UPCOMING EVENT: Costa FLW Series - 2019 - Lake Mead

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Pirch pushes lead to a pound

Pro leader Clifford Pirch holds up part of his 16-pound, 14-ounce stringer.

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - Clifford Pirch has earned well over a half million dollars as a professional bass fisherman. He's won on the local level, he's prevailed in some of the biggest tournaments out West, but he's never won a tour-level event. After successfully conquering a dynamic Lake Chickamauga for a third consecutive day, he's one step away from fulfilling that lifelong dream.

Pirch spent considerable time in practice locating spawning largemouths on the lake's lower, clearer end. When the tournament started, he had over 75 fish marked in his GPS. But when the water level dropped over 3 feet, many of those fish disappeared. Rather than panicking, Pirch stuck to his plan, found new fish and worked a blind-casting pattern.

Midday yesterday spanning into Saturday morning, east Tennessee was blasted with several inches of rain. That meant Pirch would have to adjust yet again - this time to higher, muddy water.

Tournament leader Clifford Pirch shows off his first keeper of the day."I caught them pretty good again today, but we had completely different conditions," he said. "I pulled in there this morning and the water was at least two feet higher. I thought the sun was going to break free and warm them up and move some new ones in, but we didn't get that. I wanted to sight-fish some, but that didn't happen with the wind and clouds so I just went fishing."

When he's sight-fishing or blind-casting to spawning bass, Pirch fishes methodically with a Roboworm creature bait. But he's completely tight-lipped about the other half of his pattern.

"I fished four spots today - went to a fifth but it was chocolate milk. In total I caught 10 keepers just fishing."

While other pros struggled with the dirtier water, Pirch was pleasantly surprised with his clarity. It's all relative of course. Pirch was pleased he could see down a foot deep in most of his areas, which are protected by marinas.

"I only fished the reasonably clear water. It was still decent when I started, so I was glad to see that. I'm thankful they all weren't chocolate milk."

Pirch's 16-pound, 14-ounce, day-three stringer brought his total weight 60 pounds, 9 ounces. After weigh-in, he reflected on his performance thus far and what's left to come.

"I've really been blessed this week and it's pretty exciting to have that chance at a Tour win. That's what everybody shoots for and these are the best anglers in the world. But I've still got Shin and a pack of hungry wolves chasing after me."

Pirch then turned his thoughts to tomorrow's weather.

"It's hard to say what's going to happen tomorrow. I'm thinking we'll get some sun. They're really wanting to move in. The temperature's right and we've got a full moon this weekend. They've got to be coming."

Fukae maintains second

After Robbie Dodson stumbled today, the fourth qualifier of the season looks like a head-to-head Second-place pro Shinichi Fukae caught a 16-pound, 1-ounce limit Saturday.competition between Pirch and Fukae. Fukae's 3-ounce deficit grew to a pound, but he still caught 16-1 to bring his total weight 59 pounds, 9 ounces.

"It was another nervous day," said Fukae. "I hoped the higher water would help, but it didn't. It was just muddy and cold."

For the second consecutive day, Fukae relied on an afternoon bite. He started by finesse fishing with a shaky head, and then switched to power fishing, which was more fruitful.

"I had four good stretches of water, but two are now unfishable (due to muddy water)."

Fukae's best bait today was a 3/8-ounce Texas-rigged creature bait. The actual bait itself is a prototype from Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits. He also mixed in a spinnerbait and a crankbait.

"I think I need to try new water tomorrow."

Fukae is fishing across the bank from Chester Frost Park. Today he had a funny encounter on the water. As he approached a boat dock, he saw a woman run down her house and on to the dock. Fukae didn't know what to expect, but she was holding and waving a big red box of Cheez-Its with a huge smile on her face.

Monsoor third

Third-place pro Tom Monsoor holds up a pair of Chickamauga largemouths.In third place with 54 pounds, 3 ounces is La Crosse, Wis., pro Tom Monsoor. After catching 14-13 yesterday, Monsoor improved to 17-4 today.

"It was a totally different day with the conditions; we basically went back to square one," he said.

Monsoor is fishing up the river in the muddy water. While most of the pros that went up the river struggled, Monsoor flourished. But he's not flipping like most. Instead he's targeting emerging hydrilla beds with a Tom Monsoor swimming jig and a Yamamoto grub. He swims and slowly bumps the jig across the top of the grass. The result Saturday was 10 keepers and a few missed fish.

"I knew it was going to be rough coming back, so I gave myself an hour. We had some extra time when we got back so we stopped to fish and ended up catching and culling one."

Monsoor is excited for the final day of competition. For starters, there are no stripers that ruined his final day at Hartwell. Secondly, he believes the bite will pick up.

"I have one spot I haven't fished yet where I caught my biggest bass in practice. I really think tomorrow is gonna be better. I think now that the water is up, they'll move right back to where they were."

McAbee rises to fourth

When the Dogwoods are blooming, the fish are biting says Randy McAbee, Jr.During the first two days, Randy McAbee had been on a strong prespawn pattern with a deep-diving crankbait. Although that quit today, he still caught16 pounds, 15 ounces to bring his combined weight to 52 pounds, 6 ounces. The Bakersfield, Calif., pro caught five keepers on five different baits.

"I can't figure out if they've gone shallow or what," said the 2007 FLW Series Western Division Angler of the Year. "I caught one on that crankbait in 12 feet, one on a swimbait in 15 feet, one on a shaky head in 8 feet, one on a square-bill in 5 feet and one on a spinnerbait in a foot."

McAbee had only three keepers at 2 p.m. with a 2:30 check-in time.

"I'm more confused than ever, but I'm pleased that I was able to scramble around and put 17 pounds together. Tomorrow I still think I'm going to start with the deep diver."

Like Pirch and Fukae, McAbee is fishing down the lake in the clearer water.

Martin fifth

Scott Martin sits in fifth place with 49 pounds, 3 ounces.National Guard pro Scott Martin has been steadily climbing the leaderboard. After catching 14-8 Saturday, he rose from eighth to fifth. His total weight stands at 49 pounds, 3 ounces. Martin is fishing up the river and is in the same general vicinity as Monsoor.

Martin said he's throwing moving baits like spinnerbaits and cranks.

"I found one spot in the afternoon that might be productive tomorrow," said the Clewiston, Fla., native. "I culled out three fish late on it today. Overall, I'm still having to adjust. I thought today they'd be shallow and biting but they weren't."

Each of the last two days Martin has lost a big fish.

"They've been biting weird. But if I can keep them buttoned up tomorrow I should have a big bag."

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 pros at the FLW Tour event on Lake Chickamauga:

6th: JT Kenney of Palm Bay, Fla., 48-10
7th: Robbie Dodson of Harrison, Ark., 48-8
8th: Jay Keith of Camden S.C., 48-7
9th: Scott Canterbury of Springville, Ala., 47-15
10th: Brett Hite of Phoenix, Ariz., 47-12

Day four of the FLW Tour event on Lake Chickamauga will begin Sunday at 7 a.m. from Chester Frost Park located at 2318 Gold Point Circle North in Hixson, Tenn.

Tags: brett-carlson  headline-story  2011-04-14-lake-chickamauga 

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