UPCOMING EVENT: Bass Fishing League - 2016 - Lake Ouachita

Stren Series Championship preview: Wheeler Lake

Anglers idle below the bridge in Decatur, Ala., before the start of day one on Wheeler Lake.

For most, autumn means a refreshing change in weather temperatures and a chance to marvel at nature's beauty when the leaves turn to orange and brown. But for Stren Series competitors, cooler weather brings the Stren Series Championship, returning for 2006 in its typical post-Halloween time slot. While trick-or-treaters are scouring the neighborhoods for Snickers bars and other candies, 400 championship contenders will be gearing up for top pro and co-angler awards of $140,000 and $70,000, respectively.

The playing field this year is Alabama's Wheeler Lake, with the tournament going out from the host city of Decatur. The Alabama Fab Four - lakes Wheeler, Pickwick, Wilson and Guntersville - are often favorite tournament destinations because the impoundments are simply loaded with bass. But for this event, fishing will be limited to Wheeler Lake - no locking through to Guntersville or other fisheries in the Tennessee River chain.

Pro William DavisPro William Davis hails from north Alabama, and the one tournament win on his resume came on Wheeler Lake in Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League competition in 2005. Davis will compete in the championship by virtue of his eighth-place ranking in the Stren Midwest Division, and he says Wheeler Lake does house a significant bass population. And while Davis expects good numbers of fish to be caught during the event, weights, however, will be another story.

"It will be tough," Davis said. "There will be a lot of fish caught, but it will be tough. A 20-pound bag is very capable of being caught, but I look for 10 to 12 pounds a day to be good. I think 11 to 14 pounds a day could win it."

Weather a big factor

Making the competition challenging is quite simply the time of year. In Alabama in early November, it's not yet cold, but it's not hot, either. The in-between makes the fish a little harder to figure out. Mother Nature could create conditions more favorable to fish-catching, though, if she just dumps a little rain on the area.

"If we have some rain, it would help," Davis said. "It would be clearer. But it's usually tough."

Temperature also plays a role, with Davis explaining that the colder it gets, the hotter the fishing. Fog delayed competition for about 30 minutes on day two.Competitors can also expect a fog delay, practically a given when visiting lakes in the Tennessee River chain. Davis said typical temperatures in northern Alabama in early November reach into the 60s and 70s for a high and down into the 40s for a low.

The Flats are back

One advantage Wheeler will provide, though, is a lot of water for 400 competitors to fish. Davis expects the lake to fish big, though the fabled Decatur Flats are likely to draw a crowd. Those who go there, though, better look out - it will be a rough ride. Falling water levels this time of year on Wheeler Lake make navigation difficult.

"Especially on the Decatur Flats and upriver in the creeks, you will definitely need to watch what you're doing," Davis warns. "On the lower end, it's not so much of a factor, but from midlake up, it's a big factor. On the Decatur Flats, you don't want to run anywhere in that area because there are stumps everywhere up there."

But you can bet a lot of anglers will be stump-dodging, because according to Davis, the Decatur Flats still provide the best chance to catch hefty bass on Wheeler Lake. Note the word hefty - the bass can be caught all over the lake, but the big ones are often found around the Decatur Flats.

Anglers make their way toward the open waters of Wheeler Lake.And as for the bass, Davis says that while the lake does have a decent population of smallmouth bass, he expects the largemouths to dominate the tournament.

"Someone could weigh in a good sack of smallmouth, but it will most likely be won with largemouth," Davis said.

And whether you like to fish shallow or deep, Wheeler has it all. Davis said the hotter bite will probably be shallow, but he predicts a competitor or two could come in with a good sack caught deep.

Fall patterns predominate

As expected, the bass will be well into their typical fall pattern, and while Davis couldn't say for sure what he thought they might respond to, he made a few educated guesses.

"It could be won on a top-water, it could be won flipping a jig, or it could be won cranking," Davis said. "I'd say those three things and a spinnerbait, though a lot of people throw a Shaky Head."

Anglers cruise past sailboats moored at Joe Wheeler State Park.And when the Wheeler bass are in their fall pattern, Davis says they can typically be found in one type of place.

"It should be a back-of-the-creek, typical fall pattern," he said. "They will more than likely be caught in the creeks, but there will be a bite on the river, too."

As for structure, Davis expects the Wheeler bass to be found on bluffs or wood, although the grass - like what is found in the prolific Decatur Flats - is good too.

Whether they're shallow or deep, in the grass or in the creeks, at the end of the day, Wheeler Lake is a good place to fish because of its diversity. With such a diverse slate of competitors - the top 40 pros and 40 co-anglers from five nationwide divisions - the competition certainly fits the playing field.

"Wheeler is big enough to accommodate that many boats," Davis said. "People can fish their strengths and do what they want to do, whether it's fish deep or fish the grass. They can fish up the river, below Guntersville Dam - they can do whatever they want to do on that lake and catch fish."

The four-day tournament begins Nov. 1 in Decatur.

Tags: jennifer-simmons  pre-tournament  2006-11-01-flw-all-american-series-championship 

/tips/2016-02-05-an-ill-wind-at-okeechobee-

An Ill Wind at Okeechobee?

