Best Friend

Pro Ryan Friend of Oroville, Calif., shows off his winnnig catch en route to a first-place finish at the EverStart Series Western Division event on Lake Oroville.

OROVILLE, Calif. - Heading into the opening event of the 2013 EverStart Series Western Division season, Ryan Friend of Oroville, Calif., decided that he wanted to participate in an FLW tournament as a boater for the very first time in his career. However, despite a difficult tournament, Friend managed to shake off some rookie nerves, pull off some last-minute heroics and turn in a stellar three-day performance resulting in a total weight of 37 pounds, 5 ounces - good enough to capture the very first EverStart Series title of his career. Needless-to-say, Friend was ecstatic with the result. "This is absolutely the best win of my career," said Ryan, who netted the top prize of $33,000 as well as a brand new, fully rigged Ranger Z518 boat with 200 HP outboard engine for his efforts. "I can't really explain how I'm feeling right now. I grew up here reading about these guys and to be standing on stage and competing against them now is unbelievable. This is my first experience as a boater at an FLW event and to win it's just amazing. I really had just an awesome week." Although Friend fished extraordinarily well all week, targeting bass in 15 to 20 feet of water primarily with lighter, finesse jigs, he knew that he would need one heck of a sack in today's competition to fulfill his dream of capturing an EverStart tournament title. "It was really slow today but I pounded my spots as much as I could," he said. "I was basically targeting flats, clay banks and shallow points with boulders all week. At around 1 p.m., I had about 10 pounds in the boat, but I didn't have a big kicker fish like I had the first two days. And I knew I had to get that big bite because on this lake, if you don't get one of those, you're in real trouble." As luck would have it, fate smiled on Friend just as time nearly expired in today's contest. Pro Ryan Friend of Oroville, Calif., proudly displays his first-place trophy after winning the EverStart Series Western Division event on Lake Oroville."With about 20 minutes to go, I went back to a spot I'd fished the first two days and finally hooked into a big fish," said Friend, referring to 4-pound, 14-ounce giant. "When I finally got that fish into the boat, I couldn't believe it. It just goes to show that you can never give up. Overall, the day ended up great. Pretty much everything just went right for me today." After receiving word from the tournament director that he in fact had pulled off the win, the normally reserved California native gave a huge fist pump to the crowd and shouted, "Boom!" The relief on Friend's face was palpable. "I knew that I had really beaten up my spots," he said. "And I'm just glad I don't have to go fishing tomorrow because I'm not even sure what I'd do. This has just been an awesome week." Michels rebounds to second place After suffering through a terrible practice, Jeff Michels of Lakehead, Calif., thought he was in for a long, tough tournament. But then on the last day of practice he found a magic spot, a pea-gravel "no-nothing" bank where he struck pay dirt. From that point on, Michels was a genuine threat the win the tournament. But while he led on day one, fell to third place on day two, Michels couldn't quite muster enough fish to put him over the top in today's finals - settling for second place overall with a total catch of 33 pounds, 6 ounces. Pro Jeff Michels of Lakehead, Calif., finished the EverStart Lake Oroville tournament in second place."At the beginning of this tournament I thought I'd only be able to catch about 7 or 7 1/2 pounds a day," he said. "But then I found that spot and everything changed. Unfortunately today that spot dried up. I tried running around fishing a bunch of points but it wasn't enough. But overall, I'm pretty ecstatic because my expectations were super low coming into this tournament." Michels targeted spotted bass with a smaller 3 1/2-inch swimbait in a "pond smelt" color on 6-pound test to land nearly all of his catch. "It really is a great niche bait," he said. "The key was that it matched the hatch almost perfectly. I fished all week in about 15 to 18 feet of water. I don't think one of my fish came deeper than 23 feet. It was also very important to reel as slowly as you could because the bite was so tough." While Michels didn't walk away with the ultimate prize, he took a giant step towards one of his main goals - winning the EverStart Series Western Division Angler of the Year prize, which offers an automatic berth into the prestigious Forrest Wood Cup. "That is my main goal," said Michels, who took home more than $12,000 in winnings. "So it's definitely a good way to start the year." Leber climbs leaderboard on final day Pro Brett Leber of Dixon, Calif., finished the EverStart Lake Oroville tournament in third place.Although Brett Leber of Dixon, Calif., started the day in seventh place, his 12-pound, 3-ounce catch (the