UPCOMING EVENT: Walmart Bass Fishing League - 2016 - Lake Okeechobee

Scrubbing for smallmouths

Eric Olliverson slipped on day two with a catch of 9-5 to drop him to 13th place.

When FLW announced its 2014 Walmart FLW Tour schedule back in 2013, Eric Olliverson grabbed his calendar and drew a great big circle around the four days spanning April 10-13 - Beaver Lake. For Olliverson, a Tour rookie, that four-day period of competition was his window to make a splash diving into the tournament-fishing world. While other pros no doubt lamented that they'd once again be visiting the northwest Arkansas reservoir, which has a reputation as being a difficult place to catch fish consistently, Olliverson had a plan that included something fans don't normally see at Beaver Lake Tour events: big smallmouth bass. He also had at his disposal a unique presentation perfectly suited for the deep, clear waters where Beaver's brownies live. For many local anglers, it's known as "scrubbing" - slowly reeling and dragging a small grub across the rocks in deep water. Olliverson's twist is to match the ultralight tackle and line normally used to scrub with a swimbait of a size more tournament-worthy. "When the schedule first came out and I saw Beaver Lake, I had goose bumps that lasted seven months," Olliverson told reporters after the day-one weigh-in, where he showed off a 14-pound, 12-ounce limit of smallmouths and spotted bass that he caught with the scrubbing technique. "Every time my wife would talk about Beaver Lake, I'd get goose bumps again. I told my wife before I left that this could be a special week. "A lot of people don't realize it, but that tournament [Beaver Lake] can be won on smallmouths alone," he adds. "I've had too many 17- to 20-pound days out there with all smallmouths. There're that many big smallmouths living in that lake." Unfortunately for Olliverson, wild weather swings put a damper on Beaver's deep-water bite, and with it his chances to win. He slipped in the standings on the second day, eventually finishing in 14th place. When the scales settled in the end, several of the top 10 anglers were also using a technique similar to that of Olliverson. We asked him to break down the scrubbing technique for us, as we all could stand to see a few more brown bass emerge boatside this spring. Staging and timing Olliverson relies on scrubbing from the prespawn period through the end of the spawn, which in his part of the country near Lampe, Mo., spans mid-March through mid-May. The key is locating staging and spawning areas. "This time of year I am normally fishing flatter banks," Olliverson says. "I look for flat pea gravel with scattered big boulders. This year [at Beaver] was a little different. We caught them earlier in their spawn. This year they were more on the bigger rock, where there was really deep water close to them." His best areas were pockets near the mouths of main-lake creeks where the channel swung in close to shore and secondary points in the creeks with pea gravel mixed with chunk rock or boulders. The key was the gravel, which is good spawning substrate, though several of his biggest bass during the week came from around standing timber. The final ingredient was wind. On days when the wind blew, the contingent of pros fishing Beaver's lower end saw the bite pick up thanks to the camouflage that a choppy surface provides in clear water. "Any time I had wind, gravel mixed with bigger rock and timber close by, that was the kind of deal where I felt like I could catch some bigger fish," Olliverson says. "They spawn on that gravel. The staging areas are the same areas as where they'll spawn. The fish that I was targeting were anywhere from 8 feet deep all the way down to 30 feet." The rig Traditionally, scrubbing is done with a grub or small swimbait and a small jighead - think crappie or walleye tackle for smallmouths. "This year I switched the bait," Olliverson says. "It's a Missile Baits Shockwave. It's a new bait. For years I used a Swimmin' Minnow, which is a crappie bait made by Luck-E-Strike. It's something that I catch a lot of walleyes on. That's how I found these brownies. I was fishing for walleye and crappie, and I started noticing I was catching some excellent smallmouths. Over the years I've kind of stepped up my baits. It was a prototype bait last year, and I noticed I was catching a lot bigger fish on that bigger swimbait." The technique requires a great deal of patience because of the light tackle and deep water. Olliverson uses darter or round-head lead jigheads ranging from 1/8 to 3/16 ounce most of the time. He'll upsize to 1/4 ounce on occasion and only uses 3/8 and 1/2 ounce in extreme winds.Scrubbing can be done with simple darter and round-head jigheads. Use the lightest you can stand, down to about 1/8 ounce. Just make sure to choose a jighead with a quality hook. The technique Olliverson starts by parking his boat over deep water and making an extremely long cast, which helps to shield his approach from the fish. The lure usually lands in about 5 feet of water on the first cast, depending on the spot, and then is retrieved down the slope into deeper water. On subsequent casts, Olliverson adjusts his target depth by moving his