Live now : TOYOTA SERIES 2020 Pickwick

Ambort alert: Norman spawn isn’t over

Ambort alert: Norman spawn isn’t over
After catching 14 pounds on day two, pro Eric Ambort leads the National Guard Open with an opening-round total of 25 pounds, 13 ounces.

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. - The bite, the weather and the competition are all heating up at the National Guard Open. Yesterday the pros were miffed by the behavior of the Lake Norman bass. Today they locked on beds and bit. Leading the way at the halfway point in the tournament was pro Eric Ambort, who notched his first top-10 on the Walmart FLW Tour.

It's rare in competitive bass fishing for the bite to improve as the tournament progresses. But that's the case for many of the 10 finalists this week. Several anglers reported seeing new activity in the shallows as bass were pairing up and rubbing. Ambort caught 11-13 yesterday and improved to 14 pounds today, giving him an opening-round total of 25 pounds, 13 ounces.

Ambort might not even be in the top 10 had it not been for some last-minute heroics. Yesterday he caught a 3 1/2-pounder off a dock near the weigh-in site with very little time left. When he checked in, he literally had less than a minute to spare. Today he found a nice female on bed with 20 minutes left in Pro leader Eric Ambort watches as tournament director Chris Hoover calls out his weight.the day. But he was quite a ways from the ramp, and there was a buck bass guarding the nest. Incredibly, the female went for his bait before the buck.

"I'm sight-fishing more than I'm casting," said the Mabelvale, Ark., pro. "I'm using a 6-inch Berkley Hand Pour Finesse Worm in brown with a blue streak. I'm also using a creature bait. I've caught eight keepers each day, and it's been about half and half between the two baits."

Ambort wouldn't specify the creature bait and for good reason - the bass are absolutely choking on it. The pro leader said he caught a bed fish yesterday that swallowed the bait so deep that he had to cut his line. Oftentimes spawning bass will attack a bait to defend their nest, but the third-year pro is coaxing these fish to eat.

"Once I see it, I like to back off and let it relax a little bit. I know I have caught fish that others have pitched to unsuccessfully before me."

Not only is this the first time Ambort has made an FLW Tour cutoff, it's also his first time leading.

"It feels great. Tomorrow I'm just going to put my head down and keep looking. This is a good lake, but it's the toughest I've ever seen it. I believe most of the fish are just guarding fry, and that's the point in the spawn where they can be tentative."

Big comeback for 2008 champ

Exploding up the leaderboard from 41st place was Sean Hoernke, the defending National Guard Open champion in the Pro Division. After catching only 9 pounds, 13 ounces yesterday, Hoernke caught 15-10 today, the heaviest limit of the tournament thus far. Anchoring that limit was a 5-pound, 1-ounce lPro Sean Hoernke launched up the leaderboard after catching 15 pounds, 10 ounces Friday, the heaviest stringer of the tournament thus far.argemouth.

"Yesterday I had a chance to have the same bag, but they came off," he said. "One was over 4 pounds, and the other was probably over 5 (pounds)."

Hoernke said that he's using the same stuff that he used last year, but that he's fishing new areas. He hasn't found a shad spawn yet, so he spends most of his time looking. To that end, six of the 10 bass he has weighed in so far have come via sight-fishing. His two key baits are a 4-inch weightless wacky worm and a swimbait. The swimbait is more of a secondary option that is briefly used in the morning.

"They're coming up, and I like it. It's coming my way. I really think a lot of people don't know how to catch the big ones here. The whole deal here is converting (on those big fish). That's why I fish new water every day. Last year, a lot of people said, `Well, he's just going around and didn't know what he was doing.'

"That's not really the case. There's so many fish here of the same caliber; the deal is you just have to run and run and run until you find that one good one. I came here to make the cut, so I simply do not stop to fish for small fish. Each day I try brand-new water, so I don't know how well I'll do tomorrow. But you can bet that I'll do everything in my power to win this thing back to back."

Williams third

After poor showings in 2007 and 2008, Keith Williams finally figured Lake Norman out. After catching Keith Williams finished the opening round third in the Pro Division with 25 pounds, 1 ounce.13-3 on day one, the Conway, Ark., pro caught 11-14 today to finish the opening round in third place.

"I'm surprised; I really thought I had about 9 pounds," he said. "I used the exact same pattern as yesterday, but the big bass are getting harder to catch. The big ones are pairing up on bed, and when they pair up it gets tough. Tomorrow I'm really hoping they'll be locked on and ready to bite on the first pitch."

