UPCOMING EVENT: Rayovac FLW Series - 2015 - Lake Champlain

The Tennessee River grand finale begins

The Tennessee River System offers prime fishing locations for bass both shallow and deep.

By this time of the season, reality has set in on the Walmart FLW Tour. The 167 pros still in the chase know the score: Most of them will be fishing for checks at Pickwick this weekend and at Kentucky Lake June 26-29. Only a handful will be fishing for a ticket to the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Murray in August. Of this latter group, some already have a fairly good idea that their future travel plans include a summer trip to Columbia, S.C. Several more on the cusp will be disappointed, and a few will be happy. One of them might be the guy the confetti gets dumped on at the final weigh-in of the Forrest Wood Cup. A fitting finale It's fitting that the final two qualifying tournaments in the 2014 season are on Tennessee River impoundments. All things considered, that river system's TVA lakes have been the historic epicenter for game-changing events in bass fishing, and the proving grounds for so many great pros. Tennessee River impoundments collectively rank as the finest bass fishery in the nation, with ample supplies of largemouth, smallmouth and spotted subspecies. The abundance of bass suggests another Tennessee River trait that makes its lakes such popular tournament destinations: Every possible pattern, from flipping jigs into shoreline weed mats, or plumbing the offshore depths for schooling fish, comes into play - sometimes all at once during an early summer day. That's likely to be the case during the coming events, though nobody reasonably expects them to be much more than offshore duels among the Tour's best ledge fishermen. It's logical to assume that the "local guys" with their secret spots have the upper hand, but that's seldom the case. Fishing skill almost always trumps familiarity when an angler who knows what he's doing locates fish anywhere. Kellogg's Frosted Flakes pro Dave Lefebre of Pennsylvania, in 2012, and Keystone Light pro Chad Grigsby of Minnesota, in 2011, proved that most recently at Kentucky Lake where they won Walmart FLW Tour summer events. The fish surges one last time. Pro winner Chad Grigsby holds up part of his 22-pound, 13-ounce final-day stringer. "Both Pickwick and Kentucky Lake were hit hard by the long cold winter and are fishing about two weeks behind at this point," notes Bill Taylor, FLW's director of tournament operations. "But both lakes are at full pool and in good shape. Catches in local tournaments are right up there where one would expect these two fine Tennessee River lakes to produce. I predict 75 pounds will win each Walmart FLW Tour event with a top-20 cut at 28 pounds." The early favorites Pickwick has been famous for its jumbo smallmouths for years, but when Lance Walker caught and subsequently released a largemouth that weighed more than 14 1/2 pounds there in early 2012, the fishing focus shifted a bit. Walker's catch put the lake on the map as a solid largemouth destination, and anglers accustomed to targeting Pickwick's smallmouths turned some of their attention to bigmouths. In the process, the lake was transformed into more of a multi-dimensional fishery. Pickwick's hydrilla should produce at least a few eye-popping big largemouths in the coming days. That's the observation of well-known local guide Roger Stegall, who notes that as hydrilla has proliferated in the lake during the past few years, the largemouth bass population seems to have profited. Last winter's cold weather knocked back the hydrilla, but scattered pockets hold enough grass to invite shallow-water presentations. "We've got a tremendous amount of 6- to 10-pound largemouths now, and a lot of those fish are coming out of the hydrilla," says Stegall. "So I wouldn't count out the guys who know how to fish the weed mats, especially if they have some ledge spots going for them too." Mark Rose also caught the big bass in the Pro Division weighing in at 7-9. It's doubtful that the eventual winner at Pickwick will spend a lot of time fishing grass, however. Ledge master Mark Rose, the Walmart pro, won at Pickwick in 2011, the last time the Tour visited there, by more than 5 pounds over runner-up Kevin Snider of Kentucky. The latter isn't fishing the Tour this season, but Randy Haynes is, and he's another west Tennessee ledge expert who's a wizard with electronics. Haynes joined the Walmart FLW Tour last year, and his win at Lake Eufaula provided strong evidence that he belonged in the top tier. A Strike King 10XD, Profound Outdoors Z-Boss 20 crankbait and a football jig were Randy Haynes If anyone needed additional proof of Haynes' ledge-fishing ability, it came at the Rayovac FLW Series Central Division tournament on Kentucky Lake last weekend, which Haynes won with a three-day stringer that topped 75 pounds. That event was considered a tune-up