Abnormally Norman

Brian Travis of Conover, N.C., will be one of the local pros to watch at Lake Norman. He says Norman will be a different animal for FLW Tour pros this week.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - For the last three years, the FLW Tour event on Lake Norman presented by the National Guard has been held at the exact same time of year: the last week in April. During those years, the FLW Tour pro field learned the spawn and postspawn habits of Norman bass so well that they knew what the bass were doing before the bass did. In years past, sight-fishing has been a key strategy for top finishers. Also, fooling postspawn fry-guarders with topwaters and lightly weighted plastics, such as shaky heads and wacky rigs, played a strong hand. This year, things will be different. The timing of the FLW Tour event has been bumped up a month to the final week of March, and the Carolinas are just starting to thaw out from an unusually cold and wet winter. As a result, Lake Norman is much muddier and colder than normal. Another wrinkle in the form of lower water levels has also contributed to Norman being abnormal compared to what FLW Tour pros are used to. As the practice round wound down Monday, pros were reporting plenty of fish biting, but the old practice of trolling around the bank with a pair of polarized sunglasses to visually locate cull-ups was not happening. Local pro Brian Travis of Conover, N.C., believes the timing of this year's event is falling right on that fine line of the first wave of bass coming to the bank to spawn. "Maybe, maybe not," Travis said of Norman bass dusting off nests this week. "I've seen some 65-degree water, but I have not seen any beds in practice. So if it happens, it's going to be during the tournament - maybe Friday or Saturday when we're closer to the full moon." Sight master Greg Pugh says he will not give up the search for bedding bass this week at Norman.Travis is not the only one who has struck out trying to spy on bedders in Norman's lower end, where the water is clearest. Some of the Tour's usual sight-fishing suspects - including Greg Pugh, Anthony Gagliardi and Clark Wendlandt - have all noted that bedding activity during practice was nonexistent. Only Greg Pugh, who has recorded three top-10s at Norman, is holding out hope that he will be able to sight-fish toward the end of the week. "I'm going to keep checking them," Pugh said. "Ideally, I'd like to just go fishing the first day or two and then by Friday maybe bust a big bag looking at them. But the warming trend we were having was interrupted by a much cooler, rainy day the second day of practice, so that kind of messed things up. It's going to take some strong sun and slick days over the next few days to get them to move up. But, hey, it's the end of March. All the pears and cherry trees are blooming, and I know what that means: any day now ... any day." The FLW Tour event on Lake Norman begins Wednesday. Be sure to catch all the action right here on FLWOutdoors.com, starting with the Live Page coverage starting at 7 a.m. Wednesday.

Tags: pre-tournament  rob-newell 

/news/2015-04-29-aoy-showdown-looming-in-texas

AOY Showdown Looming in Texas

Lake Texoma on the Texas-Oklahoma border will play host to a Strike King Angler of the Year showdown in the Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division this week, and there are plenty of storylines worth discussing before this one gets underway. Several pros are in contention for the AOY title, and many others are vying for a trip to the Rayovac FLW Series Championship, which requires finishing in the top 40 in AOY points. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-28-top-10-patterns-from-beaver-lake

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 »

/news/2015-04-25-top-5-patterns-from-beaver-lake-day-3

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 »

/news/2015-04-24-make-way-for-morgan

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 »

/news/2015-04-24-top-5-patterns-from-beaver-lake-day-2

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 »

/news/2015-04-23-wheeler-with-a-slim-lead

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 »

/news/2015-04-23-top-5-patterns-from-beaver-lake-day-1

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 »

/news/2015-04-21-5-pros-to-watch-at-beaver-lake

5 Pros to Watch at Beaver Lake

The halfway point for the 2015 Walmart FLW Tour season is fast approaching as the Tour makes its annual trek to Beaver Lake. The third stop on the schedule is important because it reveals the real contenders in the Angler of the Year race as well as provides a better idea of who will be in contention to punch their tickets to the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita this August. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-20-spawn-looming-at-beaver-lake

Spawn Looming at Beaver Lake

As the pros who fish the Walmart FLW Tour begin practice on Beaver Lake, this jewel of northwestern Arkansas could be setting up for another spring spawn showdown. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-15-the-spawn-is-on-at-grand-lake

The Spawn is on at Grand Lake

When the Rayovac FLW Series Central Division competitors arrived in Grove, Okla., to start practice for the 2015 opener on Grand Lake this week, they didn’t have to look far to figure out the predominant pattern. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-14-college-championship-preview

College Championship Preview

Anthony Gagliardi won the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Murray last August with a combination of patterns that included fishing soft-plastic jerkbaits and topwaters for schooling bass. A variation of that theme is likely to work this week when the 50 teams that qualified for the FLW College Fishing National Championship convene on Murray to contest the 2015 title. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-07-high-water-rayburn-

High-Water Rayburn

When the Rayovac FLW Series hits Sam Rayburn April 9-11 for the second stop of the Texas Division, the story won’t be solely based on the giants that the lake is known for – it will also be about the extremely high water level. For the first time in years, Rayburn is topping her banks in a big way. Currently, the lake is about 5 feet above full pool, which is even more remarkable when you consider that the lake has been well below full pool most of the last few years. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-30-top-10-patterns-from-lewis-smith

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 »

/news/2015-03-29-lefebre-lands-on-top

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 »

/news/2015-03-28-birge-buzzes-ahead

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 »

/news/2015-03-28-top-5-patterns-from-lewis-smith-day-3

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 »

/news/2015-03-26-benton-blasts-20-12-on-lewis-smith

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 »