Williams is using a Zoom Trick Worm, but he rigs it two different ways - one on a shaky head and one weightless and wacky style. He is fishing pockets in the main-lake area and keying on certain shade spots within those pockets.

"I've got a lot of fish around me. I probably saw 17 or 18 pounds that I couldn't catch. Tomorrow I'll have it all to myself. It just feels really good to redeem myself on this lake. I never really fish with light line and a spinning rod, but it works."

Blaylock fourth

Ambort wasn't the only Arkansas pro to notch his first FLW Tour top-10 this week. Co-angler phenom Stetson Blaylock made his first top-10 cutoff as a pro with 24 pounds, 7 ounces over the first two days of competition.Stetson Blaylock also made the cutoff - the first in his rookie season as a pro. Blaylock caught 10-15 on day one and followed it up with 13-8 for a two-day total of 24 pounds, 7 ounces.

"I had a tough practice," said the 2008 FLW Tour Co-angler of the Year. "I spent so much time fishing, and it felt wrong. I think I was actually wasting my time; I should have been looking instead."

Blaylock has located several quality bass, but he doesn't sight-fish for them. If he knows their location, he will make a long cast to the area.

"Only four of the 10 fish I've weighed were caught by sight-fishing."

The Benton, Ark., native is using a 5/16-ounce homemade finesse jig with a Berkley Craw in Texas color. He's presenting the jig in midlake pockets.

"I think everybody is missing out on the jig bite. It's really strong; its pretty much a reaction bite - if you throw it in front of them, they'll eat it before it hits the bottom. If they don't see you before you see them, they'll bite. As soon as I flip my bait in there, I'm hooked up."

Evans fifth

South Carolina pro Dale Evans finished the opening round in fifth place with 24 pounds, 4 ounces.Falling from second to fifth was Summerville, S.C., pro Dale Evans, who is also making his first top-10 appearance on the FLW Tour. Evans caught 13 pounds, 11 ounces on day one and 10 pounds, 9 ounces today for a total of 24-4. In practice and on day one, he was intercepting prespawn bass on their migration to the bank. With the warmer weather, most of the fish have already made their move, which means Evans' unique pattern is all but done.

"I'll be bed-fishing for the rest of the week," he said. "The fishing was much tougher for me because there was no wind and because they're all moving up."

With sight-fishing on the slate for the next two days, Evans plans to pull out a good pair of glasses and a Zoom lizard.

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 pros at the National Guard Open on Lake Norman who will be fishing Saturday:

6th: Koby Kreiger of Okeechobee, Fla., 24-3 (two-day total)
7th: Andy Morgan of Dayton, Tenn., 23-15Pro Andy Montgomery holds up a 5-pound, 4-ounce Lake Norman largemouth, the heaviest bass of the tournament thus far.
8th: Greg Pugh of Cullman, Ala., 23-2
9th: Jim Moynagh of Carver, Minn., 23-2
10th: Jacob Powroznik of Prince George, Va., 22-9

The $1,000 Folgers Big Bass went to Andy Montgomery, who bagged a 5-pound, 4-ounce Lake Norman largemouth.

Shuffield leads Co-angler Division

With a two-day total weight of 16 pounds, 11 ounces, Spencer Shuffield leads the co-anglers at the conclusion of the opening round on Lake Norman. Shuffield caught an 8-6 limit yesterday and an 8-5 limit today.

"We started out this morning, and my pro had a limit in about an hour and I had three," he said. "But then I Spencer Shuffield leads the Co-angler Division after two days on Lake Norman with 16 pounds, 11 ounces.caught one about every hour after that."

Shuffield said he targeted fish around docks with a weightless wacky-rigged 4-inch green-pumpkin Senko. He also used a Lucky Craft Pointer 78 jerkbait in ghost-minnow color. The jerkbait worked extremely well in practice when the weather was windy.

"I had at least 12 or 13 pounds follow it today," Shuffield said of the jerkbait. "But they wouldn't commit. The Senko is the sure thing, but if I get some wind tomorrow, it could get ugly with the jerkbait."

This is Shuffield's fifth top-10 on the FLW Tour, but he's never won. Each of the last two years he's barely missed the cut on Norman.

"I guess the third time is the charm. This feels really good. I need to catch 8 pounds tomorrow, and if I catch five fish, I think I can do that."

