Rose still leads, morning bite key

A pair of key morning kickers, including this 5-pounder, helped Mark Rose extend his lead another day.

LUFKIN, Texas - Falling weights and high pressure - both the atmospheric kind and the psychological kind - told the story of day three of the Walmart FLW Tour event at Sam Rayburn Reservoir presented by Chevy. In the wake of a severe Friday-night thunderstorm that knocked out power and uprooted dozens of east Texas pines, pros took to "Old Man Sam" amid a high-pressure system and high, bluebird skies. Walmart pro Mark Rose maintains his lead going into the fourth and final day, but for the second consecutive day, he failed to match his previous day's weight. Rose opened the event with 23 pounds, 14 ounces on a blustery, overcast day that provided the perfect conditions to activate the bass on his primary offshore spot. On day two, bolstered by a 9-pound giant, Rose weighed 19 pounds, 2 ounces. Today, he fell off to 16 pounds, 1 ounce and leads by less than 3 pounds over Chevy pro Bryan Thrift. The key all week for the West Memphis, Ark., pro has been the early morning period, which has produced all of his big bites. "Every day I have caught one or two big ones," Rose told the weigh-in crowd at the Lufkin, Texas, Walmart. "It's hard to win a tournament based on a spot where I'm only getting one or two big bites. I've just been so blessed in the mornings to have enough wind and clouds to get those fish." Mark Rose carries the lead to the final day of competition on Sam Rayburn Reservoir. Sunny, calm conditions tend to push the fish deeper into Rayburn's grass, according to Rose, which makes them more difficult for him to catch. Today, Rose got the strong winds he wanted for most of the competition period, but the sunshine settled over Sam Rayburn by about 10 a.m., making it difficult for most of the top-20 pros. Only one pro, Jayme Rampey of Liberty, S.C., caught a 20-pound limit, and surprisingly there was a lack of 5- to 7-pound kickers hauled in at a lake known for producing giant bass, at a time of year when fat female largemouths should be mobbing the bank. Rose caught a 4- and 5-pounder on his best spot this morning then scrambled to fill his limit by running the same pattern on a few places closer to the Cassels-Boykin County Park launch site. He used the same bottom-dragging soft plastics, crankbait and Strike King Red Eye Shad he used on day two when he took over the lead, but today Rose also added a drop-shot to the mix. The scary part for the two-time Walmart FLW Tour champion is that if his morning bite was to shut down on Sunday, he doesn't have a lot of confidence that his afternoon bite can keep him in contention. It'll also be a shorter morning for Rose. The top-10 anglers will launch at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, instead of 7 a.m., as they have the last three days, which could push Rose's morning window a little closer to being closed by the time he arrives. Pros will check in at 2:45. "I feel like I'm wasting five hours," Rose said about the later hours of the tournament. "I need to sit down and do some thinking tonight because if that morning bite doesn't hold up, I might not catch them. "I would love to have a lot of time to solve the problem," he added, "but we have a short day tomorrow." Rose believes the fish in his area could be moving toward the bank, as most pros suggest is happening across the lake. But that's not a pattern Rose is confident in this week. "I feel like I'm doing what everybody else is doing [when I fish shallow]," he said. "It's hard to beat the best shallow-water fishermen in the business. I've spent the last several years of my career learning the offshore game, and I'm not going to go back to fishing shallow against these guys." If anyone on Tour can pull out an offshore win in a late-spring, spawning-season tournament, it's got to be Rose. He's as dangerous as they come when fishing cover and structure that can only be "seen" on a depth-finder. But if the trend from days one, two and three holds up, this one could be settled before lunch on Sunday. The rest of the best 2nd place - Bryan Thrift - 56-03 Rumors swirling among the outdoor media covering the tournament this afternoon were that Chevy pro Bryan Thrift was probable to take over as day-three front man. Only he disagreed. "It wasn't a great day," Thrift told reporters before he ever even pulled out the limit of Rayburn bass stowed calmly in his Ranger's livewell. "I went back there [to where I fished the first two days] today. I had a lot of bites today, but they were all small. I'm hoping it's just the males moving up and the big females are right behind them." Thrift's area has seen a roller coaster of water temperature fluctuation, but it's on its way back up. When asked if he was hoping the warmer water would finally convince the bass to lock on beds for Sunday's competition, he smiled and replied, "That would be nice. I'm waiting on them." Dense stands of backwater cover separate Thrift's water from the main lake and protect it from the wind and most of the wild weather that other pros have had to deal with this week. The toughest challenge for the former Angler of the Year has been avoiding the boredom that comes with the slow-fishing presentation he's used to catch almost all of his limit fish thus far. Today, Thrift did wheel and deal with a Z-Man Original ChatterBait for about one and a half hours before reverting back to the slower presentations. The only other change in Thrift's program was a stop at a secondary area that he'd been saving, which produced a keeper for both he and his co-angler. Tomorrow, Thrift has a 2-pound, 14-ounce deficit to overcome if he wants to sew up his first Tour victory since 2011 at Beaver Lake. But whatever happens tomorrow, this tournament has already been a win for the North Carolina pro. "I'm not worried about it because this is