UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Lake Norman

Weekend anglers go to work

Weekend anglers go to work
The 2004 BFL All-America on Lake Hamilton gets under way.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - They are called "weekend anglers." They are not full-time professional anglers, but they are certainly not amateurs, either. During the week they have regular jobs as contractors, firemen, accountants, mechanics and business owners. On the weekends, however, they are all bonded by one passion: competitive bass fishing.

The Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League (BFL) is their circuit - a series of weekend-oriented divisional and regional tournaments that whittle the competition down to the cream of the weekend angling crop. And now that cream, 43 boaters and 43 co-anglers from across America, have arrived in Hot Springs, Ark., for the 2004 BFL All-American - the crown jewel of BFL competition - on Lake Hamilton.

This week these top bass anglers and their families have been treated to an all-expenses paid stay in beautiful Hot Springs.

Now the real work for these weekend anglers begins. Thursday morning they were all business as the anglers launched for day one of official competition. The 43 boaters had a $100,000 top prize on their minds and the 43 co-anglers had a $50,000 top prize on their minds for the respective divisions' titles.

Normally, the All-American is held in May or early June when most fish are in a postspawn mode. The two previous BFL All-Americans held on Lake Hamilton were during the first week in May (2000, 2001), and both were won by crankbait wizard Jeff Coble of Henderson, N.C.

This year the earlier dates should make Lake Hamilton a different ball game, and sight-fishing might be the dominant fish-catching pattern.

Out on the 7,500-acre lake, bass are cruising the banks in the 58- to 62-degree water looking for suitable places to spawn, and several contestants reported seeing fish on beds during the single practice day on Wednesday.

Past BFL All-American winner Kim Carver of Milledgeville, Ga., said many bass are up cruising around, but only a few have locked on beds.

Mark Jordan of Kevil, Ky., points to a spawning bass on Lake Hamilton."Given the conditions, sight-fishing is probably how this tournament is going to be won," said Carver. "But since we didn't have a long practice period to scout out a bunch of beds, I think the winner will be the guy who is brave enough to go to some part of the lake he has never seen before and just start looking."

"There are a few fish up now, but I think it's going to get even better later in the week with the warming temperatures," said Mark Jordan of Kevil, Ky., while practicing on Wednesday.

Indeed, a warming trend featuring sunny skies and daytime highs near 80 degrees is favoring the sight-fishermen.

But at least one angler is willing to fish against the grain. Taking inspiration from Coble's back-to-back David Wright of Lexington, N.C., tells `FLW Outdoors' host Taylor Carr about his crankbait game plan.crankbait victories several years ago, David Wright of Lexington, N.C., is going to fish deep with crankbaits today.

"I don't think all of the fish are on the bank," he said this morning. "I'm going to fish offshore for most of the day."

One thing all anglers will have to contend with today is a breezy south wind forecasted to blow 10 to 15 mph.

Unlike other FLW Outdoors events where anglers start from zero when the cut is made, the top 10 anglers that fish on Saturday will carry their weight over from the first two days.

Many contestants are predicting that it will take a three-day total of 34 to 36 pounds to win.

The weights start accumulating today at the Summit Arena in downtown Hot Springs at 3 p.m. Central time.

Thursday's conditions:

Sunrise: 6:55 a.m.
Air temperature: 50 degrees
Water temperature: 58 degrees
Wind: south 10 to 15 mph
Day's outlook: sunny, warm and breezy

Tags: rob-newell  morning-story  2004-04-15-lake-hamilton 

Plains Division Kicks Off on Dardanelle

Plains Division Kicks Off on Dardanelle

All the major bass tournaments Lake Dardanelle has hosted since 2004 have followed different scripts, and the Toyota Series Plains Division event that kicks off today will be no different. With a schedule full of changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this is the first event of the Plains Division season, and it’s the last division to kick off in 2020. READ MORE »

High Water on Tap for College Open

High Water on Tap for College Open

By mid-September, Kentucky Lake can be absolutely lights-out when you find a big school up on its many shallow bars. This week, during the Abu Garcia College Fishing presented by YETI Open, that’s probably not going to be the case – instead of locking a topwater in their hands, college teams are likely to take a much more varied approach. READ MORE »

Top 10 Patterns from Neely Henry

Top 10 Patterns from Neely Henry

Mark McCaig won the Toyota Series Southeastern Division event on Neely Henry casting a SPRO Bronzeye Poppin' Frog under overhanging trees, pitching a  Big Bite Baits Fighting Frog docks and cranking current breaks with a square-bill crankbait. Behind him, the rest of the top 10 mostly fished shallow grass, docks, rocks and laydowns by pitching creature baits and casting buzzbaits, ChatterBaits, and shaky heads. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from Neely Henry

Top 10 Baits from Neely Henry

With very little current being run through Neely Henry during the Toyota Series Southeastern Division event, offshore fishing was almost nil. Instead, most of the field had to survive fishing shallow shoreline cover like willow grass, docks, rip rap, laydowns and shade. Here is a look at the lures that helped score a top 10. READ MORE »

McCaig Wins on Neely Henry

McCaig Wins on Neely Henry

Grinding for three days on Neely Henry was rough work, but Mark McCaig totaled up 33 pounds, 12 ounces for the win in the final Toyota Series Southeastern Division event of the season. Weighing 10-3 on the final day, McCaig earned $21,190 for his win, plus the $35,000 Phoenix Bonus and a $1,500 Mercury Bonus for a total of more than $57,000. READ MORE »

