April 13, 2014 by Curtis Niedermier
ROGERS, Ark. - All week long, North Carolina pro Matt Arey has been dialed in on Beaver Lake's first wave of bass transitioning from prespawn to the spawn. And in the end, no one could keep up with his consistency. Arey won the Walmart FLW Tour Beaver Lake event presented by Rayovac and hosted by Visit Arkansas with a four-day total of 59 pounds, 3 ounces.
You can read the full story of Arey's win here.
Here's a rundown of how the rest of the top 10 found success at Beaver Lake.
2nd place - Andy Morgan - 57 pounds, 10 ounces
This week, reigning Kellogg's Angler of the Year Andy Morgan notched his 27th top-10 finish in Walmart FLW Tour competition - tied for the most ever. He did it in typical Andy Morgan fashion: by fishing by the seat of his pants and adapting to the conditions each day. Morgan brought in a day-four limit that weighed 16 pounds, 8 ounces.
According to Morgan, the unique skillset he possesses that allows him to consistently stay on the tail of bass when conditions are in flux comes from his early days of FLW competition at the BFL level, when he often fished one-day tournaments without any practice.
This week, Morgan more or less treated each day as a separate mini-tournament.
"It's all about the conditions, no doubt," he said. "I just covered a lot of water. They kept loading up on my spots. Each day a few would pull up, and they were catchable."
Morgan fished everything from straight "nothing banks" to pea-gravel points to isolated rock and wood cover. The best spots were being pounded by the wind so hard that the waves splashing over the bow soaked Morgan's shoes.
"Everything I caught was in less than 7 feet of water," he said. "A Wiggle Wart was my main lure."
Currently, Morgan leads the 2014 Walmart FLW Tour Kellogg's Angler of the Year race. He's got a solid shot at being the back-to-back AOY champion.
"It's just flowing well," Morgan said about his recent success. "I don't know how to explain it. Today I had like 9 pounds with 20 minutes left and I caught two big ones."
3rd place - David Dudley - 54 pounds, 14 ounces
Castrol pro David Dudley brought in the biggest limit of the week on the final day - 16 pounds, 9 ounces - thanks to a freak 5-pounder that he somehow managed to catch after pitching over a boat dock chain with spinning tackle.
Dudley relied on typical Ozark staples: a jerkbait, Wiggle Wart and shaky head. He was targeting a particular type of rocky bank on the main lake but also caught a few fish the final day from boat docks. He stayed within the 8- to 10-foot-deep range.
The keys for Dudley this week were fishing the wind and adjusting to the conditions each day.
"The great thing about this lake is it's so full of fish," Dudley said. "It's funny how much the weather can affect them. Andy [Morgan] and I were talking about it earlier. I feel like there are fish down there seeing the bait on every cast, and then the wind blows and they start biting.
"My adjustment today was staying in the area longer," Dudley added. "I was running around too much [earlier in the week]."
4th place - Travis Fox - 54 pounds, 8 ounces
Local pro Travis Fox made a lot of noise on the final two days at Beaver Lake. He fought into the top 10 on day three with a solid limit anchored by a 6-pounder. Then on Sunday, Fox caught 15 pounds, 15 ounces. Unfortunately, a few of his bites today were light, and the fish failed to hook up.
"I lost three really good fish, and it probably cost me the tournament," Fox said. "But there was nothing I could do about any of those fish. It wasn't my fault."
Fox weighed almost all largemouths, and every one came from the dirty water up the White River. Each day he got five to seven keeper bites.
Fox targeted subtle underwater structure, though he was a bit tight-lipped about the specifics. He did say that there was gravel up shallow in each area, and many of his fish were caught around brush and logs. His best spot today reached out into a river bend where it was swept by current.
The key was in the approach. Fox combed long stretches of wood cover with a white spinnerbait. When he came to the best spots, he made repeated casts with the spinnerbait and a Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver. Some of his fish required seven or eight casts, suggesting that they might be setting up on beds.
5th place - Casey Ashley - 53 pounds, 2 ounces
It's been a strong season for South Carolina pro Casey Ashley and his bid to qualify for both the 2014 Forrest Wood Cup and 2015 Bassmaster Classic, which will both be held in his home state. Ashley won stop No. 2 at Lake Hartwell, and this week in his first-ever tournament on Beaver Lake, Ashley finished fifth. His final-day limit weighed 16 pounds.
Ashley spent most of his week at the far upper end of Beaver Lake in the reservoir's clearest water by fishing a Keitech 3.8 swimbait rigged on a 5/16-ounce jighead and a Zoom Trick Worm rigged on a shaky head.
"[Today] I went down to the clear water and threw a swimbait," Ashley said. "I caught a 3-pound smallmouth but only caught a small limit. I had that by 12:30.
"Then I came back up the lake and started covering water," he added. "I tied on that silly Wiggle Wart that everybody catches them on, and I tell you what, they love it. I caught a 5, a 3 and another about 2 1/2. I should have done that all day. Those fish in that clear water just wouldn't bite."
This week, Ashley targeted "flatter" banks with scattered rock that tapered out and ran into steep drop-offs. He caught his fish by holding the boat in 15 to 20 feet and bombing the swimbait toward the bank. A slow-rolled presentation near bottom but not on bottom was a spotted bass and smallmouth killer.