the first top 10 I've made all year, and I'm thrilled to be here," he said. "This is the first event I've fished with a shred of confidence, and I'm just going to go have fun." 3rd place - Steve Kennedy - 55-08 Auburn, Ala., pro Steve Kennedy backed up an impressive 21-pound, 12-ounce day-two limit today with 14 pounds, 14 ounces for what he called a "fair day" considering the conditions. "It was post-frontal with bluebird skies," Kennedy said. "That's the worst conditions. I wasn't expecting a whole lot this morning. I thought they might bite a little early, but at 9:30 I had none." Kennedy reverted back to part of his day-one program and stashed the moving baits in favor of weighted soft plastics. His best move was to fish and re-fish a couple of key clusters of cypress trees - his "money trees." On his first two spots this morning, the trees failed to produce any keepers on the first pass, but the second time around they combined to give up three keepers. "The wind was blowing so hard that it was hard to do what I'm doing," Kennedy said. "These fronts have killed me in three events this year. To actually catch them today feels good." Kennedy hinted that it might be time to find some new water if he wants to make a final-day charge at Rose. He's been hoping for a stronger push of spawners to the banks, but it just hasn't happened. "I'm really surprised," he said. "We've been here three or four days, and we haven't had another group come up. The water temperature is in the 60s, and they should be shallow. I haven't seen one on bed since we've been here. "It's hard to catch fish you already caught," Kennedy added, indicating that he's not sure how well his areas can continue to replenish. "I need to get away from it. I really do. I found a new area yesterday, and fishing those cypress trees, I've got a pretty good pattern. Today I went practicing and found a spot where I caught five or six keepers in 15 minutes. I need to get on something like Google Earth and see if I can find similar stuff. That was a cool area." 4th place - Greg Hackney - 53-04 Former Forrest Wood Cup champion Greg Hackney moved a couple of spots up the standings today with a strong 16-pound, 9-ounce limit. "I thought it was a lot tougher today," Hackney said. "I'm really satisfied." Like Thrift, Hackney is working a shallow-water area by thoroughly fishing any cover available, but his pattern has been with moving presentations. "I'm trying to target one specific type of vegetation, but occasionally I'll make a cast out away from it and they'll come off nothing. I just think they're everywhere. The water's coming up, but a lot of those fish that were already up didn't come with it." Hackney believes the bass have nearly finished their spawn in Rayburn. He visited the lake prior to the off-limits period that precedes official practice and witnessed bass on beds up and down the banks. Most of his bass this week have been a few remaining spawners or postspawn fish. "I've just got to keep finding the right ones," he added. "I have three different areas, but I've not fished the same thing any day." 5th place - Jayme Rampey - 53-01 Walmart FLW Tour rookie Jayme Rampey made the biggest move today with a 20-pound limit that vaulted him from 12th place to fifth. He's only 3 pounds, 2 ounces off Rose's pace. According to Rampey, his program is based entirely on speed and covering water. "I haven't fished the same spot twice," said Rampey, who's averaging seven to 10 bites a day. "I'm just `running it.'" A single "moving bait" has produced for Rampey this week, and he promised to identify it on stage at the final weigh-in Sunday. He's using it to fish 10 to 15 spots each day within a 10-mile-long area. Tomorrow, he plans to re-fish one key spot where he caught some fish today, though he'll likely spend most of the day running and gunning for both prespawn and postspawn transitioning fish in shallow, "off-the-bank" areas. "They're going both ways, and I'm catching them going both ways," Rampey said. "I might catch them; I might not." Full results For the complete results visit Results. Competition format In FLW Tour competition, pros and co-anglers are randomly paired each day, with pros supplying the boat, controlling boat movement and competing against other pros. Co-anglers fish from the back deck against other co-anglers. The full field competes in the two-day opening round. After day two the field is pared to the top 20 pros and co-anglers. The co-angler competition concludes at Saturday's weigh-in, and the top-10 pros continue competition Sunday, with the winner determined by the heaviest accumulated weight from all four days. For more coverage On-the-water video from each finalist's boat will not be available during this event due to a lack of cellular data coverage on Sam Rayburn Reservoir. Tune in to Tour Insider for hourly live updates starting at noon daily and FLW Live during weigh-ins starting at 4 p.m. daily. On-the-water video will return for the FLW Tour Razorback Rumble on Beaver Lake April 10-13. Walmart FLW Tour event information Takeoff Location: Cassels-Boykin County Park, FM Road 3123 (off State Hwy 147), Zavalla, Texas Time: 7 a.m. Thursday-Saturday; 7:30 a.m. Sunday Weigh-in Days 1 and 2: 3 p.m.; Cassels-Boykin County Park, FM Road 3123 (off State Hwy 147), Zavalla, Texas Days 3 and 4: 4 p.m.; Lufkin Walmart, 2500 Daniel McCall Drive, Lufkin, Texas FLW Expo Date: Saturday, March 29 and Sunday, March 30 Location: Lufkin Walmart, 2500 Daniel McCall Drive, Lufkin, Texas Time: noon-4 p.m. Admission: FREE Free Concert: See Michael Ray perform live Sunday, March 30 at 3 p.m. Activities: Fans are welcome to join FLW for the FLW Expo at the Lufkin Walmart. Come meet Walmart FLW Tour pros, who'll be on hand signing autographs. Families can enjoy interactive games, receive free samples, drive a Ranger Boat simulator and have a chance to win a $250 Walmart gift card.

