UPCOMING EVENT: Costa FLW Series - 2019 - Lake Mead

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Wheeler Lake's Top 10 Patterns

Birge threw a shad-colored 1/2-ounce River2Sea Ish Monroe Bling spinnerbait early in the week and mixed in a 3/4-ounce Santone Lures spinnerbait later on.

ROGERSVILLE, Ala. – Wood was almost as important as water here in the Rayovac FLW Series Championship on Wheeler Lake Halloween weekend as most of the top 10 were keying on shoreline wood cover to build their stringers. By the final round of the three-day event, most anglers were beating the banks with spinnerbaits, shallow-running crankbaits, umbrella rigs and a variety of soft plastics.

Despite his young age, Zack Birge fished with the poise of seasoned veteran to win the title. Birge steadily climbed the rankings duringthe event and added more to his cumulative weight each day. The 23-year-old Oklahoma resident racked up 47 pounds and walked away with the $50,000 top prize.

Birge threw two spinnerbaits in the championship event to earn his title: a 1/2-ounce River2Sea Bling spinnerbait and a ¾-ounce Santone spinnerbait. Both were in a sexy shad type color.

You can read the full story of Birge’s win here.

Here’s how the rest of the top 10 found success on Wheeler Lake.

2nd place – Chris Baumgardner – 40 pounds – $25,000

Chris Baumgardner joined the spinnerbait party with a 1/2-ounce War Eagle spinnerbait that was full-on chartreuse.

Gastonia, N.C., pro Chris Baumgardner is no stranger to fishing shallow cover. That’s why he stuck to his guns up the Elk River, targeting structure that created current breaks and provided ambush points for hungry bass. The bulk of his time was spent between the second and third bridge up the Elk, fishing a two-mile key stretch.

Baumgardner threw a ¾-ounce and ½-ounce War Eagle spinnerbait on a 7-foot, 3-inch medium/heavy Duckett White Ice rod paired with a Duckett baitcasting reel. He spooled his reel with 17-pound Seaguar Red Label fluorocarbon. His heavier spinnerbait allowed the North Carolina pro to catch fish consistently behind anglers sharing the same water.

“Having the right bait was probably the biggest difference for me this week,” said Baumgardner. “I wanted a bigger profile, so I had a No. 6 willow leaf blade on my ¾-ounce War Eagle. I also threw chartreuse blades with a chartreuse skirt.”

Baumgardner’s spinnerbait allowed him to catch 10-1 and 18-5 on each of the first two days. Things got tougher for him Saturday and he only managed four bass worth 11-10. Yet it was still enough to nail down second place.

3rd place – Casey Gallagher – 40 pounds – $15,000

Casey Gallagher worked a Dirty Jigs Pitchin' Jig with a NetBait Paca Chunk for the majority of his fish and mixed in a Keitech Swing Impact on a 3/8-ounce football head for the rest of his fish.

“I fished shallow wood the first two days, but the weather that came in Friday evening moved them out some,” said the Wisconsin angler. “So I wound up fishing breaklines or depressions out from the bank where there also was cover.

“I thought that maybe later in the day Sunday they would move back up some, but it never really happened for me,” continued Gallagher. “The sun came out bright and the fish stayed deeper. I had my limit by about 9 and then just had to grind it out.”

Gallagher settled on a Dirty Jigs pitching jig fished on 15-pound-test Seaguar InvizX. He concentrated on the main lake shoreline on either side of the mouth of Elk River, pitching or casting the jig to visible cover and under docks after the sun got high.  

4th place – Todd Auten – 38 pounds, 10 ounces – $14,000

Todd Auten rolled with a chartreuse and white 1/2-ounce Phenix vibrating jig.

Junk fishing 101 was the motto for South Carolina’s Todd Auten in the championship. He kept several rods rigged with various baits on the deck of his Ranger and caught fish on all of them. For Auten, most of his action occurred in Elk River though he did catch some fish in the mid-lake part of Wheeler.

Like the majority of the top 10, Auten is at home throwing moving baits in skinny water. He caught fish from a few inches of water all the way out to 20 feet – though most of the fish were suspended over deeper water where there was an abundance of baitfish.

