Top 12 Tour Highlights

Stetson Blaylock broke down Beaver Lake for Tour Insider with FLW's Daniel Fennel.

A Walmart FLW Tour season is a long and eventful thing. For 24 days, more than 300 pros and co-anglers – the best anglers in the world – duel it out in bass-fishing competition across the country. Stories develop every day. News is made. Techniques are perfected. There are daily highlights. We could never list them all, so we didn’t. But we did come up with a list of 12 highlights that we think best tell the story of the 2014 Walmart FLW Tour season. Click on the links to read more about each.

 

Pro leader Brett Hite holds up part of his 34-pound, 15-ounce stringer.

1. Hite smashes 34-15 on day oneThe 2014 Walmart FLW Tour season started off on the highest of high notes. As if the Florida sun wasn't enough to energize everyone, Brett Hite caught the second-heaviest five-bass limit in Tour history on the first day of the 2014 season. Hite smashed 34 pounds, 15 ounces worth of Okeechobee bass with his trademarked ChatterBait to start what turned out to be the best season of his career on a fabulous note.

Pro leader Casey Ashley caught a 15-pound, 7-ounce limit Saturday and increased his lead to over 9 pounds with one day of competition remaining.

2. Ashley runs away with hometown tourneyCasey Ashley's win on Lake Hartwell was another high note. Though not a rookie, the first-year Tour pro broke onto the scene in grand fashion. Ashley breezed to a win in a frigid, rainy tournament that pushed the rest of the field's endurance to the breaking point. The third and fourth days of the event featured robust hometown crowds whose enthusiasm wasn't dampened in the slightest by the fact that part of Ashley's win depended on judiciously tapping local sources of information.

Cody Meyer is all business moving into the final regular season event and only eight points behind Andy Morgan in the AOY race.

3. Meyer’s streak ends at 50Hartwell produced a number of story lines, and the best was also the most heartbreaking. Repel pro Cody Meyer continued his hot season but fell short of a five-bass limit on the final day of competition (he never failed to bring in five the rest of the season). The four bass he weighed in were enough for fourth place, but not enough to keep his record-setting limit streak going. Meyer ended his streak at 50 consecutive limits, most ever in Tour competition and more than standouts like Jay Yelas, Jason Christie and Randall Tharp have ever achieved.

iON captures Richard Peek landing a giant bass on Kentucky Lake.

4. iONs arrive on TourSam Rayburn was the first event that FLW used iON cameras to capture the action in competitors' boats. The iONs provided amazing footage in their very first event, capturing Steve Kennedy landing an 8-pounder by handing his spinning rod around a cypress tree. As it turned out, that fish catch was only a preview of the great iON footage to come. See Mark Rose catch a 5- and 9-pounder at Rayburn. Watch Arey win at Beaver. See Hackney at Pickwick. See Haynes tossing Magnum Spoons at Kentucky Lake.

Being a hometown hero from Rogers, Ark., Travis Fox was a crowd favorite, and almost pulled off the victory.

5. Beaver Lake pumps out giantsBeaver Lake was a highlight in itself. The Tour's annual visit to the Ozark gem was expected to be a barometer for the effectiveness of umbrella rigs now that they’re outlawed from Tour competition – would the lake revert back to her old self, or would the best in the world catch them regardless? That question was never really answered, but the lake performed amazingly. In 2012, 115 pounds, 2 ounces of bass came to the scale on day four. Jason Christie's romp in 2013 saw 121-8 cross the stage on the final day. But on the day Matt Arey earned his first Tour win, an incredible 141 pounds was weighed in by the top 10.

Small, natural-hued swimbaits and grubs work best. Shown here are (top to bottom) a Keitech swimbait, Missile Baits Shockwave swim bait and Strike King Rage Tail Rage Grub.

6. “Scrubbing” for bass is revealedScrubbing, the process of sloooooowly swimming and dragging swimbaits over the bottom, also came to light at Beaver. Grubs and swimbaits have always been a player in the clear water at the north end of Beaver Lake, but this year was special. We saw stupendous numbers of big smallmouths caught and got a better idea than ever before of how some pros were employing light line and small swimbaits to fool big Ozark bass.

