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/2015-03-27-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 »

/news/2015-03-25-5-pros-to-watch-at-lewis-smith

5 Pros to Watch at Lewis Smith

The second stop of the Walmart FLW Tour season rolls to Lewis Smith Lake – or “Smith” as most refer to it – which is located in northern Alabama. It offers a stark contrast to the first event held on Toho, as the fishery is a clear, deep impoundment with little grass to speak of. Traditionally spotted bass have dominated this tournament due to their abundance and better average size. That will likely be the case again this week, however, largemouth may surprise some people since water temperatures are prime for them to swarm the bank. Smith Lake is often overshadowed by its neighboring lakes of Guntersville and Wheeler but has pumped out several world-class spotted bass over the years. In fact, back in the 1970s and 1980s several world record spots were produced in Smith, and the current 8-pound, 15-ounce Alabama state record was caught from here. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-24-lewis-smith-4-factors-to-consider

Lewis Smith: 4 Factors to Consider

The Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Evinrude on Lewis Smith Lake will give the 154 pros in the field the first multi-species test of the season. Though the pros who made the top 10 at the opener on Lake Toho showcased a wide variety of techniques, everyone was looking for largemouth. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-24-spotted-bass-reign-supreme-at-smith

Spotted Bass Reign Supreme at Smith

When the Walmart FLW Tour visited Alabama’s Lewis Smith Lake in March 2013, Brent Ehrler dominated wire-to-wire by amassing a hefty 60 pound, 9 ounces over four days and besting runner-up Jacob Powroznik by more than 7 pounds. Catching 60 pounds over four days is a pretty stout performance on most bodies of water, but the fact that Ehrler was targeting spotted bass more or less exclusively makes it truly special. In general, spotted bass are a whole lot of fun to catch, but usually don’t grow shoulders thick enough to produce tournament stringers that can rival their cousins, largemouth bass. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-23-last-time-at-lewis-smith

Last Time at Lewis Smith

It’s been two seasons since the Walmart FLW Tour visited Lewis Smith Lake in Jasper, Ala. Now that the Tour has rolled back into town for the start of official practice on “Smith,” as most pros prefer to call this deep, clear reservoir, there’s an important change that could have a real impact on the tournament’s outcome: The umbrella rig is no longer allowed in Tour competition. Last time, a number of top pros relied on the multi-lure rig for the bulk of their catches, and winner Brent Ehrler caught a key kicker with one on the final day. This year’s event will be held a couple of weeks later in the month, which could mean the fish will be a little farther along in their prespawn-to-spawn transition and shallower patterns could be in play (possibly bed-fishing among them; see 2008: Spawners and Spots below). Still, the 2013 event is the best, most current preview of what we can expect to see this week, so we dug a little deeper into the most productive patterns from the last bout on Smith. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-18-college-open-will-be-a-record-setter

College Open will be a Record-Setter

When the first FLW College Fishing Open tournament gets underway out of Moor’s Resort on Kentucky Lake Friday morning, it will make history as the largest college event ever staged. Typically, college tournaments are staged as divisional events where only teams from a particular geographical region can participate, but the Open marks the first time any eligible college team can compete. The response to the new format has been overwhelming. According to FLW College Fishing Tournament Director Kevin Hunt, 184 teams representing colleges and universities from coast to coast are entered (as of this morning), and more might be en route. Teams have until Thursday evening at 6 to register at the rules meeting. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-17-guntersville-setting-up-to-be-a-slugfest

Guntersville Setting Up to be a Slugfest

With the water warming rapidly from the 40s, that side of the big-bass equation seems to be taken care of. However, grass content and water clarity are other matters. Known as a grass lake, Guntersville was obviously grassy until quite recently. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-10-top-10-patterns-from-toho

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 »

/news/2015-03-08-kenney-connects-the-dots

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 »

/news/2015-03-07-kenney-on-cruise-control

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 »

/news/2015-03-07-top-5-patterns-from-toho-day-3

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 »

/news/2015-03-06-kenney-crushing-the-field

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 »

/news/2015-03-06-top-5-patterns-from-toho-day-2

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 »

/news/2015-03-05-jt-tees-off

JT Tees Off

There was fuel, and there was flame. The fuel was in the form of a delayed largemouth bass spawn on Lake Toho that had been pushed back for several weeks due to low water temperatures and high water flows through the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. The biological clocks of Toho’s bass have been ticking, so to speak. The flame was in the form of a fast warm-up over the last three days, a full moon occurring right now and water temperatures rising nearly 10 degrees in the last 72 hours. At the day-one takeoff of the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Mercury this morning, everyone held his breath for the combustion that was about to occur. And when fuel met flame there were a few fiery flare-ups, but not of the size that many expected. In all, the 20-pound mark was reached by seven anglers on a warm, balmy day that had five-alarmer written all over it. Exactly why the bite was not as good as expected is still in question. Many pros reported a vanishing act of bedding bass that had just started to show up during practice, but have now disappeared despite highly favorable conditions At the top of the standings are Florida ace JT Kenney and Missouri veteran Stacey King, who checked in with 29-14 and 28-1, respectively. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-05-top-5-patterns-from-toho-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from Toho Day 1

Lake Kissimmee produced the bulk of the top-10 catches on the first day of competition, but not all of them. Still, it seems that anglers believe the time lost to traveling through the lock from Toho to eventually get to Kissimmee is worth the gamble. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-04-toho-5-factors-to-consider

Toho: 5 Factors to Consider

The Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Mercury on Lake Toho will give the 154 pros in the field a taste of a lake that is relatively unfamiliar compared to places like Lake Chickamauga or homey Okeechobee, where the Tour has made recent or frequent stops. Naturally, many factors will affect the outcome. We singled out five factors that we believe will have the greatest impact on anyone who fishes the Kissimmee Chain this week, from veterans such as Andy Morgan and Cody Meyer to rookies such as William Kemp and Braxton Setzer. READ MORE »

/news/2015-03-01-toho-s-mojo

Toho’s Mojo

Rob Newell breaks down the Kissimmee Chain lake by lake for a complete preview of the Walmart FLW Tour event on Lake Toho. READ MORE »

/news/2015-02-27-5-to-watch-at-toho

5 to Watch at Toho

If you haven’t finalized your FLW Fantasy Fishing team, keep these anglers in mind when you head over to FantasyFishing.com and make your picks. READ MORE »