Rodgers second

Dearal Rodgers of Camden, S.C., moved up two spots from fourth to second via a 7-pound, 8-ounce limit Friday. Rodgers finished the opening round with a two-day total of 16 pounds, 8 ounces. This is his second top-10 finish of the season. He placed ninth last month on Table Rock Lake.

Rest of the best

Co-angler David Hudson celebrates after learning he2008 National Guard Open champion David Hudson of Jasper, Ala., will have a chance to defend his title tomorrow. After catching a 12-pound limit yesterday, Hudson caught two more bass today that weighed 4 pounds, 2 ounces, giving him a total of 16-2, good for third place.

Hudson, who also won the 2008 Forrest Wood Cup from the back of the boat, is closing in on becoming the first co-angler in FLW Outdoors history to accumulate $200,000 in career earnings.

"I believe if I finish in the top three, I'd have enough to break $200,000. I'd be happy with that, but I'm looking to defend my title."

Hudson continues to fish with a 1/8-ounce homemade jig made by Kerry Leach and a Zoom finesse worm in green-pumpkin and purple color.

Jason Ober of Johnstown, Pa., is in fourth place with a two-day total of 15 pounds, 14 ounces. Today Ober caught a limit that weighed 6 pounds, 9 ounces.

"I'm just taking every opportunity I get - throwing that Zoom Trick Worm on a shaky head and on a wicky rig," he said. "The key is making lots of casts and being cognizant of what is going on around you. Lots of guys get frustrated with pros that sight-fish, and I don't."

Grant McPeters of Marion, N.C., rounds out the top five co-anglers with an opening-round total of 10 bass weighing 15 pounds, 8 ounces.

Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers at the National Guard Open on Lake Norman to be fishing Saturday:

6th: Bob Bjorklund of Centennial, Colo., 14-14 (two-day total)
7th: David Lauer of South Bend, Ind., 13-6
8th: Shane Lehew of Charlotte, N.C., 13-5
9th: Jeff Freeman of Max Meadows, Va., 13-3
10th: Fred Martin of North Little Rock, Ark., 12-15

Day three of the National Guard Open on Lake Norman will begin Saturday a 7 a.m. at Blythe Landing, located at 15901 North Carolina Highway 73 in Huntersville.

Tags: brett-carlson  headline-story  2009-04-23-lake-norman 

Top 5 Patterns from Pickwick – Day 1

Top 5 Patterns from Pickwick – Day 1

Grass seemed to be the dominant theme at the top of the day one leaderboard at the Toyota Series Central Division event on Pickwick Lake. Not only did Buddy Gross target grass for his leading catch, but three others in the top five seined the grass for top catches as well. READ MORE »

Buddy Blasts 24-1 on Pickwick

Buddy Blasts 24-1 on Pickwick

Buddy Gross won his first FLW Tour event on Pickwick Lake in May of 2016 fishing a shad spawn on eelgrass along the Tennessee River channel. Today, Gross rekindled those old memories from four years ago to bring in 24 pounds, 1 ounce and take the day one lead in the Toyota Series Central Division event on Pickwick. READ MORE »

Pickwick Midday Update – Day 1

Pickwick Midday Update – Day 1

Pickwick Lake didn’t disappoint on the first morning of the Toyota Series Central Division event. As predicted, fish were biting right off the bat. READ MORE »

Abram’s Dream Comes True

Abram’s Dream Comes True

All week on Lake Martin for the third stop of the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit the weights have been close, so it was only fitting that the final weigh-in followed suit. READ MORE »

Lake Martin Day 4 Coverage

Lake Martin Day 4 Coverage

Complete coverage of the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit's third stop at Lake Martin in Alexander, Ala. READ MORE »

Abram One Day Away

Abram One Day Away

Day three of the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit event on Lake Martin was a bit tougher for the 30 pros on the water, and while quality has been tough to come by all week, that was especially the case today READ MORE »

Lake Martin Day 3 Coverage

Lake Martin Day 3 Coverage

Complete coverage of the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit's third stop at Lake Martin in Alexander, Ala. READ MORE »

Abram Out Front on Martin

Abram Out Front on Martin

Same story, different day on Lake Martin for the third stop of the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit. When it comes to catching fish, Martin is on fire at the moment. However, just like on day one, big bites are tough to come by on the Alabama fishery. READ MORE »

