April 12, 2014 by Curtis Niedermier
North Carolina pro Matt Arey improved his limit for the second consecutive day on Saturday with the tournament's heaviest bag - 16 pounds, 4 ounces. His three-day total of 43 pounds, 10 ounces gives him a 2-pound, 8-ounce lead over Evinrude pro Andy Morgan.
For Arey, it was all about dialing in a series of transitional areas where largemouths are setting up to spawn. You can read his full day-three story here.
Here's a rundown of how the rest of the top five made it to Sunday.
2nd place - Andy Morgan - 41 pounds, 2 ounces
Andy Morgan is known as a shallow-water, power-fishing expert, which suggests that Beaver Lake and its clear waters might not fit his strengths. However, this week, the reigning Kellogg's Angler of the Year is in his element. He's one of the best in the world at reacting to daily changes, and he's had plenty of them to deal with so far this week. Today, it took most of the competition period to really dial it in and put together a 13-pound, 3-ounce limit.
"It was kind of one of those days that drug along," Morgan said. "But I got it done at the end of the day."
Morgan is refining a pattern in the middle part of the lake, where the water is clearer than what he prefers to fish, though it's definitely not the clearest in the lake.
"It [my pattern] is vague," he said. "I can't just run up to a spot and know that this is `the juice.'"
He's made adjustments each day by working different depths in his primary areas and changing up presentations. On day one, when the wind screamed across Beaver at speeds up to 30 mph, Morgan cranked up his trolling motor and burned down the bank with reaction baits. Yesterday, he had to dial it back and really slow down with a jig and a worm, but the slowdown produced his best limit at 15 pounds, 4 ounces. Today, Morgan relied on a little of both the fast and the slow.
Looking ahead, he seemed pleased with tomorrow's forecast: 90 percent chance of rain, winds south at 20 to 30 mph and chances for thunderstorms all day.
"I was fishing slow periodically throughout the day today," Morgan said. "But if it gets stormy and nasty tomorrow, I'm going to burn it up."
3rd place - Travis Fox - 38 pounds, 9 ounces
Travis Fox is an Ozark local who's weighed in his catch each day this week in front of a boisterous crowd of family and friends. In fact, each time FLW Host Jason Harper has called Fox onto the stage, Team Fox has erupted.
Fortunately, they've had a lot to cheer about. Today, Fox brought in a day-three limit that weighed 14 pounds, 9 ounces to move to within 5 pounds, 1 ounce of the lead.
Five pounds is a major deficit on Beaver Lake, but Fox is on a largemouth pattern that can produce some absolute chunks, including one he weighed in today that he estimated was almost 6 pounds. If Arey struggles and Fox gets his bites, the gap between first and third could close quickly.
The key to finding largemouths for Fox has been to run to areas with dirty water.
"Every year I go there [in practice], and I don't really catch them," he said of his area this week. "Then every year I watch the TV show and see somebody catch them on my spots, and it makes me sick."
This year, Fox decided to stay away from the area in practice and instead search some similar water elsewhere to get a feel for the situation, then run the lake's clearer lower end to see if he could scrape up a deep bite. The deep bite never materialized, and on day one, Fox ran to the stain and started fishing water he hadn't touched in practice.
"I was just hoping this warmer weather would bring them to me," Fox said. "I'm definitely seeing new fish."
Fox is using a combination of fast- and slow-moving presentations and has miles of water that he could still fish tomorrow. His biggest hurdle is the number of bites he's getting. Fox caught six keepers on day one, five on day two and five today. He's got to have all five keepers tomorrow to make a run at Arey.
4th place - David Dudley - 38 pounds, 5 ounces
Castrol pro David Dudley has tasted victory at Beaver Lake before. This year, his success hinges on his ability to straight up out-fish his peers with the same techniques many of them have been using.
"If I'm in the wind, I'm throwing a crankbait," Dudley said. "If it's calm, I'm throwing a shaky head. It's no secret. Wiggle Wart, jerkbait and crankbait - ask 180 fishermen here, and they're all doing the same thing.
"The key here is being able to adjust," he continued. "As long as you can do that, you can stay near the top."
Dudley elected to stay in one area of the lake and target bass that are transitioning up to shallower areas. He's seen the water temperature rise 5 or 6 degrees since the start of competition. Today, the area produced a 12-pound, 11-ounce limit for Dudley.
"They're just biting up there," he said. "They're feeding and getting ready to spawn. The promising thing is it seems like they're still moving up."
5th place - Micah Frazier - 38 pounds, 3 ounces
Yesterday, Georgia pro Micah Frazier revealed that he's relied on one key lure to catch all his fish this week. Today, he stuck to his guns and caught an 11-pound, 14-ounce limit.
"I caught every one on it," he said. "It's a finesse bait. It's something that's worked here in the past."
Frazier has been targeting staging areas that are shallow but have deep water all around them. Today, however, he didn't catch his fish in the same area where he's been getting the bulk of his bag this week. The forced changeup has Frazier a bit uncertain about how he'll handle the final day of competition.
"I'll start with the same rotation," he said. "I've got one really good place that has potential, and if they pull up, it should be pretty good."
Rest of the best 6th place - Cody Meyer - 38 pounds, 2 ounces 7th place - Scott Martin - 37 pounds, 8 ounces 8th place - Troy Morrow - 37 pounds, 5 ounces 9th place - Casey Ashley - 37 pounds, 2 ounces 10th place - Mark Rose - 36 pounds, 4 ounces Full Results For the full results, click here.