Tags: headline-story 

/news/2015-03-29-lefebre-lands-on-top

Lefebre Lands on Top

He left the dock this morning in 7th place, eight and a half pounds off the lead. And when he returned this afternoon, Dave Lefebre shocked the weigh-in crowd with a come-from-behind Walmart FLW Tour win that left his competitors shell-shocked. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-29-lewis-smith-lake-day-4-coverage

Lewis Smith Lake Day 4 Coverage

Day 4 reports from the Walmart FLW Tour on Lewis Smith Lake READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-28-birge-buzzes-ahead

Birge Buzzes Ahead

Today started off with a slightly miserable 31-degree air temperature, but it didn’t take long for the top 20 pros to really heat up on Lewis Smith Lake at the second stop of the 2015 Walmart FLW Tour presented by Evinrude. Reports poured in throughout the day of big bass – especially big largemouths – being caught off beds. It looked at first as if one of the “largemouth lookers” might piece together a big enough bag to snatch the lead away from Oklahoma rookie Zack Birge, who struggled early to make his shallow topwater pattern work. Unfortunately for the rest of the field, the young gun Birge has the coolness and patience of a veteran, and he stuck with his game plan of throwing a buzzbait and soft jerkbait rig until the sun had time to warm the shallows and spur the fish to become more active. Birge tallied 17 pounds, 11 ounces today, raising his three-day total to 54-8 and giving him a lead of 3-11 over Texas veteran Clark Wendlandt in second place. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-28-top-5-patterns-from-lewis-smith-day-3

Top 5 Patterns from Lewis Smith Day 3

After three days, it looks as if tournament leader Zack Birge has the quality largemouth bite in the bushes wired. But behind him on the leaderboard are nine pros doing everything from sight-fishing to catching schooling bass and everything in between. Even with all the patterns in play, few have fizzled. The sight-fishers have reported finding new bedders, the schoolers are still schooling and a couple of guys have even started tapping floating docks. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-28-lewis-smith-lake-day-3-coverage

Lewis Smith Lake Day 3 Coverage

Day 3 reports from the Walmart FLW Tour on Lewis Smith Lake READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-27-topwater-takes-birge-to-the-top

Topwater Takes Birge to the Top

On a day when chilly, windy post-front conditions challenged many Walmart FLW Tour anglers who were relying on sight-fishing for spawning bass, Zack Birge bucked the trend and pulled out a pair of topwaters to haul in 17 pounds, 14 ounces. Birge jumped from third place past day-one leader Drew Benton to take over the top spot on Lewis Smith Lake in the event, which is presented by Evinrude. Birge’s two-day total of 36-13 has him positioned 1 pound ahead of Benton. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-27-top-5-patterns-from-lewis-smith-day-2

Top 5 Patterns from Lewis Smith Day 2

While air and water temperatures plummeted on day two of the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lewis Smith Lake presented by Evinrude, the big surprise came in the stability of the fishing patterns amidst such change. Zack Birge found plenty of production on his primary pattern to send him to the top of the leaderboard, and those under him held true to their patterns as well to secure a ticket to day three’s top 20. Among the biggest surprises was the number of pros who were still able to pluck fish off beds. Most pros that were sight-fishing say the bass are committed to beds and that the cold snap will not run them off at this point in time. Despite the cold, some even found new fish on beds that were not there yesterday. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-27-lewis-smith-lake-day-2-coverage

Lewis Smith Lake Day 2 Coverage

Day 2 reports from the Walmart FLW Tour on Lewis Smith Lake READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-26-benton-blasts-20-12-on-lewis-smith