Greg Hackney shows his two best bass!

7. Hack hammers 97-7 at PickwickPickwick produced the final mega-bag of the season. Greg “Hack Attack” Hackney slammed 31-6, the 10th-heaviest five-bass limit in Tour history, on the second day of the event to seize the lead from Jeff “Gussy” Gustafson, and he never looked back. In truth, Pickwick was the big-fish highlight of the year. It took an incredible 97-7 to win, and only two of the top 10 averaged less than 20 pounds per day.

8. Prototype Strike King crankbait wins at PickwickThe Pickwick win and Hackney's post-game interviews also brought to light one of the first truly new baits of the season, a giant square-bill crankbait from Strike King that is expected to debut at ICAST. Hackney used it to great effect on the shallow ledge where he camped. What didn't come to light was the bait some of the top finishers threw on the deeper, more traditional ledges. More on that soon.

The Ben Parker Signature Series Magnum Spoon would nearly be a keeper bass in some states.

9. Magnum Spoons blow up Kentucky LakeThe Magnum Spoon was the story of the Kentucky Lake event. We got incredible photos and amazing iON footage of a select group of pros throwing this 8-inch piece of metal, and the rumor mill was working at full speed as pros and fans alike scrambled for baits and information. Not since the breakout of the 10XD or the umbrella rig has there been such excitement about a technique. It was refreshing to see anglers get fired up about something because it was cool, not because it was controversial.

Andy Morgan and Cody Meyer are the top contenders in the 2014 AOY race.

 

10. Meyer, Morgan battle for AOYKentucky Lake was also the climax of maybe the greatest Kellogg's Angler of the Year race the Tour has ever seen. Repel pro Cody Meyer and Livingston Lures pro Andy Morgan took it down to the wire to finish out an incredible season. Even cooler than seeing Morgan win his second-consecutive AOY (predicted by David Dudley on the FLW Podcast), was seeing how much he and Meyer enjoyed the race and the huge amount of respect they have for each other as competitors. Check out this exclusive video with Andy Morgan.

 

After being disqualified from the season opener on Okeechobee, Chevy pro Anthony Gagliardi rallied to qualify for the Forrest Wood Cup held on Lake Murray - his home lake - this August.

 

11. Gagliardi battles back for shot at CupWhat began with tragedy ended with elation. Anthony Gagliardi was disqualified from the season-opener on Lake Okeechobee due to an inadvertent rule violation. It was instant heartbreak for fans of Gags, who assumed he’d miss his shot at fishing the 2014 Forrest Wood Cup on his home fishery, Lake Murray. With a major point deficit to overcome, Gagliardi proved that he truly is one of this sport’s greatest anglers – and one of its greatest people. He never complained in the media, never faltered in his quest and fought his way back through the standings. At the final event on Kentucky Lake, when the scores were tallied, Gags found out he was in … by just one AOY point.

 

It was a big finish for a big man this week on Pickwick Lake. Jason Johnson finished in fourth place on the co-angler side.

 

12. Johnson DQ’d, rises above adversityThe final story line of the 2014 Tour season was about a co-angler. Jason Johnson won the Co-angler of the Year award and then lost it to Braxton Setzer after iON footage revealed a rule violation that forced FLW to disqualify Johnson’s day-three weight. The highlight wasn't the DQ, nor was Setzer's win. It was how Johnson took it. He handled the DQ with the class and level-headedness of a 10-year veteran and showed the world the type of character he has. He did yeoman’s work in the comments section on FLW's Facebook page, came across as completely genuine, and no doubt caught the eye of fans and potential sponsors for when he fishes the Tour as a pro in 2015. 