for both Pickwick and the last 2014 Tour stop on Kentucky Lake. Haynes, Jason Lambert (who finished second in the Rayovac competition with 73-7), Rose (third, 71-3), Barry Wilson (fourth, 70-2) and Brandon Hunter (fifth, 69-13) are all offshore journeyman and will be among the pre-tournament frontrunners at either event. Forrest Wood Cup implications A lot of things are going to get settled in June besides who gets the six-figure paychecks at the last weigh-ins. There's also the matter of the pros who are going to the Forrest Wood Cup. Pickwick will provide some good clues, and Kentucky Lake will settle all bets. Among the contenders to watch are Haynes, who's in 70th place heading into Pickwick; Lambert, in 63rd place; and Chevy pro Anthony Gagliardi, currently in 44th place despite having missed the first Tour event of the season at Lake Okeechobee. Haynes and Lambert will have to put together two extraordinary finishes each to reach the championship - but it's possible. Anthony Gagliardi culls late in the day. Gagliardi, of Prosperity, S.C., will be one of the favorites to win the Cup if he can qualify for it. That would require a pair of solid performances. Just ahead of him, in 43rd place, is Andy Montgomery. Another South Carolina pro who seems to be flying under everyone's radar screen now, Montgomery will be tough to beat on Lake Murray ¬- providing Pickwick and Kentucky Lake are kind to him. AOY contenders Andy Morgan and Cody Meyer are the top contenders in the 2014 AOY race. It's purely coincidental, but the 2014 Angler of the Year race is shaping up as an East-West test of sorts that pits current leader and defending AOY Andy Morgan and Rose (currently fourth) against Californians Cody Meyer (second) and Brent Ehrler (fifth). Of course, Rayovac pro Jacob Wheeler (third), Shin Fukae (sixth) or Jason Christie (seventh) have something to say about it as well, but the nod has to go either to Morgan because of his consistency, Rose because of his mastery of the Tennessee Valley Authority's western impoundments, Ehrler because he's a proven winner on any body of water and Meyer because he's had a red-hot season with three top-10 finishes. So how does this quartet size up against the likely factors that will come into play at Pickwick and Kentucky Lake? Consider a couple of probabilities that will play big factors in both tournaments: • Likely patterns - It's summer on the Tennessee River, the water is hot and the shad schools are bunching up offshore. Sure, it's possible to pick up some kind of limit early inshore on topwaters or by flipping, but the big sacks at Pickwick and Kentucky Lake will be caught offshore. The ledges are going to get worked over with crankbaits, jigs, big soft plastics and jigging spoons. Among this group, Rose is the shoo-in on both lakes. • Hot weather and angler performance - In June, the average air temperature in Florence, Ala., is 88 degrees. By late June, the average air temperature in Aurora, Ky., is hitting 90 or so. Last year, nearby Paducah recorded a high of 94 on June 27. In 2012, the air temperature hit a record 108 degrees on June 29. Kentucky Lake, in particular, is going to be an endurance test. The advantage goes to Andy Morgan and Rose, who grew up spending sultry days on Southern lakes, rivers and oxbows. It gets hot in California, too, especially this year, but as the old saying goes, it's not the heat, but the humidity that gets you and affects your game. There's more at stake Rookie pro Shane Lehew holds up two Lake Okeechobee bass. Beyond the AOY, there are other issues at stake in the final two events. The Rookie of the Year race on the pro side is shaping up to be a neck-and-neck finish among current leader Shane Lehew (586 points and 31st overall) of North Carolina, Jeff Sprague (578 points, 35th) of Texas and Keith Amerson (558 points, 42nd) of Tennessee. The smart money is on Amerson, who lives in Selmer, Tenn., near Pickwick Lake and not so far from the southern end of Kentucky Lake. Five of his top-10 finishes in Walmart Bass Fishing League tournaments have come on Kentucky Lake. Co-angler Nick Loeffelman Jr. finished the Lake Okeechobee event in fifth place. Even the Co-Angler of the Year race is tight, in part because of the vagaries of the pro partner draw, but also because the fishermen at the top balance each other in talent. Missourian Nick Loeffelman Jr. is the current leader by 36 points over Ken Coats of Oklahoma, and he's 41 points ahead of Brian New of North Carolina. Loeffelman claimed the fifth spot at Okeechobee in the season-opener, followed by finishes of 19th, 11th and fifth at Lake Hartwell, Sam Rayburn and Beaver Lake, respectively. Looking at the stats, New has been the most consistent of the trio since a 68th-place trainwreck at Okeechobee. A traveling companion of Chevy pro and fellow Tarheel Bryan Thrift, New had finishes of third, seventh and third, respectively, in the last three tournaments.

