April 23, 2010 by Brett Carlson
LENOIR CITY, Tenn. - Glenn Browne has been fishing the FLW Tour with considerable success since 2004. He's notched several top 10s, but he's never quite sealed the deal at a tour-level event. Tomorrow he'll have a prime opportunity with the smallmouth bite on the Fort Loudoun-Tellico lakes petering out.
The Ocala, Fla., native is targeting largmouths in shallow, dirty water. If he's not flipping grass, this is Browne's preferred fishing style. He found one 5-acre bay in Fort Loudoun Lake that seems to be replenishing. Browne described it as a large flat that sits in 2 to 3 feet of water.
"I just figure they're going in to spawn," he said. "I'm trying to catch them while they're coming in."
Browne isn't sight-fishing. Instead he's mainly flipping a 4-inch Gambler tube (black/neon) with a 5/16-ounce weight around downed pine trees. This morning he noticed some shad activity on a nearby riprap bank and stopped to explore.
"The shad are starting to spawn. I actually caught my first two on a spinnerbait this morning. I'm a little nervous about tomorrow. I think I'll spend a little more time on that riprap."
Browne is nervous in part because he caught only five keepers today. On day one he caught 10 keepers and yesterday he caught nearly 15. His five Friday weighed 13 pounds, 14 ounces and pushed his total weight to 47-13.
"I think my area is running out. But it only takes a few good bites. I bet three of mine today accounted for over 11 pounds. If it gets cloudy they might get looser to the cover and it might help."
Slipping one spot to second was Shelby, N.C., pro Bryan Thrift. Thrift was only able to catch one spawning smallmouth (on a Damiki Hydra) in Tellico today. He eventually switched it up and filled his limit with little largemouths before ultimately culling with a swimbait-tricked smallie. His limit weighed 10 pounds, 5 ounces - by far his lightest of the tournament. In his quest to go back to back, he'll start the final day 1 pound, 6 ounces behind Browne with 46-7.
"I'm glad to make the top five," said the Lake Norman champion. "You can't win unless you're fishing all four days."
Thrift foul-hooked a 3 1/2-pound smallmouth yesterday that he had to return to the lake. He was hoping to catch it again, but it was nowhere to be found. In fact, his entire smallmouth area was basically vacant of fish.
"I don't think I have any left so I don't know what I'm going to do tomorrow. I don't even know what lake I'm going to fish."
Much like Thrift, Grigsby had his primary smallmouth area run dry and had to switch up completely and fish for largemouths. But unlike Thrift, he worked backwards - starting on largemouths until the sun came up.
"I had one smallmouth on bed," Grigsby said. "But I couldn't see it because the big cruisers churned up the water. Where I'm fishing the bank is clay and once these big boats come by the water turns to mud. You just can't see."
All the fish Grigsby weighed were largemouths; they registered 11 pounds, 4 ounces. He caught them flipping everything from docks, to bluff walls to lay-downs. One came on a swimbait off a point. He lost a 4-pound-class largemouth on a shaky head, which he says would have changed his entire day.
"I'd be really pumped if I had that fish. That would have changed everything. I would have fished for smallmouths the rest of the day - dirty water or not."
Grigsby says blindcasting is an option, but you basically have to drag the bait across the middle of the bed for it to bite.
He'll start tomorrow 3 pounds, 8 ounces off the lead with 44-5.
Local Knoxville, Tenn., pro Brandon Coulter finished the day in fourth place after catching four bass worth 11 pounds, 12 ounces - bringing his total weight to 40 pounds, 5 ounces. Coulter is catching most of his fish on a Rebel P70 Pop-R.
"These fish are so shallow if you throw anything in there they will spook off," Coulter explained. "So I'm doing my best to quietly place the Pop-R where everyone else would pitch a jig.
"These fish are spooky because they want to go spawn but they can't because the water is so low. When they're in a foot of water they can't help but look up."
Coulter never lost any hooked fish, but as is usually the case with a topwater, he had several come up and nip at it. While the Pop-R accounted for three of his four keepers, his biggest bass came on a Quake & Shake, a ChatterBait-style lure.
"I caught that fish five minutes into the day. I thought it was going to really be good but it died in the afternoon."
Like many others, Coulter sight-fished for smallmouths early in the tournament. Being a local he's comfortable taking whatever the lake gives him.
"I welcome the weather tomorrow. It may throw some of these guys off their game."
Count Chris Baumgardner as yet another pro who played the smallmouth game early and has recently switched to targeting largemouths. After catching limits of 14-5 and 10-15 on days one and two, Baumagardner managed 12 pounds even today.
"I had to change up," said the Gastonia, N.C., pro. "I wasn't sight-fishing but those ones I caught the first two days were spawners."
Today Baumgardner flipped a tube, threw a topwater and swam a jig.
"I found a little shad spawn this morning around rock and docks. I had a real big one blow up my topwater early. It was probably 5 or 6 pounds. If you get a couple of those, you can make a move."
Day four of the FLW Tour event on the Fort Loudoun-Tellico lakes will begin Saturday at 7 a.m. at the Tellico Recreational Area Ramp.