Auten threw a ½-ounce Phenix Jigs vibrating jig tipped with a white Zoom Super Fluke. His rod was a medium/heavy Daiwa rod with a Daiwa reel – both from the Tatula series – and he tossed his vibrating jig on 20-pound Bass Pro Shops monofilament. He also caught a few fish on a 3/8-ounce E.R Lures 3-Blade spinnerbait.

“A lot of what I did this week was just running around fishing visible cover, like docks or timber,” said Auten. “Most of the fish were suspended just off the bank around the shad. I just tried to keep my trolling motor in the water to keep my bait wet as long as possible.

“Another reason I think I did well was because I didn’t let the pressure of other anglers fishing close by bother me. There were a lot of people fishing through the water I wanted to fish so I would just pay attention to what they did and often times I could go behind them and catch a few.”

5th place – Bryan Thrift – 36 pounds, 9 ounces – $11,000

Chevy pro Bryan Thrift tossed a Shane's Baits Mini Blades of Glory rigged with Damiki Anchovy Shads and Keitech swimbaits.

Thrift ran several spots during the tournament and never zeroed in on a sustainable pattern. Like many others, he ranged around the lower end of the 68,000-acre lake and targeted laydowns or bank cover as well as deep points where he felt the fish would replenish from day to day.

“I never did get on a dependable smallmouth bite,” says the Chevy pro. “I know there are lots of big smallmouths in this lake, but they were few and far between overall for me. The best I had going was to just keep rotating through every area where I had caught fish in practice or in the tournament. I didn’t cover a lot of new water.”

On Saturday, Thrift’s limit included four smallmouths and a single largemouth. He relied on an umbrella rig, a spinnerbait and a Damiki Rambler topwater lure.  He fished with a 7-foot Damiki heavy-action Dark Angel rod and either 20-pound-test P-Line fluorocarbon for the umbrella rig or 15-pound-test for the walking bait.

6th place – Richard Peek – 36 pounds, 7 ounces – $8,000

Richard Peek caught most of his fish on a Bo's Jigs Custom Chatterbait with a Reaction Innovations Little Dipper as the trailer. He also caught a few key fish on a Lucky Craft RC 1.5.

After catching two impressive stringers of 12-15 and 18-5 on days one and two, the Centre, Ala., angler seemed to have had his pattern dialed in going into the championship round. A cold front and heavy winds moved fish out of his best spot up Elk River, however, and Peek had to scramble at the end to catch four keepers that weighed 5-3.

Most of the fish he boated during the tournament came on a Bo’s Jig custom vibrating jig, a drop-shot rig combined with RoboWorms, a TightLines UV Whiskers Craw and a RC 1.5 square-bill crankbait.

“Those baits pretty much got all my fish for the week,” says Peek. “I was flipping and pitching to laydowns with the Whiskers Craw, going down rocky banks or casting to laydowns on the flats with the vibrating jig, and cranking riprap and other rocky stuff with the crankbait. When it got tough, I would back off into deeper water and fished the drop-shot. I caught a 3 ½-pound smallmouth and a 2 ½-pound largemouth at Second Creek Bridge the first day on the drop-shot, and that’s where I ended the tournament.”

Hindsight being 20-20, Peek thinks he should have bailed out of the Elk River earlier in the day Saturday. A brisk north wind raked the flats where his most productive laydowns were located, and Peek thinks it chased his fish away.

“The spot where I had caught the good stringers up the Elk River didn’t have enough water on it to hold fish Saturday,” said the Alabama pro. “The laydowns I was targeting there were more up on the flats and not against the channels, so the wind crashing over them pushed the bass out deeper. I never could relocate them, and I wish I had left there at 9 o’clock instead of waiting until noon. I might have put something else together if I hadn’t been so hardheaded.”

Peek was fishing Powell rods with ABU Garcia Revo reels. He used 12-pound-test Berkley 100% fluorocarbon for cranking, 8-pound-test for the drop-shot and 17-pound-test for the jigs.