Owen Takes Co-Angler Title on Neely Henry

Owen Takes Co-Angler Title on Neely Henry

Kyle Owen of Bradenton, Fla., won the co-angler division of the Toyota Series Southeastern Division event on Neely Henry with a three-day total of 23 pounds, 4 ounces. For his win, Owen takes home a new Phoenix bass boat and a 115-horsepower motor worth $33,500.  READ MORE »

McCaig Moves Ahead on Neely Henry

McCaig Moves Ahead on Neely Henry

Ordinarily, weighing 14 pounds isn’t such a big deal. But, with things as tough as they are this week for the anglers in the Toyota Series Southeastern Division event on Neely Henry, 14 pounds is a really big deal. Weighing the biggest bag of the event so far, Mark McCaig dropped 14 pounds, 10 ounces on the scale on day two to jump into the lead with a 23-9 total. READ MORE »

Neely Henry Midday Update – Day 2

Neely Henry Midday Update – Day 2

Despite bright sun, slick calm and zero current early this morning, the bite on Neely Henry seemed to be just a bit better for Toyota Series Southeastern Division anglers on day two. READ MORE »

Nixon Leads on Neely Henry

Nixon Leads on Neely Henry

Day one of the Toyota Series Southeastern Division event on Neely Henry was about as grimy as can be, with only a handful of pros and co-anglers topping the 10-pound mark. In the lead on the pro side, Jason Nixon of Wetumpka, Ala., took the lead with 10 pounds, 14 ounces. READ MORE »

Neely Henry Midday Update – Day 1

Neely Henry Midday Update – Day 1

Anglers fishing the Toyota Series Southeastern Division on Neely Henry this morning got just about the best weather you could ask for when it comes to late summer fishing in the south: heavy clouds with a slight breeze to ripple the water. READ MORE »

Southwestern Division Hits Fort Gibson

Southwestern Division Hits Fort Gibson

The Toyota Series Southwestern Division rolls on with the Toyota Series at Fort Gibson Lake. Hosted by the Wagoner Area Chamber of Commerce, the three-day tournament will feature the region’s best bass-fishing pros and co-anglers casting for a top prize of up to $65,000, plus a $35,000 bonus if the winner is a qualified Phoenix Boat owner. READ MORE »

Southeastern Div. Wraps on Neely Henry

Southeastern Div. Wraps on Neely Henry

The Toyota Series Southeastern Division is wrapping its 2020 season with the third and final stop at Neely Henry Lake out of Gadsden, Ala., this week. While Neely Henry is often a perennial stop on Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine schedules, this is the first time the Toyota Series has visited the winding reservoir along the Coosa River in northeast Alabama. READ MORE »

Curveballs Ahead for Cal Delta Field

Curveballs Ahead for Cal Delta Field

The California Delta is a frequent stop for anglers in the Toyota Series Western Division. The storied fishery has hosted countless FLW tournaments over the years, but this year is different, as the event was rescheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of the traditional May or late-September dates for the stop, the rescheduled date is this week, right in the middle of August. The new time of year will surely make things different than previous years. READ MORE »

Another Erie Battle Begins

Another Erie Battle Begins

The Toyota Series Northern Division is going out of Sandusky Bay on Lake Erie once again. This week’s event takes place on August 18-20, and it is the second stop of the Northern Division. Like the last event out of Sandusky, Erie is in play, as well as the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair, with all Canadian waters being off-limits to fishing. READ MORE »

Top 10 Patterns from Wheeler Lake

Top 10 Patterns from Wheeler Lake

As promised, Wheeler Lake turned out to be the stingiest of the two stops on the Toyota Series Southeastern Division so far this season. The dog days of summer put the kibosh on the main-lake bite, leaving Wheeler’s many shallow creeks and tributaries to supply the pounds and ounces at weigh-in. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from Wheeler Lake

Top 10 Baits from Wheeler Lake

The Toyota Series Southeastern Division event on Wheeler Lake was a shallow-water power-fishing showdown in tough summertime conditions. Almost all the fish the top 10 pros caught came from 5 feet of water or less, and a fair amount of those were caught in 3 feet or less. READ MORE »

Culpepper Captures Co-Angler Win

Culpepper Captures Co-Angler Win

Cal Culpepper of Hamilton, Ga., won the co-angler side of the Toyota Series Southeastern Division event on Wheeler Lake in impressive fashion. In three days of a tough tournament, Culpepper sacked up limits of 11-11, 5-11 and 11-7 from the back of the boat for a three-day total of 28 pounds, 13 ounces. For his win, he takes home a fully rigged Phoenix bass boat. READ MORE »

Carter Cruises to Wheeler Win

Carter Cruises to Wheeler Win

Anglers who have fished the Toyota Series and Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine in the southeast any length of time know the name Kip Carter of Mansfield, Ga. For years, Carter has pocketed plenty of checks from both leagues with a career total of 50 top 10s. This year, Carter decided to jump back into regional competition with the Southeastern Division of the Toyota Series, and in just his second event back, he found his way to the winner’s circle at Wheeler Lake.  READ MORE »

Wheeler Lake Midday Update - Day 3

Wheeler Lake Midday Update - Day 3

The fish were biting pretty well for the top 10 on the final morning of Toyota Series Southeastern Division event on Wheeler Lake. Overcast skies and a steady south wind put a perfect buzzbait ripple on the water back in the shallow flats in creeks – and the anglers were taking advantage of it.  READ MORE »

Carter Takes Over at Wheeler

Carter Takes Over at Wheeler

Kip Carter of Mansfield, Ga., may not have the nicest, shiniest boat in the Toyota Series Southeastern Division event this week, but it sure gets him where he needs to go. His beater aluminum tunnel hull craft has plenty of nicks and dings in it and for good reason: Getting into the places he has fished on Wheeler Lake the last two days has required enduring some scratches and dents. READ MORE »