up." Pickett stayed in the Decatur Flats area near the river, grinding his mussel bars with Carolina rigs, jigs and spinnerbaits. His jigs were both PJs and Strike King jigs in ¾-ounce sizes. He teamed the jigs with matching Rage-Tail trailers in green-pumpkin color. His Carolina rigs were tipped with Zoom Brush Hogs and 8-inch lizards. All were tied to Trilene 12-pound-test Big Game line. "The spinnerbait actually worked the first day when it was so cloudy and windy," Pickett said. "I could see those big skipjacks being chased by bass, so I went to a 1-ounce spinnerbait." Today a severe lack of current hurt Pickett's overall bite, but he managed to catch enough to hang on to to his first Stren Series win. Johnson second James Johnson of Hartselle, Ala., finished second with a three-day total of 45 pounds, 8 ounces.James Johnson of Hartselle, Ala., finished second with a three-day total of 45 pounds, 8 ounces worth $8,535. Johnson threatened Pickett's lead today with a final-day rally of 15 pounds, 11 ounces. But Johnson ran into battery trouble at the last minute, came in four minutes late and was docked 4 pounds for it, knocking his official day-three weight down to just 11 pounds, 11 ounces. Fortunately for Johnson, the penalty did not cost him the win. Even with the additional 4 pounds, he still would have finished runner-up. "Man, at least I can rest easy in knowing it was not the penalty that cost me the win," said a relieved Johnson when the weigh-in ended. Johnson, too, was dialed directly into the mussel-bed pattern where bigger shad were spawning near the river channel. During the week, he mostly relied on a ¾-ounce Tightline jig teamed with a Zetabait trailer. Today he added a 10-inch Berkley Power worm to his arsenal. Both were fished on 17-pound fluorocarbon line. "Today I had to let the jig and worm sit real still on those mussel beds," Johnson said. "Sometimes I'd let it sit there two minutes before I got a bite. It was a really weird bite, but I once I figured out that's the way they wanted it, I got more bites." Kendrick thirdJay Kendrick of Grant, Ala., finished third with a three-day total of 39 pounds, 10 ounces. Jay Kendrick of Grant, Ala., finished third with a three-day total of 39 pounds, 10 ounces and collected $6,828 for his efforts. Similar to the other top finishers, Kendrick fished shell beds on the main river channel in the upper end of Wheeler, where big shad were spawning. He used a homemade football-head jig teamed with a Zoom Superchunk trailer in green-pumpkin, tied to 15-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon line. "One key I found today was to let the jig sit still," Kendrick said. "I tie my own skirts with the old-style, big rubber skirt material, and that seems to make the jig flare out a little better when it's just sitting still, wavering in the current." Canterbury fourth Scott Canterbury of Springville, Ala., finished fourth with a three-day total of 38 pounds, 3 ounces. Scott Canterbury of Springville, Ala., finished fourth with a three-day total of 38 pounds, 3 ounces worth $5,974. Canterbury, too, fished some shell bars, but he also fished up shallow as well, flipping grass as well as overhanging bushes and limbs near the bank. His main weapons included a variety of jigs including a Berkley finesse jig and jigs from Dirty Jigs Tackle. His jig trailers were Berkley Chigger craws in green-pumpkin. Watts fifth Ronnie Watts of Florence, S.C., rounded out the top five pros with a three-day total of 38 pounds, 3 ounces to collect $5,121.Ronnie Watts of Florence, S.C., rounded out the top five pros with a three-day total of 38 pounds, 3 ounces. Watts fished shallow around bream beds early in the morning with a topwater toad and an Optimum Double-Diamond swimbait. In the afternoon he moved to docks to target shade with a 1/2-ounce Shooter jig. Rest of the best Rounding out the top 10 pros in the Stren Series Southeast Division event on Wheeler Lake: 6th: Robert Boyd of Russellville, Ala., three-day total, 35-15, $4,694 7th: Blake Nick of Bessemer, Ala., three-day total 35-4, $4,267 8th: Derek Hicks of Rocky Face, Ga., three-day total of 34-9, $3,841 9th: Mark Jones of Carriere, Miss., three-day total of 32-11, $3,414 10th: Clark Smith of Pell City, Ala., three-day total of 32-1, $2,987

Tags: headline-story  rob-newell 


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 »


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 »


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 »


Beaver Lake Day 3 Coverage

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


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 »


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 »


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 »


Beaver Lake Day 2 Coverage

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


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 »


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 »


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 »


Beaver Lake Day 1 Coverage

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


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 »


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 »


Jig Bite Carries Holmes on Wateree



Bryan Slows Down for Chickamauga Win



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 »


Salzman Cracks 31 Pounds on Guntersville



Lanter Wins on Rend Lake



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 »