Tags: article 

/tips/2015-04-26-queen-and-black-crowned-high-school-fishing-champs

Queen and Black Crowned High School Fishing Champs

Kristopher Queen and Tyler Black of the North Carolina Student Angler Federation won the 2015 SAF High School Fishing National Championship on Oklahoma’s Grand Lake. Queen and Black bested a field of the 10 best High School Fishing teams in the two-day competition. They caught 17 pounds, 2 ounces on Saturday to make it to today’s final round of five teams in second place. Then today, the Tar Heel State’s best backed it up with 17-15 to surpass Oklahoma’s Trevor Yates and Jacob Keenom, the day-one-leaders, by 4 pounds, 6 ounces with a two-day total of 35-01. Queen and Black earned a $10,000 scholarship for their win. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-04-25-keenom-yates-grab-high-school-lead

Keenom, Yates Grab High School Lead

Oklahoma’s Trevor Yates and Jacob Keenom sacked a five-bass limit weighing 17 pounds, 3 ounces to top the leaderboard on day one of the Student Angler Federation High School Fishing National Championship on Grand Lake. Kristopher Queen and Tyler Black are hot on their heels in second with five bass weighing 17 pounds, 2 ounces. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-04-25-a-high-school-fishing-grand-finale

A High School Fishing Grand Finale

Adrenaline and optimism were running high among the 19 young guns gathered at Wolf Creek Park as they anxiously awaited takeoff on day one of the Student Angler Federation High School Fishing National Championship on Grand Lake. Set for April 25-26 on the legendary Sooner impoundment, the championship pits the nation’s top 10 two-person high school teams in an all-out bass battle for the national title and a $10,000 college scholarship. One contestant, Cameron Pappan, is fishing solo. The road to the finals began in 2014, with state and open championships leading to one of five conference finals, then ultimately to Grand Lake. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-04-21-weekend-wrap-up-april-21-2015

Weekend Wrap-Up – April 21, 2015

With the College Fishing National Championship and the kickoff of the Rayovac FLW Series Central Division going on, this past weekend was pretty hotly anticipated. Lucky for fishing fans, it sure lived up to the billing. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-04-18-grand-lake-midday-update-day-3

Grand Lake Midday Update Day 3

READ MORE »

/tips/2015-04-17-grand-lake-midday-update

Grand Lake Midday Update

As the second day of competition in the Rayovac FLW Series event on Grand Lake draws on, the sight-fishing bite is still strong, but day-one leader Todd Castledine has been unable to capitalize thus far. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-04-16-grand-lake-day-1-midday-update

Grand Lake Day 1 Midday Update

GROVE, Okla. – After the fog delay stalled action on day one of the Central Division opener on Grand Lake the anglers are now enjoying perfect weather for sight-fishing. Lingering light fog and clouds gave way to calm, sunny conditions this afternoon. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-04-16-20-questions-with-ray-hanselman

20 Questions with Ray Hanselman

Ray Hanselman is on fire. The Del Rio, Texas, pro won back-to-back Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division tournaments to start the 2015 season. His first win was in February on Lake Amistad, which is Hanselman’s home lake and where he runs a guide service. His second win came last week on Sam Rayburn. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-04-15-weekend-wrap-up-april-13-2015

Weekend Wrap-up – April 13, 2015

The week after the Easter break turned out to be pretty spectacular. We saw incredible feats at the Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division event on Sam Rayburn and the FLW College Fishing event on Table Rock. Plus, BFL competition was hot across the country. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-04-10-top-5-patterns-from-sam-rayburn-day-2

Top 5 Patterns from Sam Rayburn Day 2

Two limits of more than 20 pounds have pushed Del Rio, Texas, pro Ray Hanselman atop the leaderboard at the Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division tournament on Sam Rayburn Reservoir presented by Mercury. Hanselman is flipping and pitching plastics to flooded brush and trees, with careful consideration to the spots that allow him the best targeting efficiency. The lake level remains at a 15-year high, so anglers are chasing scattered bass in areas the fish rarely see. Overcast skies dominated the day, and isolated showers popped up throughout competition. Overall, productivity was lower than that of day one, with fewer fish and limits caught, and overall weights down. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-04-08-the-bucket-list

The Bucket List

Gleaned from my various fishing travels over the years, here are 10 places ­– in no particular order – that I’ve fished that I believe should definitely be on your bass fishing “bucket list.” Some are fantastic winter getaways, but other will require you to wait until warmer weather arrives. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-04-08-college-fishing-takes-on-table-rock