Tags: pre-tournament  colin-moore 

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A Country Music Festival at the Cup

It’ll be quite the country music festival atmosphere, complete with an extensive hunting and fishing expo featuring the top tackle and outdoor brands in the country, plus the second annual Bass & BBQ Festival, where fans can sample the wares of the world’s finest low-and-slow cookers. READ MORE »

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FLW Anticipating Largest Expo of All Time

Bass fishing history and Arkansas walk hand-in-hand it seems. The Natural State was home to the first bass tournament. It’s where Ranger Boats was founded. And it’s hosted some of FLW’s most noteworthy events. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-28-previewing-champlain-

Previewing Champlain

Year in, year out, Lake Champlain presents a challenge that is almost totally unique. When the Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division competition gets under way on Champlain later this week, competitors will have about 100 miles of water to choose from. The win could come from anywhere, and limits will be plentiful. The event, which is presented by Plano, is likely to be an exciting one to follow. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-27-fishing-the-cup-for-a-cure

Fishing the Cup for a Cure

n his first year fishing the Walmart FLW Tour, Jason Meninger placed 41st in the standings, earned more than $30,000 and qualified for the Forrest Wood Cup. Oh, yeah, he also found out he had cancer. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-07-24-shallow-does-it-for-scott-wiley

Shallow Does it for Scott Wiley

Wiley settled all doubt about that at the last Walmart FLW Tour event of the year on the Potomac River, where he finished 12th in the tournament and 27th in the yearly standings. It was his best finish in the three years he’s fished the Tour, and provided him his first shot at winning the Cup and its top prize of $500,000. The Potomac locked him in. Had it not been for muddy water sweeping through his area on day three, the Alabama pro might have made it into the championship round. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-22-college-fishing-rolls-to-the-mighty-miss

College Fishing Rolls to the Mighty Miss

FLW College Fishing is headed to the Mississippi River July 25 for the third and final regular-season tournament in the Central Conference. A full field of college teams will be competing for a top award of $2,000 and a berth in the Central Conference Championship tournament. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-21-shane-lehew-gets-his-chance

Shane Lehew Gets His Chance

In 2014, Lehew began his Tour pro career by capturing 24th place in the first event of the year on Lake Okeechobee. His performances on the Big O last year and at Lake Toho this spring reflect his preference for fishing shallow water with mixed cover. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-15-new-clothing-and-sunglasses-at-icast-2015

New Clothing and Sunglasses at ICAST 2015

Sunglasses and clothing that can resist all that Mother Nature throws at it are critical for hard-core anglers. Here’s what’s new in those categories at this year’s ICAST show. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-09-ohio-river-event-rescheduled-for-august

