Co-angler go-to lures

Ever since FLW Outdoors instituted a Co-angler Division in all of its bass tournaments, fishing from the back deck has evolved into a science. As most good co-anglers have discovered, the key to becoming a back-deck ace is to take what the pro is leaving behind and make the best of it. It's an exercise in resourcefulness and expediency. I have covered dozens of FLW Outdoors events over the last several years, and I always take a particular interest in how the winning co-angler survived the elimination rounds and excelled in the finals. What follows in this edition of Tournament Tested is a quick top-10 list of lures that continually make the co-angler headlines. 10) Finesse Jig - Small, compact jigs like the FLW Finesse Jig teamed with "junior" chunks or trailers are excellent baits to use behind pros who are pitching full-size jigs to isolated cover. "When I have to make presentations to the same targets as my pro, I usually try to go with something smaller," said co-angler David Hudson of Jasper, Ala., who has made all but one Forrest L. Wood Championship. Hudson normally employs a finesse jig with a Zoom Super Chunk Jr. tied to 12- to 15-pound-test line. "It provides a different look for fish that may have passed on the first offering by the pro," he added. Rattling lipless crankbait9) Rattling Lipless Crankbait - The industry standard in this department is the Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap, but other companies make various renditions of this proven fish catcher. Carry a couple of different sizes, namely a 1/4 ounce and a 1/2 ounce. The action between the two sizes is drastically different, and fish can get picky about which size they prefer. These lures are typically used to garner reaction bites from grass-bed bass in water temperatures less than 60 degrees. They are indispensable on places like Lake Guntersville, Seminole or Sam Rayburn during the prespawn. They come in dozens of colors, but the standby hues are red, gold and chrome with a blue back. Also, consider using braided line on a "trap." Braid is much more durable, and the diminished stretch allows for a cleaner snap out of clingy grass. Jerkbait8) Jerkbait - This entry mostly applies to open-water fishing for smallmouths on northern lakes in the summer and fall. If your pro starts catching big smallies with a suspending jerkbait, you don't want to be caught without one. The Bomber Long-A was the forerunner for this technique, but the Lucky Craft Pointers and Rapala Husky Jerks have become hot commodities for open-water smallmouth jerkbaiting. Other back-deck producers in the jerkbait category include the suspending Smithwick Rattlin' Rogue and the Rapala 13G minnow. The suspending Rogue is hard to beat on Ozark impoundments, and the floating Rapala is a staple for Florida fishing. Fluorocarbon line in the 8- to 12-pound-test class is becoming popular for the jerkbait technique because it allows the bait to get a little deeper than monofilament. Topwater walker7) Topwater Walker - Though back-deck wins solely on topwater baits are rare, many co-anglers have admitted to catching key "kicker" fish during an event on topwater walking baits such as a Zara Spook, Super Spook or Lucky Craft Sammy. The traditional time for these baits is the postspawn: late spring and early summer. Ironically, though, my records indicate that some of the key fish caught by co-anglers on topwaters came when the topwater bite was least expected: in the prespawn (usually spotted bass lakes), in the middle of the afternoon on a hot summer day or on a frigid fall morning. It might sound crazy, but think of a topwater walker as a "kamikaze" bait. Don't be afraid to wing one out in the middle of a pocket to see if a renegade fish will explode on it while your pro is sight-fishing or flipping. Fluke6) Fluke - Perhaps no other bait can wear as many different hats as a Zoom Fluke. This soft-plastic jerkbait can be Texas rigged, Carolina rigged, put on a heavy darthead for summertime ledge fishing, used as a spinnerbait trailer or just fished weightless with a 4/0 or 5/0 offset hook. A Fluke is a kind of jack-of-all-trades of the co-angler's tackle box. Drop-shot5) Drop-shot - In 2004, Stephen Tosh Jr. of Modesto, Calif., opened co-anglers' eyes to the magic of drop-shotting when he won two FLW Tour co-angler titles in a single season with the finesse technique. Tosh proved that the drop-shot catches big fish on southern impoundments where power fishing often prevails. He won on Kentucky Lake and Lake Logan Martin using his favorite setup: 6-pound-test line, a Kinami cut-tail worm and drop-shot weights ranging from 1/4 ounce to 3/8 ounce. 4) Tube - The standard 4-inch tube is a versatile soft plastic that does double duty as a dragging bait for smallmouths and a pitching bait for largemouths. Fishing a tube for smallmouths requires a supply of leadheads in various sizes that can be inserted into the tube so it can be fished like a grub or dragged along the bottom. TubeFlipping or pitching a tube calls for rigging it Texas-style with a bullet weight and an offset hook, preferably a "wide-gap" model. At the 2004 Forrest Wood Open on Lake Champlain, Jason Knapp of Uniontown, Pa., used a 4-inch Mizmo tube both ways to win the $40,000 co-angler top award. During the qualifying rounds, he caught smallmouths by dragging a tube. On the final day, he drew a pro who was flipping shallow vegetation, and Knapp simply rigged the tube with a 1/2-ounce weight on his flipping stick to catch largemouths for the win. Carolina Rig3) Carolina Rig - In FLW Outdoors' early years, the Carolina rig was the co-angler's bread and butter. Since then, co-anglers have become proficient at many other tactics, and the "rig" has sort of fallen by the wayside. But always carrying the ingredients to make a Carolina rig is like cheap insurance. When all else fails, the old Carolina rig can really come through to post a few keepers on the board and stay in the hunt for a check. Jighead worm2) Jighead Worm - A 4-inch finesse worm impaled on a tiny 1/8-ounce jighead, like a Spotsticker or Spot Remover, has put a lot of money in co-anglers' pockets. The finesse rig, often fished on a spinning rod with 6- to 10-pound line, can be a co-angler's best friend, especially on lakes where spotted bass live. The late W.D. "Hoot" Gibson of Bryant, Ark., was one of the best at the finesse-head game, and he used it all over the country to amass a total of $83,638 in his co-angling career with FLW Outdoors. Senko1) Senko - Over the last few years, the Yamamoto Senko, or Kinami Flash, has become the go-to bait for co-anglers. Some pros even admit to wincing when they see their co-angler pull out a bag of the soft stick baits that sink with a seductive wiggle. These baits have few bounds in terms of where or how they can be fished. Muddy water is just about the only condition that prohibits their use. They can be Texas rigged, Carolina rigged or flipped into heavy cover. But as many co-anglers have discovered, soft stick baits work best when they are rigged weightless with a 4/0 or 5/0 hook. Then just cast it out, let it sink and wait for a bite.

