UPCOMING EVENT: Bass Fishing League - 2016 - Lake Ouachita

It’s likely to be a ledge game at Pickwick

Randy Blaukat

The pressure has begun mounting on the pros this week as they prepare for the fifth Walmart FLW Tour stop, this time on Pickwick Lake.

Of the approximately 170 anglers who'll be competing, a relative few of them will be vying for one of the 35 Forrest Wood Cup slots available for the August championship. A few weeks later, the last Tour event of the season, at Kentucky Lake, will settle matters for good.

Without question, the Forrest Wood Cup is the most difficult championship to qualify for in the sport of professional angling. If you fish the Walmart FLW Tour, no doubt you'll agree; if you don't, come on over and find out for yourself.

However, most of the anglers competing this week are out of Cup contention, and Pickwick will offer an opportunity to make a good paycheck to help cover the massive expenses required to fish professionally at this level.

I've talked to quite a few of the FLW Tour pros, and, as could be said for Kentucky Lake, this Tennessee River fishery is not at the top of their list of preferred lakes. The exceptions are the locals, or else those known for being experts at electronic imagery. It's not that Pickwick is a poor fishery. It's a good lake - to fish for fun on a weekday. For a huge tournament such as a Walmart FLW Tour event, not so much. The reason is that when you visit a Tennessee River lake in June, July or August, it's certain that the lake will fish small and that boats will be on top of each other in a big way.

This year it will be no different. Gone are the days when a few anglers knew the best shell beds and creek intersections and could capitalize. There are no secrets anymore, and on Pickwick, there aren't many options. The options that do exist, such as forcing a shallow bite or running to Bay Springs, can produce, but they will not produce the quality of fish necessary to earn a good check.

Add to this the fact that, in 2014, anglers will not be allowed to lock out of Pickwick, and it leaves even fewer options for the pros to explore. I don't mean to sound negative, but that is the reality going into this tournament, and that reality can't be sugarcoated.

Most of the bass caught this week will come from the Natchez Trace Parkway Bridge to the Bear Creek area. This locale will be covered with anglers, as it's the area of the lake considered to be the best section due to the river/creek intersection, shell beds and adjacent spawning flats.

The anglers that choose to fish this area will have to deal with several elements. First, the schools are easy to find with side-imaging units. All the big schools will be located the first few days of practice. Catching them is the easy part. Big crankbaits, swimbaits, jigs, worms and drop-shots will all produce.

The hard part is getting on the sweet spots, given the boat draw. There will be a ton of super-nervous anglers at the pretournament meeting, waiting on their first-day draw number. Some will get an early draw and whack them, and some will see their 20-plus-pounds-a-day catches in practice dwindle to near zero with a late draw.

This scenario has happened to all of us, and one of the main reasons so many Walmart FLW Tour pros don't care to fish tournaments on Tennessee River lakes in the postspawn/summer months. The uncontrolled variables are far too many to deal with successfully.

While most of the field will be battling it out offshore, some of the anglers will look for alternatives. Some will try to catch tailrace fish, but most likely, we're a month too late for that to be a factor. Some will fish shallow grass and wood. This will produce, but the quality will not be there to compete with the offshore ledge fish.

There will be a few anglers that make the long run to Bay Springs Lake. This can pay off, but it's nearly an 80-mile run, and Pickwick can get rough. As many of you know, this year has seen some of the highest daily winds I can remember (20 mph or higher nearly every day in Missouri for months), so this is a big gamble.

Regardless, Pickwick is a healthy fishery, and the weights will be good. I look for it to take around 80 pounds to win the event, and around 20 pounds to get a top-75 check after two days.

I don't see any one angler blowing out the event - a few years ago, maybe, but not in 2014. Everyone is just too good now when it comes to finding those little key sweet spots. Given that, it will come down to who gets the best boat draws and the key bites, and executes to perfection.

Best of luck to all the anglers!

Tags: randy-blaukat  blog 

/tips/2016-02-11-eric-jackson-q-a

Eric Jackson Q&A

We caught up with Jackson just prior to his Tour debut on Lake Okeechobee to learn more about his background in the outdoors and how he got started in tournament fishing. READ MORE »

/tips/2016-02-11-flw-podcast-111-bradley-hallman

FLW Podcast 111 - Bradley Hallman

READ MORE »

/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/2016-02-03-flw-podcast-110-jt-kenney-and-kyle-monti

FLW Podcast 110 - JT Kenney and Kyle Monti

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 »