6th place - Micah Frazier - 52 pounds, 7 ounces
Micah Frazier bet on Beaver Lake's smallmouth bass this week, and they came up just a bit short for the 25-year-old Georgia pro. He brought in 14 pounds, 4 ounces today for his first top-10 finish of the year and the second of his career.
Frazier caught most of his fish - including all five of his keeper smallmouths on Sunday - with a Keitech swimbait fished on a 1/4-ounce jighead with light spinning tackle.
"I was fishing it really slow, but keeping it moving," Frazier said.
The technique is similar to what Casey Ashley was doing, as well as several other pros who made the top-20 cut this week. His other tool was a soft-plastic grub, which produced several keepers earlier in the week.
Frazier applied the subtle moving lures to water ranging from 5 to 30 feet deep. All were transitional areas, but that included a variety of structural targets: 45-degree banks, transitions from bluffs to flat banks, pea gravel and chunk rock.
He stayed in clearer parts of Beaver spanning from the dam at the north end back to the middle part of the lake.
"I said this morning that I was going to go catch some big smallmouths," Frazier said. "I went down to the dam where I'd caught them before, but it didn't happen. I gave up at about 11 and came back to where I'd been catching some spots. The big smallmouths had shown up."
7th place - Troy Morrow - 52 pounds, 0 ounces
Georgia pro Troy Morrow cranked his way into the top 10 by relying almost exclusively on a Storm Original Wiggle Wart - the vintage model only, of course - to target bass preying heavily on crawfish. His go-to Wiggle Wart was custom-painted in green pumpkin phantom by Xtreme Lure Creations. Morrow caught a day-four limit of 12 pounds, 11 ounces.
"I mainly fished two creeks," Morrow said. "They're the only two that are in slightly colored water that are flat. All the others that are slightly flat don't have that same color of water, except Prairie Creek [a common community hole that was heavily pressured this week]."
Today, Morrow culled so often that he threw back three limits of fish. He experienced two flurries - one in the morning and a second in the afternoon. In between, he realized that he had a minor equipment malfunction. He'd cranked his favorite Wiggle Wart so hard and fast into the rocks that the bill wore down and the lure wasn't reaching bottom. When he changed to a new one, the fish started snapping.
Throughout the tournament, Morrow learned more and more about his go-to creeks and eventually was able to narrow them down to the best individual points. This allowed him to fish the areas more efficiently during the weekend.
8th place - Scott Martin - 48 pounds, 14 ounces
Evinrude pro Scott Martin was in on the clear-water bite in the lower end of Beaver Lake this week. He made adjustments each day by running new water and fishing based on the wind. According to Martin, it was "first-class junk-fishing."
"I was looking for those transitional areas leading into spawning pockets, especially for largemouths," he said. "The largemouths were setting up on ledge rock leading back into the creeks. Each creek was good for one largemouth. I probably should have made an adjustment and run up the river. I knew some of those guys [fishing up the river] were going to catch them, but in conditions like we had today you can catch big ones down in that clear water."
Martin's best banks had a mix of pea gravel and chunk rock. They were connected to steep drop-offs - the ledge rock he referenced - and sweetened with laydowns.
Four lures produced for the Florida pro this week: a River2Sea square-bill crankbait, a Keitech swimbait, a Bruiser Baits finesse worm and a football jig rigged with a Bruiser Baits twin-tail trailer.
9th place - Cody Meyer - 48 pounds, 13 ounces
Repel pro Cody Meyer was a favorite coming into this event because of his world-class skills at catching spotted bass. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to track down a big bite all week and couldn't keep up with the pros bringing in kicker smallmouths and largemouths. Meyer's weights decreased each day, culminating in a final limit of 10 pounds, 11 ounces.
"I caught a lot of fish today - a ton of fish - but no size," Meyer said. "I never missed one, but I never caught one. I tried to fish a lot of areas."
Meyer lived up to his reputation as a finesse fisherman this week by catching most of his fish with a drop-shot Jackall Flick Shake worm. Today, however, he tried to capitalize on the windy conditions by changing to a swimbait, jerkbait and crankbait.
He fished from the Rocky Branch area to the dam all week. On the qualifying days, Meyer targeted pea gravel points on the main lake where smallmouths and spotted bass were staging near spawning areas. He moved to the backs of creeks on the weekend due to the continually rising water temperature, which he believed was pulling his fish out of the deep water.
"It seemed like the fish were moving back, but it was just little ones," Meyer added.
10th place - Mark Rose - 46 pounds, 11 ounces
Walmart pro Mark Rose accomplished two important goals this week: He cashed an impressive paycheck on Beaver Lake, and he moved into fourth place in the Walmart FLW Tour Angler of the Year standings heading into a two-tournament stretch on the Tennessee River, where Rose has won more money in the last five or so seasons than anyone else in professional fishing.
This week, Rose worked his way to the top 10 by fishing Beaver Lake's clear lower end with a small swimbait, grubs and a Strike King shaky head.
"I was fishing points with deep water close to them," he said. "The smallmouths were starting to pull up on a flat down there, and I had a few spots where they were moving up. I caught a lot of fish, but nothing over 3 pounds."
In a final-day quest for 4-pounders that could help Rose climb out of 10th place, he grabbed a quick early limit in Prairie Creek then ran upriver to dirty water and flipped wood cover with a jig. He never got the big bite and finished the day with 10 pounds, 7 ounces.
"That's competition. Sometimes you have got to change it up and try something different if you want to win," Rose said. "But honestly, I think I should have stuck with what I had been doing."
For the full results, click here.