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Top 10 Patterns from Beaver Lake

No matter what the conditions are at Beaver Lake, Matt Arey has an uncanny ability to dial up the right baits to match the appetite of the lake’s fickle bass. This year the Quaker State pro relied primarily on two baits for his win. The first was a 5-inch hand-poured swimbait teamed with a 7/0 Gamakatsu EWG Monster Worm Hook tied to 20-pound-test P-Line fluorocarbon. The second was a wacky-rigged Lunkerhunt Lunker Stick impaled on a Gamakatsu 1/0 split-shot/drop-shot hook. The power/finesse combination provided Arey with a search-and-destroy program. He would use the swimbait as a “search bait” to find fish and then follow up with the finesse of the wacky rig for bedders that would not commit to the swimbait. READ MORE »

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Arey Does it Again

Quaker State pro Matt Arey of Shelby, N.C., wowed the crowed in Rogers, Ark., today with an incredible 17-pound, 3-ounce five-bass limit to come from behind and win the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac on Beaver Lake. This is Arey’s second consecutive Beaver Lake FLW Tour victory. Arey’s final-day surge was enough to surpass two-time reigning Angler of the Year Andy Morgan, who led yesterday but weighed in only 9-08 today and fell to third. Arey’s four-day total was 55-06, earning the pro $125,000. READ MORE »

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Top 5 Patterns from Beaver Lake Day 3

Andy Morgan didn’t light up the world on day three of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac on Beaver Lake, but he caught what he needed to maintain the lead and put a 1-pound, 9-ounce cushion between he and Matt Arey. Most of the rest of the top 20 scrambled today, abandoning their patterns and trying new options to try and make the final-day cut. Here’s how the top five got it done. READ MORE »

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Make Way for Morgan

“Hidden largemouths” is quickly becoming the buzz term at the Walmart FLW Tour event on Beaver Lake presented by Rayovac, as those atop the leaderboard are using the term to refer to spawning largemouths that are so well hidden that other competitors never found them. These hidden fish are covered by thick brush, hidden so deep that they were only found during the very rare windows of sunshine during practice or located off the beaten path. The latter are not in obvious pockets or places where one would expect to find beds, but rather out on the main bluff channels where few ever look. On day one, Jacob Wheeler caught hidden largemouths to take the lead. On day two, former Beaver Lake champion Andy Morgan caught hidden largemouths to take over the pole position going into the weekend. His catch of 15 pounds, 7 ounces today gives Morgan a two-day total of 28-09 to take the lead by just 11 ounces. READ MORE »

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Top 5 Patterns from Beaver Lake Day 2