College Fishing Takes on Table Rock

KIMBERLING CITY, Mo. – FLW College Fishing is headed to Table Rock Lake April 11 for the first of three regular-season stops 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 »

/tips/2015-04-08-walmart-bfl-tournament-preview

Walmart BFL Tournament Preview

The 2015 Walmart Bass Fishing League season will continue with six tournaments on Saturday, April 11. The Arkie Division will take on Lake Dardanelle, the Bama Division stops on Lake Martin, the LBL Division heads to Kentucky Lake, the Ozark Division competes on Lake of the Ozarks, the Piedmont Division opens their season on Kerr Lake and the Savannah River Division continues on Lake Hartwell. 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 events. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-04-06-hibdons-suspend-tournament-careers

Hibdons Suspend Tournament Careers

Veteran Missouri pro Guido Hibdon and his grandson, Payden, have decided to leave the ranks of the 2015 Walmart FLW Tour, but hope to resume their tournament careers in the future. Like several other pros, the Hibdons, of Sunrise Beach, Mo., were victims of cutbacks in sponsor dollars that began last fall and left many anglers scrambling for financial support just before the 2015 tournament season opened. Dion Hibdon, Guido’s son and Payden’s father, lost a major sponsorship when Chevy pulled out as an FLW backer and dissolved the Chevy fishing team to which Dion belonged. However, the Bassmaster Classic and Forrest Wood Cup champion will continue to fish the Tour. He’ll travel to tournaments with his younger son, Lawson, 18, who will fish as a co-angler. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-04-06-tour-talk

Tour Talk

We’re fresh off stop No. 2 of the 2015 Walmart FLW Tour season on Smith Lake, and there’s plenty to talk about in this installment of FLW’s Tour Talk, where our pundits weigh in on what’s happening along the Tour trail. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-04-03-strader-leads-the-aoy-pack

Strader Leads the AOY Pack

Things are starting to take shape in the Angler of the Year race too, and while another pair of veterans is atop the standings, there are some new faces emerging as well. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-04-01-kids-get-to-wet-a-line-during-lewis-smith-event

Kids Get to Wet a Line During Lewis Smith Event

The children and their families had plenty of room to spread out around the Smith Lake Dam cove, which proved to be a good place to fish as it was also the site where the FLW release boat unloaded fish caught by the pros during Friday’s round. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-03-30-high-school-anglers-fish-for-their-future

High School Anglers Fish for Their Future

High school anglers from across the Midwest braved chilly weather at Kentucky Lake Saturday in hopes of finding hot spots that would help advance them to the High School Fishing Southeastern Conference Championship on Lake Lanier this fall as well as help fund their college education. The 150 high school anglers and their coaches awoke to an unusually cold spring morning to compete in the 2015 Murray State High School Fishing Open. Frost-covered decks, gear and tackle, frozen livewells and outboards reluctant to start were among the first challenges those aboard the 75 boats had to deal with at Kentucky Dam Marina. The event honored the memory of Murray State University’s Dr. Jim Carter, one of the earliest proponents of fishing as a state-sanctioned high school sport. Teams competed for a grand prize of $4,000 in scholarships to Murray State. The scholarships were provided by Independence Bank of Murray and FLW in partnership with the Murray State Bass Anglers. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-03-21-guntersville-midday-update

Guntersville Midday Update

With numerous local boats on the water, a number of the top 10 pros have been unable to fully capitalize – Cameron Gautley didn’t have a limit at noon and Trevor Fitzgerald, Jay Kendrick and Rob Digh had yet to complete theirs as well. READ MORE »

/tips/2015-03-21-college-open-day-2-midday-update

College Open Day 2 Midday Update

The sun is shining, the weather is warmer and the bass aren’t biting, at least not for most of the first-round leaders here in the FLW College Fishing Kentucky Lake Open. As the second and final day of competition unfolds, the leaders are struggling to maintain their positions. READ MORE »