UPCOMING EVENT: T-H Marine BFL - 2019 - Grand Lake

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Teenage dream tournament

Teenage dream tournament
Nineteen-year-old Kyle Welcher leads the FLW Tour event on Table Rock Lake at the halfway point.

BRANSON, Mo. - The TBF National Championship may be taking place downstream the White River on Bull Shoals Lake, but 19-year-old Kyle Welcher is "Living the Dream" on Table Rock Lake. Despite having only two small fish at noon, the Walmart FLW Tour rookie caught a 24-pound, 8-ounce stringer and grabbed the lead at the second Major of the season.

While a good majority of the bass on Table Rock are spawning, they're spooky because the water continues to fall. To adjust, many of the top pros have decided to ignore the bedding bass and instead focus on prespawners. Thus far, it appears the prespawn females are much more willing to cooperate. Just ask Welcher himself.

"Where I'm fishing right now the water temperature is just getting prime," said the Opelika, Ala., native. "It's cool and it's stained. These fish are not on beds. They're eating; you put in front of one and they will bite."

Welcher's day did not get off to a good start as his co-angler boated the first fish, a 6-pound, 2-ounce lunker. But he didn't hit the panic button. At 1 p.m. Welcher caught his first 5-pounder. More quality fish followed after that.

"I fished the same areas; the bass were just set up different. I made a bait change midday and that's what I caught them on. It made all the difference. As soon as the wind died down, the water warmed Kyle Welcher on the move. up a bit more and the fish came straight to the bank and started eating."

Welcher wouldn't reveal the specific bait, but it's been key for several big fish. Yesterday he weighed in a 7-6 and today he coaxed a 6-8. His total weight at the halfway point in the tournament is 44 pounds, 4 ounces.

"I'm fishing fast, but I'm not really covering a lot of water if that makes sense. There are certain areas that are better and I'm trying to focus on those. I think a lot of the other guys are running out of fish and I'm more confident in my area than I was yesterday. Tomorrow I'm going to go out and stay in that right area with an open mind and eventually the fish will tell me where they're at, how they're positioned and maybe I can string together another good sack."

Welcher went to the University of Alabama-Birmingham for a semester and he now attends Troy University online for nursing. But if he catches them strong for two more days he might have a career ahead of him as a professional bass fisherman.

"It's overwhelming. There are 159 of the best (pros) behind me and I just had the good fortune to inch them out after day two. All I can say is that I'm on top of the world. I'd rather be leading on day four than on day two, but today was a real confidence boost. I'm not trying to ignore that I'm leading this, but leading after the fourth day is what really matters."

King second

Second-place pro Stacey King holds up two giant largemouths with his grandson Wit. The man chasing Welcher has roughly four decades of tournament-fishing experience and he's also a guide on Table Rock Lake. That man would be none other than Reeds Spring, Mo., pro Stacey King. After what he termed a "terrible practice," King has found his prespawn groove.

"I probably had the worst practice of my life, but I had some areas that I knew I was going to pursue given the conditions, so I didn't really bother fishing them," King explained. "But I'm playing the staging game; these are standard prespawn patterns."

Like many of the leaders, King is fishing mainly the stained water. He's caught fish in the clear water, but the dingy areas have coughed up the quality fish. King's limit today weighed 22 pounds, 13 ounces and pushed his total weight to 42 pounds even. Anchoring Friday's stringer was an 8-pound largemouth, the biggest bass of the tournament thus far.

"I probably only caught eight or nine keepers today; but I didn't hit my good areas as hard once I knew I was in the cut."

King wouldn't reveal the lures he's throwing, only allowing that he's using "moving baits." He likes his chances the next two days but isn't sure he can replicate the truly big fish.

"There's still some staging fish moving up, but who knows. It's all about the big bite. I didn't have any idea I could catch those big ones; it shocked me. I feel great about it."

Younger Shuffield strikes with umbrella rig

Spencer Shuffield scores on an Alabama RigAnother Tour rookie is making noise on Table Rock and this one has considerably more tournament experience. Spencer Shuffield of Bismarck, Ark., threw a Swim N' Frenzy around timber en route to a giant 21-pound, 6-ounce stringer. After catching 18-14 on day one, Shuffield sits exactly 4 pounds off the lead in fourth.

"Within 30 minutes this morning I had my limit," he said. "And I had 20 pounds within 2 hours."

Shuffield's kicker fish, which weighed 7-10, actually broke his net. With 20 pounds in the livewell he decided to ease in and get a replacement. From there he spent the rest of the day focused primarily on getting his co-angler a limit of bed fish.

