April 13, 2014 by Curtis Niedermier
ROGERS, Ark. - Prior to this week, if you tried to define the current status of Beaver Lake's largemouth bass spawn and the career of Shelby, N.C., pro Matt Arey, you needed only one phrase: close, but not quite there.
After today's weigh-in at the John Q. Hammons center in Rogers, Ark., Arey proved that both he and the bass have arrived in a big way.
At previous stops on Beaver Lake, Arey has logged two top-10 finishes, but he was never able to close the deal until now. In four days, Arey hauled in a total of 59 pounds, 3 ounces of Beaver Lake bass to win the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac and hosted by Visit Rogers.
While other pros went looking for bass stuck in those in-between transitional areas, Arey refined a perfect shallow, stained-water pattern that allowed Beaver's prespawn and early spawning bass to come to him. Then he made the gutsy call to commit to that pattern all week despite four consecutive days of shifting weather patterns. His steadfastness earned him his first Walmart FLW Tour title as a professional and one more piece of hardware to display next to his 2006 Forrest Wood Cup co-angler trophy.
"This is what I've dreamed of since I was a kid," Arey said as he choked back tears on the weigh-in stage. "I really didn't think I had near as much as I had. I thought I might have 13 pounds, and that's what the on-the-water crew thought. I thought I might have 14 at most. But it all came together. When it's your time, it's your time."
Arey's final-day limit weighed 15 pounds, 9 ounces. He finished less than 2 pounds ahead of reigning Kellogg's Angler of the Year Andy Morgan and survived a final-day slugfest in which three anglers in the top-10 field weighed more than 16 pounds each, matching the total number of 16-pound limits weighed in the first three days combined.
Most of the pros that made it into the weekend committed to "fishing the conditions" - altering their approach to match the wind, light and water temperature encountered each day.
Not Arey. He was dialed in perfectly.
"I was looking for something that was going to be consistent no matter the weather," Arey said. "I knew the clear-water guys would struggle when the weather changed. I looked for places where big female largemouths would be moving up to stage or even pulling up to spawn."
Arey found consistency on transitional areas near the backs of spawning pockets. He found bass staging on underwater rock shelves formed where small bluffs transitioned to a flatter bottom. On the final two days, Arey believes four or five of his keepers were actually spawning on the shelves.
All of his fish were caught by hopping a 1/2- or 3/8-ounce green pumpkin ball-head jig rigged with a Wackem Crazy Baits twin-tail trailer through the rocks. The "clicking" sound created by the jig tapping the rocks was the perfect attraction to get those dirty-water bass to bite.
"Those fish were really, really dialed in on crawfish," Arey added. "I had crawfish pinchers all over my boat. I've never been on a good jig bite here, but my best bait was that little ball-head jig.
"What I always try to do during practice is adjust my cadence to see what the fish want," Arey added. "So many people get caught up just dragging a jig or swimming it. I tried different cadences, and that [hopping retrieve] was the one. About 80 percent of my bites were on the fall. The others were there when I picked up on it after the cast."
Pros at Beaver really had three choices for what type of water to fish: clear, dirty and in-between. Arey gravitated toward dirty to in-between water, focusing on the Prairie Creek community hole and the first four miles of the White River upstream from the Highway 12 bridge - what most pros consider to be the dividing point between lake and river.
Just going there was a gamble.
"That river is notorious for producing 40 to 50 largemouths one day and 10 of them being keepers, then only catching one keeper the next day," Arey said. "I've seen people get burned there so many times."
For Arey, it was worth the risk. The river is where some of Beaver's biggest largemouths live, and it's not as reliant on wind to activate the bite.
In practice, he scouted areas in the river that are similar to where he caught the winning fish, but spent the first day of the tournament applying what he learned to new water. Each day, he continued to refine, to the point that he improved his limit on days two and three.
Today, the plan all came together. The fish show up with the same regularity as they displayed all week. It was a consistent pattern for a consistent pro who has is now a Walmart FLW Tour champion.
To see the patterns of the top 10 pros at Beaver Lake, click here.
Rest of the best
2nd place - Andy Morgan - 57 pounds, 10 ounces
3rd place - David Dudley - 54 pounds, 14 ounces
4th place - Travis Fox - 54 pounds, 8 ounces
5th place - Casey Ashley - 53 pounds, 2 ounces
6th place - Micah Frazier - 52 pounds, 7 ounces
7th place - Troy Morrow - 52 pounds, 0 ounces
8th place - Scott Martin - 48 pounds, 14 ounces
9th place - Cody Meyer - 48 pounds, 13 ounces
10th place - Mark Rose - 46 pounds, 11 ounces
For the full results, click here.