second biggest stringer of the day) vaulted him all the way into third place by the time the finals had concluded. "I feel pretty darn good," said Leber, who ultimately boated a total, three-day catch of 33 pounds. "I just stayed consistent all three days. And I'm proud of that." Leber said that he targeted secondary points to land the majority of the day's catch. "I started out fishing reaction baits in the morning but I caught most of my fish ripping and dragging a red worm," he said. "One thing is clear, this is definitely a contact sport, especially in the morning when it's 27 degrees." Overall, Leber said he had no complaints. "It was a good tournament for me," he said. "I really had a great time." For his efforts, Leber took home just over $8,200 in winnings. Breazeale nets fourth place Day-two pro leader Wayne Breazeale of Kelseyville, Calif., concluded the EverStart Lake Oroville tournament in fourth place.Day-two leader Wayne Breazeale of Kelseyville, Calif., knew heading into today's event that it was his tournament to lose. Unfortunately for Breazeale, during Saturday's finals his big-fish bite completely vanished, leaving him scrambling to piece together whatever limit he could. In the end, it wasn't enough. "This is the worst I've done all week," Breazeale lamented. `I lost a big one early and it all went downhill from there. I caught a lot of fish, but they were little. Basically, I just didn't get the right bites at all today." Breazeale said that he attacked Lake Oroville primarily fishing tubes. "I was dragging them along the bottom in anywhere from 30 to 50 feet of water," he said. "I was looking for rock and wood. Unfortunately it just didn't work out for me today as I'd hoped." Ultimately, Breazeale ended up with a three-day total catch of 32 pounds, 5 ounces. His weight was good enough to net him nearly $7,400 in winnings. Dobyns slips to fifth Pro Richard Dobyns of Yuba City, Calif., ultimately settled for a fifth-place finish at Lake Oroville.Richard Dobyns of Yuba City, Calif., had been in the title hunt all week. However, his 9-pound, 6-ounce sack in the finals dispelled any notion that he would be hoisting the trophy at the end. However, Dobyns - who had been running and gunning all week - said he was more than satisfied with the final outcome. "I really can't complain about anything," he said. "I tried to swing for the fences today but it just didn't work out. But heck, I made the top 10." Dobyns said he caught all of his fish on a combination of Senkots and tubes but just couldn't put together the weight he'd been hoping for in today's competition. "I ran around all day," said Dobyns, who ultimately recorded a total weight of 32 pounds, 3 ounces. "I probably hit 30 to 40 different spots so it was a real scramble for me out there. I got a couple of good bites on the first two days but I just couldn't get them today." Dobyns said all week that he was fishing "anything and everything," especially windblown areas of the lake that produced some of his better bites. However, although he'd hoped to bring home a title, he said that he did manage to accomplish one very important task this week. "The best part is that I beat my old man," said Dobyns, referring to his father, legendary western angler Gary Dobyns who placed 37th in this event. "I think he's beaten me the last eight tournaments in a row so it's nice to finally beat him." For his efforts, Dobyns walked away with a check for nearly $6,600, as well as the all-important family bragging rights. Best of the rest Rounding out the top-10 pro finalists: 6th: John Maes of Roseville, Calif., 31-12 7th: Cody Meyer of Auburn, Calif., 30-3 8th: Alax Parker of Oroville, Calif., 30-3 9th: Jason Borofka of Salinas, Calif., 30-1 10th: Glen Lockhart of Biggs, Calif., 28-5 EverStart Series action returns Jan. 24-26 with the Texas Division contest at Lake Amistad in Del Rio, Texas.

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/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-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-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 »

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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 »

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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 »

/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 »

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Jig Bite Carries Holmes on Wateree

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Bryan Slows Down for Chickamauga Win

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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 »

/news/2015-04-20-salzman-cracks-31-pounds-on-guntersville

Salzman Cracks 31 Pounds on Guntersville

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/news/2015-04-20-lanter-wins-on-rend-lake

Lanter Wins on Rend Lake

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/news/2015-04-19-top-10-patterns-from-lake-murray

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 »