"I still probably caught another 15 or 20 keepers after that, just fishing around. I bet I caught over 40 keepers on the day."

Shuffield's umbrella-rig setup is the three-hook version that has smaller swimbaits with willow blades running in front.

"My success is definitely due to the rig; I promise you that. Dad (Ron) threw a bigger one yesterday and caught 11 pounds. He threw the smaller one today in the exact same areas and caught 19 pounds."

Shuffield likes his chances with two days remaining.

"Every one of the fish I caught is prespawn, so I feel real good about it. I think a lot of the females go up on the bank at night and then during the day they back off and suspend. I am very anxious for tomorrow."

Nick falls to fourth

Blake Nick caught a 16-pound, 11-ounce stringer Friday and fell from first to fourth.Day-one leader Blake Nick caught a 16-pound, 11-ounce stringer Friday but fell from first to fourth. Three of his keepers were largemouths, the other two brown bass. He starts day three with a total weight of 37 pounds, 15 ounces.

"I'm not OK with 16, but I did work hard for that," said Nick. "So it's a happy medium I guess. The fish were just not in the same areas. The wind changed, which moved the bait and then the fish moved."

Nick's worried about tomorrow mainly because he's still learning on the fly. His pattern consists of burning a squarebill crankbait in stained water along gravel bars and points.

"That dirty water allows me to fish fast and that's what I need to do since I don't have any experience here."

Christie fifth

Fifth-place pro Jason Christie holds up two giant Table Rock largemouths.Like King, Jason Christie whined and complained before the tournament about his terrible practice. But he caught 19-8 yesterday and backed that up today with 17-15 for a total weight of 37-7 and fifth place.

"I've been fortunate to catch two giants each day," said the Park Hill, Okla., native. "I wasn't on anything coming into this so I don't know about my chances for the weekend. I mean, I've weighed six 15-inch fish the last two days."

The Rayovac pro is mostly flipping, but will occasionally sight-fish; he caught one of his five keepers looking at them today as it was located at the base of a willow. Despite his success, he's considering changing water tomorrow.

"I can't make up my mind if there's more coming or if it's the same old, same old. I think it's better for me to fish new water but I have a pair (of spawning fish) way up the river. I want to fish them, but it takes over an hour out of my day."

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 pros on Table Rock after day two:

6th: Brent Long of Cornelius, N.C., 36-12
7th: John Devere of Berea, Ky., 35-14
8th: Clent Davis of Montevallo, Ala., 35-8
9th: Chris Baumgardner of Gastonia, N.C., 34-14
10th: Terry Bolton of Paducah, Ky., 33-14

Bone takes co-angler lead

Veteran co-angler Patrick Bone of Cleveland, Ga., took over the lead in his division after catching a 13-pound, 10-ounce limit. Combined with his 10 pounds from day one, Bone has a total weight of 23 pounds, 10 ounces.

Bone finished third in last year's Co-angler of the Year race and this year is fishing the EverStart Series Southeast Division as a pro.

Bertrand slips to second

Day-one leader Brock Bertrand of Fayetteville, Ark., caught just two small keepers Friday but fell only spot on the leaderboard. His 3-13 today combined with 19-2 yesterday gives him an opening-round total Third-place co-angler Hector Delagarza holds up a nice Table Rock Lake bass.of 22 pounds, 15 ounces.

De La Garza, Meador, Spangler round out top five

Hector De La Garza of Rockwall, Texas, caught a 16-pound, 5-ounce limit while fishing with Welcher. His big 6-pound, 2-ounce kicker was caught on one of his first casts of the day. Combined with 5-14 from day one, De La Garza sits third with 22 pounds, 3 ounces.

Steven Meador of Bella Vista, Ark., caught an 11-pound, 10-ounce limit to bring his total weight to 21-4, good for fourth.

Tom Spangler of Corryton, Tenn., rounds out the top five with 20 pounds, 12 ounces.

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers on Table Rock after day two:

6th: JR Wright of Truckee, Calif., 19-15
7th: Kevin Spooner of Vero Beach, Fla., 19-4
8th: Steve Redwine of Blue Ash, Ohio, 18-14
9th: Max Wilson of Everton, Mo., 18-14
10th: Mark Shelton of Fayetteville, Ark., 18-1

Day three of the FLW Tour on Table Rock Lake will begin Saturday at 7 a.m. from Table Rock State Park Marina located at 380 State Park Marina Road in Branson.

Tags: brett-carlson  headline-story  2012-03-29-table-rock-lake 

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