UPCOMING EVENT: Walmart Bass Fishing League - 2015 - Old Hickory Lake

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.

Tags: magazine-features  rob-newell 

/news/2015-08-25-top-10-patterns-from-the-forrest-wood-cup

Top 10 Patterns from the Forrest Wood Cup

If you don’t believe that summertime bass fishing in the dog days of August is all over the map, just take a look at the top 10 patterns from the best bass pros on earth at the 2015 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita. Brad Knight captured the Cup by mining one small creek end for four days. But beyond that, the rest of the top 10 patterns ran the gamut, from targeting schoolers over 40 feet to wolf packs of bass on the bank to brush piles to grass to mud flats and everywhere in between. Here’s a rundown. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-23-knight-slays-ouachita

Knight Slays Ouachita

Lancing, Tenn., pro Brad Knight won the 2015 Forrest Wood Cup presented by Walmart on Lake Ouachita with a four-day total of 51 pounds, 12 ounces. In front of a standing-room-only crowd at Bank of the Ozarks Arena in Hot Springs, Ark., Knight weighed in 11-07 on day four to surpass Jacob Wheeler, who started the day with a 12-ounce lead. Fishing in just one area all four days, Knight locked up the first win of his FLW career. He earned $500,000 for his victory and pushed his career earnings total to more than $688,000. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-22-wheeler-back-in-front

Wheeler Back in Front

Jacob Wheeler loves Lake Ouachita. It’s where he fished his first Forrest Wood Cup in 2011, and it’s where he’ll take the tournament lead into the final day of competition at the 2015 Forrest Wood Cup presented by Walmart and hosted by Visit Hot Springs and the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. Wheeler, the 2011 Cup champion, led this tournament on day one and slipped a couple spots on day two. He now has a very slim 12-ounce lead over Tennessean Brad Knight. The anglers will square off tomorrow on Ouachita starting at 7 a.m. against the rest of the top 10 pros for the top prize of $500,000. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-22-top-5-patterns-from-the-cup-day-3

Top 5 Patterns from the Cup Day 3

Jacob Wheeler may have regained his lead in the Forrest Wood Cup on day three, but Brad Knight is right on his heels. Going into the final day, the two pros are separated by just 12 ounces. The margin is tight, and what’s going to make the final day fun to watch is the difference in the two anglers’ strategies. Wheeler is running a topwater pattern on the main lake, and fishing new water is part of his plan. Knight, however, has caught almost all of his weight from one 250-yard stretch of bass-rich creek channel. He literally knows every target he is fishing by heart. On the surface, Knight’s area looks to be the better bet. But he has shared the general area with Brandon Cobb and Mark Daniels Jr. for three solid days. And the bad news, at least for Knight, is that both Cobb and Daniels will be sharing the water with him again on the final day as both made the top-10 cut. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-21-top-5-patterns-from-the-cup-day-2

Top 5 Patterns from the Cup Day 2

At times, bass fishing can be a lot like real estate, where the three most important rules are location, location and location. The 2015 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita presented by Walmart is starting to become a bit of a real estate game where location is the primary consideration in who climbs the leaderboard. And those mining the backs of creeks and tributaries are on the prime pieces of real estate. Consider that after day two, four of the top five pros are concentrating their fishing efforts in the back ends of creeks or rivers. All of these areas fit a classic late-summer, early-fall pattern where shad pack into the back of creek ditches that meander through shallow flats. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-20-wheeler-hunting-history

Wheeler Hunting History

It’s never been done before, and it hasn’t happened yet, but Jacob Wheeler is in prime position to become the first two-time Forrest Wood Cup champion in history. Wheeler, of Indianapolis, Ind., brought in a 16-pound, 2-ounce limit of Lake Ouachita bass on the first day of the Cup, which is presented by Walmart and hosted by Visit Hot Springs and the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. READ MORE »

/news/2015-08-20-top-5-patterns-from-the-cup-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from the Cup Day 1

After day one of the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita, several things have come to light. For one, this event is not likely to produce a runaway win for anyone like it did when Scott Martin won here in 2011. Second, when the pros said Ouachita was going to be stingy, they meant it – only 29 of the 50 pros checked in limits today. Third, firm patterns are hard to come by on Lake Ouachita in August. Jacob Wheeler took the lead on day one in the event that’s presented by Walmart and hosted by Visit Hot Springs and the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. With the help of a 5-pound bass, Wheeler weighed in a limit of 16 pounds, 2 ounces, but he had to sample a lot of different areas for his catch. Here’s how the rest of the top five got it done. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-15-top-10-patterns-from-lake-chickamauga

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Chickamauga

Considering the complexity of catching summertime bass on highly pressured Tennessee River impoundments, Michael Wooley’s winning baits at the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Igloo Coolers on Lake Chickamauga were pretty simplistic. His win came on a Zoom Magnum Trick Worm fished on a 1/2-ounce hand-poured shaky head with a 5/0 hook as well as a 3/4-ounce Strike King football jig teamed with a Rage Lobster. Both lures were fished on 17-pound-test Seaguar fluorocarbon. Wooley dragged his baits on a shell bed in about 13 feet of water that dropped off to a channel some 20 feet deep. Here is a look at some of the other patterns that were working at Lake Chickamauga. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-15-mammoth-win-for-wooley