Lake Martin Day 2 Coverage

Lake Martin Day 2 Coverage

Complete coverage of the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit's third stop at Lake Martin in Alexander, Ala. READ MORE »

Adams Leads at Martin

Adams Leads at Martin

Catching fish wasn’t going to be the issue for the third stop of the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit event on Lake Martin and after day one that certainly was the case. With the entire field catching a limit, the weights are stacked with a little over 4 pounds separating 100th and 10th. Finding a Lake Martin kicker was Barron Adams, who sacked 17 pounds, 2 ounces to take the lead – thanks in large part to his 8-13 Berkley Big Bass. Just 15 ounces back is Derrick Snavely and the weights tighten up a lot from there. READ MORE »

Lake Martin Day 1 Coverage

Lake Martin Day 1 Coverage

Complete coverage of the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit's third stop at Lake Martin kicks off a day early from Alexander, Ala. READ MORE »

FLW Live Leaderboard - Lake Martin

FLW Live Leaderboard - Lake Martin

FLW media staff provide unofficial weight estimates for the third stop of the 2020 Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit at Lake Martin. READ MORE »

FLW Shifts Start Date at Lake Martin

FLW Shifts Start Date at Lake Martin

FLW announced today that this week’s Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit event at Lake Martin, originally scheduled to start Thursday, has been shifted and will now begin competition Wednesday. Hosted by the Alexander City Chamber, the tournament will remain a four-day event and will now run through Saturday. This decision is based on a desire to allow pros, who began practicing for the tournament March 15, to safely complete the event and return home as quickly as possible amid evolving COVID-19 guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits and Patterns from Havasu

Top 10 Baits and Patterns from Havasu

Results from the Toyota Series Western Division event at Lake Havasu probably didn’t surprise any Western anglers who are familiar with the fishery. For folks in other parts of the country that might only have followed FLW’s early February events on the Colorado River reservoir, the tournament results might have opened some eyes to just how good the fishing can be on Havasu. Particularly on day one, the lake delivered, kicking out 12 limits of more than 20 pounds, including Tai Au’s limit of 26 pounds, 1 ounce. The success on day one resulted from a perfect storm of conditions for catching spawning bass on beds.  READ MORE »

Dice Gets it Done on Smith Mountain

Dice Gets it Done on Smith Mountain

Jack Dice of Lynchburg, Virginia, brought a five-bass limit to the scale weighing 22 pounds even to win the 2020 Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine event at Smith Mountain Lake in Huddleston, Virginia. For his victory, Dice earned a total of $5,246. READ MORE »

Steckler Claims Ozark Title

Steckler Claims Ozark Title

Cory Steckler of Rocky Mount, Missouri, brought a five-bass limit to the scale Saturday weighing 18 pounds, 7 ounces to win the 2020 Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine event at Lake of the Ozarks in Osage Beach, Missouri. For his victory, Steckler earned a total of $13,457, including the lucrative $7,000 FLW PHOENIX Bonus contingency award. The victory was the second win of Steckler’s FLW career. READ MORE »

Graham Wins on Dale Hollow

Graham Wins on Dale Hollow

Brett Graham of Cold Spring, Kentucky, brought a five-bass limit to the scale weighing 18 pounds, 11 ounces to win the 2020 Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine Mountain division opener at Dale Hollow Reservoir in Byrdstown, Tennessee. For his victory, Graham earned a total of $6,000. READ MORE »

Au Finishes Strong at Lake Havasu

Au Finishes Strong at Lake Havasu

Tai Au of Glendale, Ariz., weighed in a five-bass limit worth 16 pounds, 15 ounces today to finish off a wire-to-wire win at the Toyota Series Western Division season opener on Lake Havasu. Au’s three-day total was 61-3.  READ MORE »

Medlock Brings it Home on Big O

Medlock Brings it Home on Big O

Weighing the biggest limit of the final day worth 19 pounds, 4 ounces, Brandon Medlock locked up his third Toyota Series title in the Southern Division event on Lake Okeechobee. With 54-4 overall, Medlock won comfortably and was essentially the only pro to put together two very good days of fishing, with a 13-9 catch on day one as his worst day. READ MORE »

Okeechobee Midday Update – Day 3

Okeechobee Midday Update – Day 3

The final day of the Toyota Series Southern Division event on Okeechobee is proving to be just as tense as expected. With the entire top 10 less than 4 pounds apart, anything can happen, and it’s entirely possible that someone in ninth or 10th catches a big bag to come from behind. READ MORE »