boat in and out. The entire presentation takes place on bottom or within a foot of bottom. Once the lure sinks, Olliverson commences with a tedious, slow retrieve with the reel handle barely turning. "That's why you want to really watch your line," Olliverson says. "I'll start feeling that bottom-bumping, and about every seven or eight cranks of the reel handle, I'll just kind of let it fall back to the bottom. As much as I can, I try to maintain bottom contact. Each day you figure out where they're hitting. If they start hitting closer to the boat, I'll back out farther. Sometimes I can stay closer to the bank." Back-reeling and careful, slow control are the keys to landing fish on light line.Light line Olliverson admits that he's a power fisherman, but scrubbing works so well for smallmouths in spring that he reprograms himself to use ultra-light line and spinning tackle: 6-pound-test Vicious fluorocarbon and a 7-foot, medium-light Lew's rod. The light line allows the little jig to sink more quickly, and it spooks fewer fish. However, it's also challenging line to use in lakes full of standing timber and snaggy rocks. "I've done this for so long that fishing around trees doesn't scare me," Olliverson says. "I had two of my fish that first day at Beaver - 3-pounders - that came right out of a tree. You do lose some, but man, I just have confidence that by back-reeling I can get those fish out. "I just take my time," he adds. "The first thing I do when I hook one is I kind of pull into it. I get away from the cover and try to get it out to that deep water. I sweep-set and reel just as fast as I can to try to bury that hook into it." Finding the juice Forrest Wood Cup champ Randall Tharp coined the term "the juice" when referring to the sweetest spots within large expanses of aquatic vegetation. For Olliverson, putting together a tournament game plan for his deep smallmouth technique requires finding a similarly small, productive patch of gravel and rock within a lake full of gravel and rock. The search starts with map and visual shoreline study, locating channel swings, deep points and other structures where gravel banks are near deep water. Once they're found, the actual cast-and-search can begin. "Typically the places that I fish are no larger than a 30- or 40-yard area," he says. "I'm not covering a bunch of water. They'll really bunch up. "I can think of several areas where my boat will not move from a 10- or 15-yard area, and I know exactly what cast I need to make," he adds. "I have days where I might have to revisit these spots several times, but sometimes I can camp on one and catch 10 or 15 keepers on one stop." Execution is key Olliverson did his part at Beaver Lake this season. He dedicated himself to a technique that he knew could win, but the fish just didn't cooperate. "Realistically, I lost some key fish, especially the third day," he says. "I had three of the right bites. I literally saw those fish, but I never broke off. They weren't eating it right; they were barely skin-hooked. Even with me letting them eat it, they just weren't mouthing the bait really well. "I had the fish on to do extremely well in this tournament," he adds. "I have no regrets. Any time I can go to a tournament and have one rod on the deck of my boat and fish with that much confidence, I've got no regrets. I'm telling you, one of these years, if we keep coming back to Beaver, that's a way that you can win this tournament." Meet Eric Olliverson The Ozark region, with its blue ribbon trout streams and links to tournament bass fishing's infancy, is steeped in fishing tradition. While bass fishing fans are still getting to know Eric Olliverson, his family's history is already part of that tradition. "I was born in Mountain Home," Olliverson said. "My grandfather, Bill Olliverson, owned and built several resorts on the White River. He was a guide for about 50 years and actually held the world record for brown trout. Old Forrest Wood used to guide for my grandfather on the White River. They were actually really good friends." The fishing bug skipped a generation in the Olliverson family, but it bit Eric hard as a kid. "Looking back, my grandfather was who got me into fishing," he says. "That was all I wanted to do was go out and trout fish and just fish. I didn't watch cartoons growing up. It was all about Bill Dance and Hank Parker and those guys." Eric's passion parlayed into a full-time career as a multi-species fishing guide on Bull Shoals, Table Rock and Lake Taneycomo. And in his free time, he fished local derbies before progressing to the regional level. In 14 years as a professional, Eric has won just about everything that can be won in the Ozarks. That's what led him to pursue the FLW Tour. "I've always wanted a chance to fish the Tour and was able to hook the right sponsors and just make it happen this year," he says. "I'm looking forward to not looking back. I'm ready to pursue this. I just love fishing. I'm so passionate about fishing, and I'm more passionate about tournament fishing. So I'm so excited about starting my career as an FLW Tour pro." To fish with Olliverson, who bases Eric's Elite Guide Service out of Lampe, Mo., check out EricsEliteGuideService.com.