At halftime of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac, the top five reads like a who’s who of Beaver Lake. Leader Andy Morgan is a former Beaver Lake champion. Behind him, Darrel Robertson has been very close to winning here with a runner-up finish in 2005. In third is 2014 Beaver Lake champion Matt Arey. Bryan Thrift, in fourth, has never won on Beaver Lake, but has led here before. And finally, fifth-place pro Stetson Blaylock knows his way around this lake pretty well, too, with a couple of top 10s. READ MORE »

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Wheeler with a Slim Lead

Jacob Wheeler has a plan to win the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac on Beaver Lake this week. That plan involves primarily the largemouth species, a target weight of 14 pounds per day and a lot of fish management. Today, Wheeler surpassed his target by nearly 2 pounds with a 15-pound, 14-ounce catch that puts him in the driver’s seat at Beaver Lake, in the lead by just a scant 5 ounces over second-place pro Bryan Thrift. “Largemouths are the way to win here at Beaver Lake,” Wheeler says. “They are the fish to go the distance here, and that’s what I’m focusing on.” READ MORE »

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Top 5 Patterns from Beaver Lake Day 1

Though there were plenty of fish caught off beds at Beaver Lake on day one of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Rayovac, the top five is rounded out by a group of anglers who relied on sight-fishing very little. Opinions on where exactly bass are in the spawning cycle at Beaver Lake vary greatly from angler to angler, but a few common denominators did come to light on day one. For starters, most agree that one major spawning cycle has already occurred. Plenty of empty beds and a lot of gaunt, postspawn fish at the scale were evidence of that. Second, there are still some bass (of all species) trying to spawn, but the ones left on beds are extremely wary. Finally, the order of difficulty to catch each species ranks as follows: smallmouth bass – extremely easy; spotted bass – not as easy; largemouth bass – extremely difficult. READ MORE »

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Top 10 Patterns from Lewis Smith

The Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Evinrude on Lewis Smith Lake featured a mishmash of springtime patterns that ranged from targeting bass feeding on blueback herring to catching spawning fish to dropping in on deep schools of spotted bass. Here’s a breakdown of the patterns of the top 10 pros. READ MORE »

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Lefebre Lands on Top

He left the dock this morning in 7th place, eight and a half pounds off the lead. And when he returned this afternoon, Dave Lefebre shocked the weigh-in crowd with a come-from-behind Walmart FLW Tour win that left his competitors shell-shocked. READ MORE »

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Birge Buzzes Ahead

Today started off with a slightly miserable 31-degree air temperature, but it didn’t take long for the top 20 pros to really heat up on Lewis Smith Lake at the second stop of the 2015 Walmart FLW Tour presented by Evinrude. Reports poured in throughout the day of big bass – especially big largemouths – being caught off beds. It looked at first as if one of the “largemouth lookers” might piece together a big enough bag to snatch the lead away from Oklahoma rookie Zack Birge, who struggled early to make his shallow topwater pattern work. Unfortunately for the rest of the field, the young gun Birge has the coolness and patience of a veteran, and he stuck with his game plan of throwing a buzzbait and soft jerkbait rig until the sun had time to warm the shallows and spur the fish to become more active. Birge tallied 17 pounds, 11 ounces today, raising his three-day total to 54-8 and giving him a lead of 3-11 over Texas veteran Clark Wendlandt in second place. READ MORE »

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Top 5 Patterns from Lewis Smith Day 3

After three days, it looks as if tournament leader Zack Birge has the quality largemouth bite in the bushes wired. But behind him on the leaderboard are nine pros doing everything from sight-fishing to catching schooling bass and everything in between. Even with all the patterns in play, few have fizzled. The sight-fishers have reported finding new bedders, the schoolers are still schooling and a couple of guys have even started tapping floating docks. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-27-top-5-patterns-from-lewis-smith-day-2

Top 5 Patterns from Lewis Smith Day 2

While air and water temperatures plummeted on day two of the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lewis Smith Lake presented by Evinrude, the big surprise came in the stability of the fishing patterns amidst such change. Zack Birge found plenty of production on his primary pattern to send him to the top of the leaderboard, and those under him held true to their patterns as well to secure a ticket to day three’s top 20. Among the biggest surprises was the number of pros who were still able to pluck fish off beds. Most pros that were sight-fishing say the bass are committed to beds and that the cold snap will not run them off at this point in time. Despite the cold, some even found new fish on beds that were not there yesterday. READ MORE »

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Benton Blasts 20-12 on Lewis Smith