Mammoth Win for Wooley

One spot plus two lures plus 92 pounds, 4 ounces of Lake Chickamauga bass equals a $125,000 Walmart FLW Tour win for Michael Wooley. Wooley, a second-year pro on the FLW Tour who hails from Collierville, Tenn., spends most of his fishing time somewhere on the Tennessee River, mostly on either Pickwick or Kentucky Lake. Despite his deep knowledge of Tennessee River bass, Wooley’s win on Lake Chickamauga was about as straightforward as it gets. There were no big flashy spoons, secret hair jigs or new must-have crankbaits involved in his victory. There were no mega-schools or timing of tricky rotations. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-13-top-5-patterns-from-chickamauga-day-3

Top 5 Patterns from Chickamauga Day 3

While Michael Wooley has tapped a single hot spot for the tournament lead at the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Igloo Coolers at Lake Chickamauga, his competition has had to hustle both deep and shallow just to have a shot at catching him. His lead is now more than 6 pounds ahead of second-place pro Stetson Blaylock. The patterns working at Chickamauga right now are all over the map. Shallow grass, bream beds, middepth bars in bays, river ledges and even some long-lining are all represented in the top 10. Here are the details for the top five. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-12-wooley-takes-the-lead

Wooley Takes the Lead

The last time the Walmart FLW Tour visited Lake Chickamauga in June 2013, the term “mega-school” was thrown around a lot. At this year’s Chickamauga event, which is presented by Igloo Coolers, you will hardly hear that term at all at the weigh-in. Michael Wooley of Collierville, Tenn., knows the difference between mega-schools and the “regular” kind. After sacking 26 pounds, 2 ounces on day one and 23-05 on day two to take the tournament lead with 49-07, Wooley says his fish are certainly not swimming in a mega-school. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-12-top-5-patterns-from-chickamauga-day-2

Top 5 Patterns from Chickamauga Day 2

Two days into the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Igloo Coolers on Lake Chickamauga, one thing is for sure: The ledge bite along the main Tennessee River drag has not been much of a factor among the top 10. When interviewing the top anglers, the words “back in a creek,” or “back in a bay,” or “back inside” or “up shallow” have been used a lot more than the words “on the main river.” That goes for tournament leader Michael Wooley and most of the pros chasing him into the weekend. For whatever reason, the main Tennessee River flow is not the headliner at Chickamauga this week, especially when compared to postspawn tournaments on other lakes in the chain, such as Kentucky Lake and Pickwick. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-11-billy-mac-smacks-29

Billy Mac Smacks 29

A combo strategy of running deep and shallow patterns helped Bill McDonald put together a whopping 29-pound, 12-ounce limit in the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Igloo Coolers on Lake Chickamauga. McDonald took the day-one lead by 3 pounds, 10 ounces over Tennessean Michael Wooley, who brought in 26-02. While many pros say the Chick is fishing tougher than its reputation usually suggests, 15 pros still cracked the 20-pound mark. And 67 pros caught at least 15 pounds. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-11-top-5-patterns-from-chickamauga-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from Chickamauga Day 1

The story on day one of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Igloo Coolers on Lake Chickamauga was not dominated by the mega-school juggernaut that occurred the last time the Tour visited “Chick” in 2013. Bill McDonald’s leading limit of 29 pounds, 12 ounces had nothing to do with a mega-school. In fact, two of his bigger bass – in the 7- to 8-pound class – came from shallow grass. This time around it seems as if the boats are spread out a little more compared to last time, when four- to six-angler clusters tried to share big ledge schools. Some pros say that’s because the current didn’t run until later in the day today, which had the main-river community holes off the pace of last time. Others believe a delayed spawn still has fish scattered from the bays to the river. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-26-top-10-patterns-from-lake-seminole

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Seminole

Clint Brown won the Rayovac FLW Series event presented by Evinrude on Lake Seminole by targeting late spawners and obscure stretches of bank that received little pressure during the week. Here is a look at how the rest of the top 10 competitors fared. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-23-brown-rallies-for-seminole-win

Brown Rallies for Seminole Win

When the Rayovac FLW Series event on Lake Seminole started on Thursday, hot, slick conditions prevailed. The air temperatures pushed into the 90’s, water temperatures hovered between 80 and 85 degrees – summertime was on. Or was it? READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-23-jeter-takes-co-angler-crown

Jeter Takes Co-Angler Crown

Call it a local’s sweep at the Rayovac FLW Series on Lake Seminole. While local pro Clint Brown of Bainbridge, Ga., won the boater Division, his Bainbridge neighbor, Greg Jeter won the Co-angler Division to make it a local twofer. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-23-lake-seminole-day-3-midday-update

Lake Seminole Day 3 Midday Update

Second place pro Clint Brown was gaining some serious ground on Reneau as Brown had boxed four solid keepers for about 11 pounds on his very first spot – all caught from protected backwaters with a topwater. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-22-reneau-grabs-lead-on-seminole

Reneau Grabs Lead On Seminole

Though Reneau has weighed in 15-1 and 20-7 over two days for a total of 35 pounds, 8 ounces, he says he is only getting about six bites per day. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-22-top-5-patterns-from-seminole-day-2

Top 5 Patterns From Seminole Day 2

A shake-up occurred on day two of the Rayovac FLW Series presented by Evinrude on Lake Seminole. Day one was all about slow, summertime fishing in the lake’s deep timber. Overnight a frontal passage dropped water and air temperatures and left a north wind howling down the lake. As a result, the timber bite cooled off and those fishing shallower waters climbed up the leaderboard. READ MORE »