Ohio River Event Rescheduled for August

The Walmart BFL tournament on the Ohio River at Tanner’s Creek slated for July 11 has been rescheduled to August 29 due to extremely high water levels. All takeoff and weigh-in locations and times will remain the same. Anglers will takeoff and weigh-in at the Lawrenceburg City Ramp, located at Tanner’s Creek Drive in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. Up to 400 boaters and co-anglers will be competing for top awards of up to $8,000 and $3,000 respectively in the one-day event. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-08-2015-forrest-wood-cup-co-angler-qualifiers

2015 Forrest Wood Cup Co-Angler Qualifiers

Along with their pro colleagues, 50 of the best co-anglers in the country will take to the waters of Lake Ouachita Aug. 20-23 for the 2015 Forrest Wood Cup. Here’s the official list of qualifiers, in alphabetical order and by source of qualification. READ MORE »

/news/2015-07-02-things-to-do-at-the-2015-cup

Things to do at the 2015 Cup

When 50 of the world’s best bass anglers arrive in Hot Springs, Ark., for the 2015 Forrest Wood Cup next month, they’ll be competing for the biggest honor in bass fishing – Forrest Wood Cup champion – and the biggest winning payday in bass fishing – $500,000. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-30-2015-forrest-wood-cup-field-announced

2015 Forrest Wood Cup Field Announced

READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-24-practice-with-alex-davis

Practice with Alex Davis

The final stop of the Walmart FLW Tour on the Potomac River is a homecoming of sorts for pro Alex Davis. Though Davis now spends his time guiding on Lake Guntersville, his early years were spent about 45 miles west of the Potomac in Strasburg, Va., where he learned to bass fish. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-24-historical-potomac-river-tour

Historical Potomac River Tour

While the field for the Walmart FLW Tour event was out looking for bass on the Potomac River we decided to see the sights as well. Launching at Smallwood State Park, we rolled out for a self-guided tour of the area in a Ranger Z520c. Below is a sampling of what we saw. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-23-practice-with-adrian-avena

Practice with Adrian Avena

Adrian Avena might not have the years on the water that some of the other locals have, but he’s currently sitting eighth in the AOY race and calculates that he only needs to catch one keeper to make the Forrest Wood Cup. I was happy to jump in the boat with him and co-angler Ian Renfrew for a few hours on the final day of practice for the Walmart FLW Tour event on the Potomac. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-21-top-10-patterns-from-the-all-american

Top 10 Patterns From The All-American

Giant spoons and drop-shot rigs were out in force during the All-American, as it strictly was a ledge tournament, but they weren’t the only tools that the All-American anglers worked with in the three-day event. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-20-richardson-wins-all-american

Richardson Wins All-American

Curtis Richardson has a way of surprising people – even himself. The Ontario angler had all but written himself off in the championship round of the Walmart Bass Fishing League All-American, thinking his limit of five bass wouldn’t hold up for long with the likes of Jeremy Lawyer and Bill Schroeder breathing down his neck. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-20-burgess-tops-all-american-co-angler-field

Burgess Tops All-American Co-Angler Field

If Bob Burgess could have picked three better partners to fish with in the Walmart Bass Fishing League All-American on Kentucky Lake, it might have been illegal. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-20-all-american-midday-update-day-3

All-American Midday Update Day 3

Big changes might be coming in the standings of the Walmart Bass Fishing League All-American on Kentucky Lake, as some of the top 10 leaders struggled this morning to catch limits. Canadian angler Curtis Richardson, who currently is leading, had only one 3-pound keeper by midmorning. And second-place boater Billy Schroeder, who had fished just below the Paris Landing Bridge for the first two days, finally bailed out from there after catching four keepers this morning. READ MORE »

/news/2015-06-19-o-canada-richardson-leads-day-2

O Canada! Richardson Leads Day 2

For a guy who’s put together two solid days of fishing to occupy the top spot in the Walmart Bass Fishing League All-American on Kentucky Lake hosted by the Henry County Alliance, Curtis Richardson doesn’t exude a lot of confidence. READ MORE »