Tags: article 


Fishing 101: Soft-Plastic Swimbaits

While all swimbaits accomplish the same thing – imitating a prey fish swimming through the water – there are now hundreds of baits from which to choose, and there are models for tackling just about any scenario. READ MORE »


Critter Shots of the Year

You see some things when you’re on the water for 10 months covering tournaments from Florida to California. Most of the time our on-the-water team has its cameras trained on the anglers, but every once in a while something from nature intervenes that is just too cool to pass up. READ MORE »


How to Succeed as a Co-angler

Fishing tournaments as a co-angler is a great first step to take toward a more advanced level of competitive bass fishing. Not only do you get more time on the water, you often end up fishing behind some very experienced anglers that can teach you some valuable lessons. READ MORE »


Episode 9 of FLW TV Airs Tonight

Watch as Ontario native Curtis Richardson qualifies for the Forrest Wood Cup and earns the title of Walmart Bass Fishing League All-American Champion on Kentucky Lake. READ MORE »


Peek Will Sit Out 2016 Tour

Alabama pro Richard Peek will forego the 2016 Walmart FLW Tour season to resolve back problems. Peek, of Centre, Ala., was told by his doctor that he should take off a year from tournament fishing so that surgery or other measures could be performed to correct a spinal deformity and relieve his pain. READ MORE »


2016 BFL All-American Qualifiers

With the completion of the Walmart Bass Fishing League Wild Card at Lake Hartwell – won by Mike Devere – all but The Bass Federation National Championship qualifiers are in place for the 2016 BFL All-American June 8-11 on Lake Barkley presented by the Cadiz-Trigg County Tourism Commission. READ MORE »


Jigging Up Late Fall Smallies

In the North Country, as fall fades and sportsmen settle in for the arrival of winter, many people put the boat away and forsake the water for the woods. For those willing to brave the elements on the lake, however, the reward is some of the best smallmouth bass fishing of the year for some of the biggest fish of the season. READ MORE »


Rayovac FLW Series Registration Opens

This is the week to register for everyone planning on fishing the FLW Series in 2016. Registration has been open for the top 40 pros and co-anglers from each division of the 2015 FLW Series and the top 50 boaters and co-anglers from each division of the 2015 Walmart Bass Fishing League (BFL) for some time. Tuesday is when everyone else can begin to get in on the action. READ MORE »


College Championship Airs Tonight

Tune in for the 2015 FLW College Fishing National Championship to see Patrick Walters and Gettys Brannon of the University of South Carolina capture the title in front of the hometown crowd at Lake Murray. READ MORE »


5 Pros Weigh in on Hanselman

When Ray Hanselman won the 2015 Rayovac FLW Series Championship to cap his season-long dominance of the Texas Division just about everyone tuned in. It wasn’t just the stunning sweep that captivated pros and fans alike; it was how he did it – leading after the second day in every event he fished and winning with stunning margins of 5 pounds, 8 ounces at Amistad, 7-2 at Sam Rayburn, 12 pounds even on Texoma and 8-2 at the Championship. READ MORE »


Episode 7 of FLW TV Airs Tonight

Watch as Shawn Gordon pulls off the win on Grand Lake in Oklahoma and qualifies for the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita in his home state of Arkansas. READ MORE »


How Hanselmania Happened

In case you’ve been stuck in a tree stand or out of social media range and didn’t already know it, Hanselman won all three regular-season Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division tournaments in 2015. And at the end of October he topped off his stellar run by winning the Rayovac FLW Series Championship on the Ohio River out of Paducah, Ky. READ MORE »


2014 Cup Wins Sports Tourism Award

The 2014 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Murray in Columbia, S.C., was recently named the 2015 Champion of Economic Impact in Sports Tourism for the mid- to large market category by Sports Destination Management magazine. READ MORE »


5 Best Smallmouth Destinations

Fall is the time of year to treat yourself to one last fishing excursion before the snowflakes start to fall. And if you’re going to take a fishing road trip amid a backdrop of autumn’s colorful foliage, it might as well be for fat, angry brown bass, right? READ MORE »


College Championship Field Set

Now that the 2015 FLW College Fishing Conference Championships are complete, 58 teams have earned the opportunity to fish in the 2016 FLW College Fishing National Championship. READ MORE »


2016 FLW College Fishing Rules



2016 College Fishing Schedule and Rules

The 2016 FLW College Fishing National Championship will be hosted by the Mountain Lakes Convention and Visitors Bureau on Lake Keowee in Seneca, S.C, March 17-19. All of the Championship action will be internationally televised on NBC Sports Network, the Pursuit Channel and the World Fishing Network. READ MORE »


Pink Power Takes the Stage

The reds and golds of autumn have been superseded by pink these days as anglers participating in FLW events have been showing their support for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which runs through October. READ MORE »


2016 BFL Rules



2016 BFL Schedule, Rules and Details

FLW recently announced the 2016 Walmart Bass Fishing League schedule, rules and details. The BFL will include 128 tournaments in 24 divisions in 2016. Awards being offered total nearly $8 million, including as much as $120,000 to the winning boater and $60,000 to the winning co-angler in the nationally-televised All-American, plus advancement to the Forrest Wood Cup for the All-American boater winner. READ MORE »