March 27, 2010 by Gary Mortenson
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - It's all come down to this - one day of fishing for all the marbles. As the top-five FLW Tour pros departed Blythe Landing shortly after 7:15 a.m. against a backdrop of clear skies and decidedly chilly temps, there was only one thing on their minds: how to catch enough big bites on Lake Norman to walk away with the prestigious tournament title and a first-place check worth a staggering $125,000.
But as usual, it won't be easy. For starters, the frosty temperatures that descended upon Lake Norman over the evening almost certainly will affect the bass bite - at least during the early morning hours.
"The water temperature is going to drop," said fifth-place pro qualifier Brian Travis of Conover, N.C. "This lake is finicky this time of year. And some of those fish that were moving up (to spawn) are now going to be pushed back down. I'm definitely going to start out fishing a little deeper today. I'll be focusing on rocks and deeper brush piles."
But not only do anglers have to adapt to the changing conditions and find the rather elusive big bass bite, but they also have to worry about each other - especially day-three leader Bryan Thrift of Shelby, N.C. With Thrift putting on a veritable fishing clinic over the past three sessions, landing an incredible total catch of 45 pounds, 10 ounces, the rest of the field is going to have to mount a significant comeback in order to reel in the current leader.
It can be done. However Thrift - who holds a healthy 5-pound lead over his nearest competitor - doesn't plan on making it easy for anyone to catch him.
"I'm going to go out there and do the same thing I've been doing," said Thrift, who has been targeting docks, rocky banks and brush piles throughout the competition with a combination of 1/2-ounce jigs and shallow running crankbaits. "I'm going to start out catching a limit. Then after that I'll worry about catching a big one."
Another notable development over the course of the tournament has been the success of pros with local ties to Lake Norman. And according to Travis, this is no accident.
"The locals definitely have an advantage this week because we all know the places to go to before the spawn happens," said Travis, who is joined in the top-five by fellow North Carolina native Thrift and area resident Andy Montgomery of Blacksburg, S.C. "Bryan, Andy and I know all where to start looking for bass this time of year. The bass aren't just sitting on the beds where everyone can find them. And because there really hasn't been any sight-fishing, guys have had to search for bass in other places - and that can be a lot harder to do this time of year."
Tourney format and event logistics
After the conclusion of Saturday's weigh-in, the tournament title will be awarded to the pro who has recorded the most combined weight over all four days of FLW Tour competition.
Fans will also be treated to a Family Fun Zone & Outdoor Expo at Cabarrus Arena and Events Center on Saturday prior to the final weigh-in from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be a drawing for a Can-Am ATV, compliments of 99.7 the Fox, and rod-and-reel combos will be given to the first 300 kids under 14 in attendance on Saturday. The Family Fun Zone & Outdoor Expo includes Ranger boat simulators, the opportunity to interact with professional anglers, interactive games, activities and giveaways provided by sponsors. It also provides visitors with the opportunity to learn more about the sport of fishing and other outdoor activities. All activities are free and open to the public. For a full schedule of events, additional information and to register for the ATV, visit FLWOutdoors.com/NationalGuardOpen.
In addition to a tournament title, FLW Tour anglers also will be vying for valuable standings' points in hopes of qualifying for the 2010 Forrest Wood Cup, the world championship of bass fishing. This year's Cup will be in Atlanta Aug. 5-8 on Lake Lanier.
Coverage of the Lake Norman tournament will be broadcast in high definition (HD) on VERSUS May 2 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. ET. "FLW Outdoors," hosted by Jason Harper, is broadcast to approximately 500 million households worldwide.
FLW Tour action continues at today's weigh-in, scheduled to take place at 4 p.m. at the Cabarrus Arena and Events Center, located at 4751 Highway 49 North in Concord, N.C.
Bass-fishing fans take note
Want to watch the weigh in live but can't make it in person? Then tune into FLW Live on FLWOutdoors.com shortly before 4 p.m. Eastern Time to watch live streaming video and audio of today's opening-round weigh in.
Sunrise: 7:17 a.m.
Temperature at takeoff: 37 degrees
Expected high temperature: 61 degrees
Water temperature: 55-63 degrees
Wind: From the east-northeast at 10 mph
Maximum humidity: 47 percent
Day's outlook: Mostly sunny