The wind can be a bass fisherman’s best friend or worst enemy. On its best behavior, it creates a temporary current, positions baitfish and helps an angler move around more stealthily in shallow water. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-02-04-aquatic-plant-id

Aquatic Plant ID

Val Osinski, the owner of Gambler Lures and winner of the 2015 Costa FLW Series event on the lake, knows as much about the Big O as anyone and is an expert on finding and targeting bass in its various grasses. When we had the opportunity to ride along with him for a tour of the lake and to learn to identify some of the grasses, it was a no-brainer to accept. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-02-02-poche-services-set

Poche Services Set

Funeral services for Dylan Poche, the 18-year-old Bass Fishing League angler who was stabbed to death Saturday night, are scheduled for Thursday at 2 p.m. at Freedom Life Church in Natchitoches, La. Visitation will take place at Freedom Life beginning at 5 p.m. Wednesday. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-02-02-time-to-shine-for-setzer

Time to Shine for Setzer

With three years on Tour and a Co-angler of the Year (COY) award under his belt, Braxton Setzer believes now is his time to start casting from the front. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-02-01-ambassador

Ambassador

READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-29-glenn-browne-s-timeout-is-over-

Glenn Browne’s Timeout is Over

By his own admission, Glenn Browne isn’t the most organized guy. After the Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division opener on Lake Okeechobee, he spent hours returning stuff to its proper place and tossing out the usual flotsam and jetsam that accumulates in a bass boat during a tournament. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-28-flw-podcast-109-mike-surman

FLW Podcast 109 - Mike Surman

READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-28-john-cox-gives-himself-a-makeover

John Cox Gives Himself a Makeover

Last fall there was a rumor going around that John Cox was entering the electronics age and souping up his boat with sonar gear. Just to clear the air, the Florida pro reports that though he did flirt with the notion of incorporating an offshore strategy centered on depth finders into his act, he eventually abandoned the idea. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-27-austin-felix-is-ready-for-the-big-time

Austin Felix is Ready for the Big Time

Back in the spring of 2014, Austin Felix and his University of Minnesota teammate Chris Burgan were on the top of the FLW College Fishing world. With a win in the National Championship on Lake Keowee, Felix was headed to the Forrest Wood Cup as a pro. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-27-flw-canada-sets-tournament-sites-dates

FLW Canada Sets Tournament Sites, Dates

FLW Canada, one of four partners in FLW’s International Division of the Costa FLW Series, recently released its 2016 tournament schedule. The season includes three two-day regular-season qualifying events and a three-day championship. Anglers fish as two-person teams. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-26-jigging-spoons-for-winter-bass

Jigging Spoons for Winter Bass

Of course, the application of the spoon hinges on finding bass in the first place, which is the biggest challenge. Walmart FLW Tour pros Jason Johnson and Clark Reehm are experts at finding winter bass in their respective regions of the country and offer FLW readers some advice on where to look and how to get them to bite the spoon. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-24-how-bryan-thrift-got-to-be-so-good

How Bryan Thrift Got to be so Good

My No. 1 focus out here is to support my family and make a living. Whatever I have to do to make that happen, I’m going to make a valiant effort. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-22-high-school-fishing-makes-the-grade

High School Fishing Makes the Grade

Jacob Smith and Daniel Clark are typical teenagers, at least in everything except bass fishing. In that, they are above average, as the two juniors from Travelers Rest High School in South Carolina proved in the TBF/FLW High School Fishing Florida Open held Jan. 17 on Lake Okeechobee. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-22-flw-mexico-at-the-starting-gate

FLW Mexico at the Starting Gate

Our excitement is so great that we wanted to share this important news with all of you. Believe me, fishermen in Mexico are talking it up as if it were dock talk surrounding the Forrest Wood Cup. What really matters at the end of the line is knowing that FLW is showing its true devotion to promoting bass fishing and making it a truly international sport. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-22-making-the-case-for-haynes-as-aoy

Making the Case for Haynes as AOY

As many have noted, the Walmart FLW Tour schedule for this season looks a lot like it did in 2014. Back then, in his sophomore year on Tour, Randy Haynes had one of the strangest seasons you’ll ever see. He finished 104th at Okeechobee, 149th at Sam Rayburn (ouch) and cranked out top-30 finishes everywhere else. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-21-flw-podcast-108-jason-lambert

FLW Podcast 108 - Jason Lambert

READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-20-bfl-choo-choo-division-postponed

BFL Choo Choo Division Postponed

The FLW Bass Fishing League (BFL) Choo Choo Division tournament on Lake Guntersville originally scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 23 has been postponed due to impending inclement weather. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-20-tigerodz-aligns-with-auburn-team

TIGERODZ Aligns With Auburn Team

Custom fishing rod manufacturer TIGERODZ of Scottsboro, Ala., has signed an agreement to become the official rod brand for the Auburn University Bass Sports Club. Scott Dobbins, president of TIGERODZ, is an Auburn alum, and he says the pairing involved a natural progression of involvement. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-20-becoming-aware-of-your-angler-strengths

Becoming Aware of Your Angler Strengths

The ongoing sentiment among fishermen is that versatility is the key to becoming a successful professional angler. While I’m certain that statement holds some weight, I think there is an alternate perspective that is worth entertaining. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-01-18-pundits-picks-for-aoy

Pundits Picks for AOY

Winning the Angler of the Year title is a tremendous feat. It can solidify a budding career or affirm a veteran’s status among the best. It also comes with a hefty reward – $100,000 and early entry into the 2017 Forrest Wood Cup. READ MORE »