April 10, 2014 by Colin Moore
ROGERS, Ark. - A difference of five degrees in water temperature might not seem like much, but at Beaver Lake in April, it often spells the difference between fishing success and failure. And that, in turn, is cause for concern among the 173 pros and their co-angler partners competing in the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac that got underway this morning. The weather forecast calls for sunny skies, a high of 75 degrees and a southwest wind between 10 to 15 mph, with gusts up to 25 mph. Usually by this time of year Beaver Lake bass are beginning to spawn or are moving toward the banks in preparation for the bedding season. That's when the water temperature is hovering in the high 50s or low 60s and fish are more predictable as far as where they'll be. A cooler-than-usual spring this year has put the fish back by a week or so, however. The water temperature ranges between 50 and 55 degrees, and consequently the pros expecting some sort of shallow bite with the usual mix of soft plastics are hedging their bets. Some bank-cruisers will likely be there, but many contestants will also have jerkbaits, crankbaits, drop-shots and jigs rigged up and ready on the casting deck for transitioning fish that are staging in deeper water off main-lake points and along feeder creek drop-offs. Patterns will emerge by Saturday's cut, but right now it's anybody's guess what they might be. Today's opening-round weigh-in will begin at 3 p.m. at Prairie Creek Park. "The fishing is pretty tough overall," says Arkansas pro Rob Kilby. "In practice I caught a number of fish a lot of different ways. If I can do that during the tournament, I'll be all right, but when there's a tournament on this lake, you wind up fishing behind people and that can hurt you if you're all doing the same thing." At Sam Rayburn Reservoir a couple of weeks ago, Z-Man Original ChatterBaits and a variety of soft plastics dominated the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Chevy that was won by Bryant Thrift. This time around, dock talk hasn't indicated what sorts of lures are likely to produce good bags of the largemouths, smallmouths and spotted bass that share the lake. "I had a pretty decent practice on jerkbaits, and where I'm fishing there's a lot of largemouths. Still, I believe things are going to change big time between practice and the tournament," notes Tour rookie Troy Gibson of Eufaula, Ala. "I think the jerkbait bite will hold up where I'm at, but to catch fish it will be more `fast snap' to the presentation than `slow drag,' which is the way it was for me in practice." Florida pro Scott Martin, who also experienced a "decent" practice, says he threw 13 years of Beaver Lake experience out the window and fished what was for him new water. "I didn't upload any old waypoints," notes Martin. "I went to new areas and started from scratch. From what I found, I think flipping, casting jigs and drop-shotting are going to be some of your big players this week." Defending Angler of the Year Andy Morgan echoes that the fishing, like the bass, is in a state of flux as the weather and the water continue to warm. The weekend likely will see the best stringers of fish. The trick is to make it into Saturday's semifinal round. "Starting out it's going to be like the old Beaver Lake where you appreciate every 2-pounder you can get in the boat," reflects the Dayton, Tenn., pro. "The fishing is really random, and fish are anywhere from 4 to 40 feet deep. It will get better. Warm and windy is a pretty good recipe for a clear Ozark lake." Thursday's conditions Sunrise: 6:50 a.m. Temperature at takeoff: 57 degrees Expected high temperature: 75 degrees Water temperature: low to mid-50s Wind: SSW up to 22 mph Day's outlook: Warm, partly cloudy and breezy, with only a slight chance of rain Extended forecast: Highs in the mid- to upper 70s with partly cloudy skies through Saturday, with a chance for morning showers Friday; cooler with an 80 percent chance of rain and the possibility of severe thunderstorms Sunday Moon phase: two days after a first-quarter moon Competition format In Walmart 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 For those who can't catch the weigh-in action in person, FLWOutdoors.com offers FLW Live, an online application that brings fans real-time weigh-in results, streaming video and audio. In addition to FLW Live, FLWOutdoors.com offers real-time updates from the water. Simply click on the tournament ID within the "On the Water" banner at the top of the FLW or Walmart FLW Tour home pages. Walmart FLW Tour event information Takeoff Location: Prairie Creek Park, 9300 North Park Road, Rogers, Ark. Time: 7 a.m. Weigh-in Thursday and Friday location: Prairie Creek Park, 9300 North Park Road, Rogers, Ark. Time: 3 p.m. Thursday and Friday Saturday and Sunday location: John Q. Hammons Center, 3303 Pinnacle Hills Parkway, Rogers, Ark. Time: 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday FLW Expo Date: Saturday and Sunday, April 12-13 Location: John Q. Hammons Center, 3303 Pinnacle Hills Parkway, Rogers, Ark. Time: noon to 4 p.m. Admission: FREE Free Concert: See country star Rodney Atkins live in concert Sunday at 3 p.m. Admission is free. Activities: Fans are welcome to join FLW for the FLW Expo at the John Q. Hammons Center in Rogers. Come meet Walmart FLW Tour pros, who'll be on hand signing autographs. Families can enjoy interactive games, explore the Walmart Kids Zone, receive free samples, drive a Ranger Boat simulator and have a chance to win a $500 Walmart gift card.