Benton Blasts 20-12 on Lewis Smith

Panama City, Fla., pro Drew Benton jumped into the early lead at the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lewis Smith Lake presented by Evinrude with a five-bass limit weighing 20 pounds, 12 ounces. Benton caught a mix of largemouths and spotted bass, and revealed that both black bass species are spawning. He leads a tight top 20 that includes 18 pros that caught more than 15 pounds each. The first day was an absolute fish-fest. Of the 154 pros fishing this tournament, 138 weighed limits. Brad Roberts of Faubush, Ky., has a 2-ounce lead in the co-angler division with a 13-pound, 4-ounce limit. Tomorrow he’ll try to defend his lead on the final day of co-angler competition. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-26-top-5-patterns-from-lewis-smith-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from Lewis Smith Day 1

While Drew Benton was busy bugging bedding fish for his day-one tournament lead, several others behind him were scoring big with other fishing options on Lewis Smith Lake. Sight-fishing also played a role in the top limits produce by Tracy Adams, Scott Martin and Ish Monroe, but Clayton Batts and Zack Birge both brought in big bags with other patterns. Click here to read about Benton’s day-one performance at the second Walmart FLW Tour event of 2015, which is presented by Evinrude. Here’s how the rest of the top five got it done. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-26-lewis-smith-lake-day-1-coverage

Lewis Smith Lake Day 1 Coverage

Day 1 reports from the Walmart FLW Tour on Lewis Smith Lake READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-22-arkansas-anglers-win-college-open

Arkansas Anglers Win College Open

Consistency was the key for the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville here in the FLW College Fishing Kentucky Lake Open as Zachary Pickle and Drew Porto won the event with a two-day total of 43 pounds, 12 ounces. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-21-kendrick-king-on-guntersville

Kendrick King On Guntersville

Kendrick, who is fishing the Rayovac FLW Series in hopes of qualifying for the FLW Tour, caught more than 25 pounds each day of the event and finihsid in fine fasion when it counted. Kendick was catching nearly all of his bass around big schools of bait with a Houdini pearl-colored Scottsboro Tackle swimbait from 15- to 25-feet of water. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-21-epting-s-30-pounds-tops-on-santee-cooper

Epting's 30 Pounds Tops on Santee Cooper

SUMMERTON, S.C. – Chris Epting of Chapin, South Carolina, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 30 pounds, 2 ounces Saturday to win the second Walmart Bass Fishing League South Carolina Division tournament of 2015 on Santee Cooper. For his victory, Epting earned $3,679. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-21-wood-rock-key-for-middleton-s-victory

Wood, Rock Key for Middleton's Victory

HUDDLESTON, Va. – Dennis Middleton of Madison Heights, Virginia, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 19 pounds, 11 ounces Saturday to win the first Walmart Bass Fishing League Shenandoah Division tournament of 2015 on Smith Mountain Lake. For his victory, Middleton earned $7,199. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-21-johnson-wins-on-dale-hollow

Johnson Wins on Dale Hollow

BYRDSTOWN, Tenn. – Robby Johnson of Byrdstown, Tennessee, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 22 pounds, 7 ounces Saturday to win the first Walmart Bass Fishing League Mountain Division tournament of 2015 on Dale Hollow Lake. For his victory, Johnson earned $5,689. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-21-griffin-gets-win-on-ross-barnett

Griffin Gets Win on Ross Barnett

BRANDON, Miss. – Jason Griffin of Benton, Mississippi, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 23 pounds, 2 ounces Saturday to win the first Walmart Bass Fishing League Mississippi Division tournament of 2015 on Ross Barnett Reservoir. For his victory, Griffin earned $5,349. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-20-top-5-patterns-from-guntersville-day-2

Top 5 Patterns from Guntersville Day 2

The second day of the Rayovac FLW Series Southeast Division tournament on Lake Guntersville proved as remarkable as the first – or perhaps better, considering today’s parade of big fish included a 12-pound, 10-ounce behemoth caught by fourth-place pro Trevor Fitzgerald for the day’s Big Bass prize. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-20-hall-holds-steady-for-lead

Hall Holds Steady For Lead

Joe Hall of Lake City, Minn. wasn’t confident about his chances going onto the second day of competition of the Rayovac FLW Series Southeast Division event on Lake Guntersville. Nonetheless, he held steady with a 27-pound, 5-ounce catch that only barely fell short of the 28-1 he weighed on the first day. With a two-day total of 55 pounds, 6 ounces, Hall holds a 1-pound, 12-ounce lead over Cameron Gautney going into the final day of the Mercury presented tournament. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-20-missouri-anglers-lead-college-open

Missouri Anglers Lead College Open

Andrew Nordbye and Adam Almohtadi of Northwest Missouri State University of Maryville, Mo., took the lead in the opening round of the FLW College Fishing Open on Kentucky Lake with 25 pounds, 2 ounces. Heading into Saturday’s second and final round, the University of Kentucky’s Ryan Collins and Hunter Fulcher sit in second place with 22-14, while Ethan Flack and Konnor Kennedy of the University of Alabama are currently third with 22-9. Details to follow. READ MORE »