April 11, 2014 by Curtis Niedermier
ROGERS, Ark. - It's Beaver Lake Marathon Week on the Walmart FLW Tour, and the angler at the front of the pack is Arkansas pro Spencer Shuffield.
The 24-year-old Shuffield (son of veteran pro Ron Shuffield) brought in a day-two limit that weighed 13 pounds, 11 ounces today to boost his two-day total to 29 pounds. He goes into the weekend with only a 1-pound, 1-ounce lead over Andy Morgan, though it seems like Shuffield is hitting the right stride to take home his first Tour title at this event, which is presented by Rayovac and hosted by Visit Rogers.
The key to Shuffield's success thus far has been a prespawn pattern that looks like it can produce no matter what conditions Mother Nature throws at the field this week, assuming Shuffield can make the minor adjustments necessary each day to continue catching limits that break into the "teens." That's what he managed to do today.
"Today when it was tough I moved around a lot more," Shuffield said. "I was covering more water."
The wind - actually, an unwelcomed lack of wind - is what made for the tougher bite throughout the field compared to yesterday, when gusts up to 30 mph had the lake's bass chomping. Today, most of the pros in the top 20, including Shuffield, did their damage early in the morning when they benefitted from overcast skies and a slight breeze that didn't last long.
"I caught them quick this morning," Shuffield said. "I knew I was going to have to. Today I hit good stuff, but I can't tell you the number of 2 1/2- to 3-pounders I saw that just wouldn't eat. They didn't have that wind to break up the surface and get them to commit. The wind is what made a big difference."
Shuffield's fish are relating to transitional banks, though they're out off the banks in deeper water. Within those areas, he's identified a particular type of rocky bank that produces best and has caught all of his fish on just two lures - he's not revealing them just yet. Today, Shuffield didn't weigh a single smallmouth. Brown bass have been an important part of his game plan since practice began. The fact that he still brought in a strong bag shows the potential of the schools he's located. He believes they'll stay put all weekend, and if he's right and the conditions get right to activate the fish, he'll be tough to beat.
One potential change-up the young pro might have to navigate is a movement of bass to the banks. He says he's seen the water temperature climb in his primary areas. If it continues, his fish won't necessarily leave, but someone else at the top of the field could be in the right place to capitalize and jump up the leaderboard.
The forecast for the weekend calls for more wind and the potential for storms. If the forecast is right and the gin-clear water of Beaver Lake gets broken up with a solid chop, plus a front slides in, Shuffield believes his pattern should turn back on for the next two days.
"It should get better," he said. "It should be game on."
You can read a full recap of the top five anglers at Beaver Lake here.
Rest of the best
2nd place - Andy Morgan - 27 pounds, 15 ounces
3rd place - Matt Arey - 27 pounds, 6 ounces
4th place - Troy Morrow - 26 pounds, 10 ounces
5th place - Micah Frazier - 26 pounds, 5 ounces
6th place - Cody Meyer - 26 pounds, 1 ounce
7th place - Casey Ashley - 25 pounds, 13 ounces
8th place - Bryan Thrift - 25 pounds, 12 ounces
9th place - David Dudley - 25 pounds, 10 ounces
10th place - Mark Rose - 24 pounds, 14 ounces
For the full results, click here.
"New" leader in the co-angler division
North Carolina co-angler Bryan New was one of the last co-anglers to weigh in on Friday, but he was saving the heaviest co-angler bag of the tournament thus far - a 12-pound, 10-ounce limit - to show off to the Rogers, Ark. crowd. He now has a 1-pound, 6-ounce lead over second-place co-angler Braxton Setzer going into the final day of co-angler competition.
"It was just my day," said New, who fished with pro Andrew Upshaw. "Andrew would catch one, and it would just be a keeper. I would catch one, and it would be a 2 1/2-pounder."
Three lures duped fish for New today, though his two primary lures are both made by Charlie's Worms. He had most of his fish by 10 a.m. but was able to pick up one final keeper to cull up by a half-pound just 30 minutes before weigh-in. A slight breeze in the morning and again at the very end of the day were credited for his catch.
What's at stake this week
Pros are competing for a top award of up to $125,000 this week plus valuable points in the hope of qualifying for the 2014 Forrest Wood Cup presented by Walmart, the world championship of bass fishing. The top 35 anglers in the point standings from the six events on the 2014 Walmart FLW Tour will qualify. The 2014 Forrest Wood Cup will be in Columbia, S.C., Aug. 14-17 on Lake Murray and is hosted by Capital City Lake Murray Country. Anglers could win as much as $500,000 - professional bass-fishing's richest prize.
Big Bass Award
Pro: Shawn Murphy - 5 pounds, 15 ounces
Co-angler: Nick Loeffelman Jr. - 4 pounds, 15 ounces
Walmart FLW Tour event information
Location: Prairie Creek Park, 9300 North Park Road, Rogers, Ark.
Time: 7 a.m.
Saturday and Sunday: John Q. Hammons Center, 3303 Pinnacle Hills Parkway, Rogers, Ark.
Time: 4 p.m.
Date: Saturday and Sunday, April 12-13
Location: John Q. Hammons Center, 3303 Pinnacle Hills Parkway, Rogers, Ark.
Time: noon to 4 p.m.
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.