Panama City, Fla., pro Drew Benton jumped into the early lead at the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lewis Smith Lake presented by Evinrude with a five-bass limit weighing 20 pounds, 12 ounces. Benton caught a mix of largemouths and spotted bass, and revealed that both black bass species are spawning. He leads a tight top 20 that includes 18 pros that caught more than 15 pounds each. The first day was an absolute fish-fest. Of the 154 pros fishing this tournament, 138 weighed limits. Brad Roberts of Faubush, Ky., has a 2-ounce lead in the co-angler division with a 13-pound, 4-ounce limit. Tomorrow he’ll try to defend his lead on the final day of co-angler competition. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-26-top-5-patterns-from-lewis-smith-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from Lewis Smith Day 1

While Drew Benton was busy bugging bedding fish for his day-one tournament lead, several others behind him were scoring big with other fishing options on Lewis Smith Lake. Sight-fishing also played a role in the top limits produce by Tracy Adams, Scott Martin and Ish Monroe, but Clayton Batts and Zack Birge both brought in big bags with other patterns. Click here to read about Benton’s day-one performance at the second Walmart FLW Tour event of 2015, which is presented by Evinrude. Here’s how the rest of the top five got it done. READ MORE »

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Top 10 Patterns from Toho

At the halfway point of the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Toho on Friday afternoon, it looked as if the event would be a JT Kenney runaway win. Kenney’s “red-dot” bedding program appeared to be unstoppable. But then things changed drastically: The warm-up ended, the full moon began to wane, heavy clouds took up residence over central Florida and the fairy tale of scripted plans in a multiple-day tournament came to a screeching halt. By the end of the event, several other patterns on Lake Toho quickly closed up Kenney’s seemingly insurmountable lead (12-10 after two days and 12-8 after three). When the final weigh-in came to an end, the top three places were only separated by 1 pound, 5 ounces. Patterns that involved current, shell beds and even docks helped close the gap. Here’s a look at some of the other top 10 patterns from the week. READ MORE »

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Kenney Connects the Dots

Mercury pro JT Kenney was as confident as he could be early in the week at the Walmart FLW Tour season-opener on Lake Toho. He had an incredibly refined plan built on a series of precisely placed waypoints. The waypoints marked isolated spawning areas within beds of lily pads. In the first two days of competition, Kenney looked unstoppable with limits weighing 29-14 and 22-9, respectively, to build a lead of 12-10. On day three, Kenney looked human. His limit of 14-5 could have left the door open – but after weigh-in Kenney’s lead shrank by only 2 ounces. And today, it looked as if the king, despite a massive lead, was about to give up his crown. Kenney weighed in only 9 pounds, 4 ounces. But that was enough. The Florida pro squeezed through by an 11-ounce winning margin to win the first Tour event of 2015. READ MORE »

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Kenney on Cruise Control

For those who don’t believe that professional fishing is a game of offense and defense like any other sport, consider JT Kenney’s strategy for the last three days of the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Toho presented by Mercury. The first two days, Kenney ran pure “offensive plays” on key, precise bedding areas to run up the score. Today, he ran more “defensive plays” to protect his lead. READ MORE »

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Top 5 Patterns from Toho Day 3

When the Walmart FLW Tour event started at Lake Toho on Thursday, the story lines were all about spawning fish and catching bedding bass by working soft-plastic baits around isolated pad clumps. Today, the buzzwords changed to current, shell beds and reaction baits such as spinnerbaits and lipless rattlers. The change in vernacular is associated primarily with the weather. While a warm, balmy day one allowed leading pros to score big by blind bed-fishing, today’s lower temperatures, nippy northeast winds and dull gray skies caused a significant shift in productive tactics that led to a shakeup on the leaderboard. As already revealed, leader JT Kenney had to resort to a spinnerbait to adapt. Others in the top 10 have found consistency in the currents of the Kissimmee River or have adapted with new baits. READ MORE »

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Kenney Crushing the Field

Day two of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Mercury on Lake Toho saw JT Kenney extend his lead to 12 pounds, 10 ounces over second-place pro Stacey King with a 22-9 limit. Kenney has lived near Toho for some time and prepared meticulously for this event – it appears to be paying off. Fishing in Kissimmee all day, he managed another strong bag on a day when weather changes caused many in the top of the ranks to stumble. READ MORE »

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Top 5 Patterns from Toho Day 2

At halftime in the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Toho presented by Mercury, it’s looking like it could be a runaway by tournament leader JT Kenney. Of course, it’s bass fishing and anything can happen, but the latest frontal system rolling through Florida seems to have certainly stymied the bed-fish bonanza that many expected. As a result, the most productive areas from the last two days have been beat down by fishing pressure and are not recovering or replenishing very well. Here’s a look at how the rest of the top finishers managed to overcome challenging conditions on day two to stay at least within striking range of the leader. READ MORE »