7th place – George Kapiton – 34 pounds, 15 ounces – $7,000

George Kapiton caught his fish on a 3/4-ounce War Eagle spinnerbait in Spot Remover and white/chartreuse patterns.

The Florida pro started strongly with an 18-pound, 2-ounce stringer – anchored by a 6-pound bass – that put him in the lead on day one. Most of his fish came out of Flint Creek where Kapiton was casting to laydowns with a ¾-ounce War Eagle spinnerbait in white/chartreuse.

On day three, Kapiton and his co-angler partner, Randy Gardner, made the 40-mile run to their destination only to find that anglers from a local tournament had already beat them there. Compounding the fishing pressure, the bass seemed to be turned off by the weather.

“They were just swiping at the spinnerbait and not really taking it,” recalled Kapiton. “I bet I saw 15 pounds of bass just hit at it and not take it. It was frustrating, but the fish were there and I had to go.”

Kapiton fished the War Eagle spinnerbaits on a baitcasting reel and a 7-foot, 6-inch Halo Twilight medium/heavy-action rod. He used 20-pound-test Berkley 100% fluorocarbon line.

8th place – Chris McCall – 34 pounds, 10 ounces – $6,000

Chris McCall landed his limits with a Strike King Red Eye Shad and a 1/2 ounce Santone Lures spinnerbait.

Part of the tournament’s successful junk-fishing brigade, McCall fished long stretches of bank in the main lake and various large creeks that had docks and rock bluffs.

“On Saturday morning I had a limit by 9,” noted McCall. “I just got into a little bunch of fish suspended around some barges. My last fish was a 5 ½-pounder that came out from under a dock. I must have caught 25 or 30 keepers in the tournament. My problem wasn’t catching fish,  just not catching the right ones.”

McCall’s lures of choice were a ½-ounce Santone spinnerbait and a Strike King Red Eye Shad. He targeted areas in the backs of creeks, or small coves, that held large concentrations of shad. He fished with 20-pound-test Seaguar fluorocarbon on a Lew’s rod and reel.

9th place – Jay Yelas – 31 pounds, 3 ounces – $5,000

Chevy pro Jay Yelas did his work with a Yamamoto Baits Chikara squarebill and a 1/2-ounce Punisher Lures spinnerbait.

The Oregon pro was among the half-dozen or so contestants who concentrated their efforts in Elk River. Yelas also got on a laydown pattern and also got burned by it on the final day when he caught only two keepers for 6 pounds.

His bass came on a ½-ounce Punisher spinnerbait in white/chartreuse and a Yamamoto Chikara 200 crankbait. He was fishing with a Kistler Square-Bill rod and a Team Lew’s Pro baitcaster.

10th place – Randy Haynes – 26 pounds, 15 ounces – $4,500

Randy Haynes tossed an umbrella rig on the final day of the Rayovac FLW Series Championship on Wheeler Lake, but he did most of his damage early on with a 1-ounce Swampers Lures football jig paired with a Klone Plastics Crawsome.

The Tennessee pro fished ledges up and down the main lake and had a 17-pound, 10-ounce limit to show for it in the opening round ­– good for second place. As the wind built and the weather started changing on Friday, however, Haynes was unable to switch gears. In the championship round, he could manage only one keeper for 1-3.

For the most part, his fish came on a 1-ounce Swamper jig (green pumpkin) that Haynes fished on a Kistler Helium 3 7-foot, 6-inch rod and Lew’s Tournament Pro reel.

“I fished ledges and breaks in the Decatur Flats area and felt pretty good about my chances until the wind got up,” recalled Haynes, who was in sixth place after day two. “There were some 6-foot waves Saturday out where I was fishing and I just couldn’t fish my spots the way I needed to. It was a very frustrating way to finish, but that’s tournament fishing.”

Tags: colin-moore-and-kyle-wood  post-tournament  2014-10-30-championship-wheeler-lake 

Toho on YouTube

Toho on YouTube

The second stop of the FLW Tour season on Lake Toho was a big-bass bonanza. Thanks to mandatory POV cameras and marshals, plenty of big bass were caught on camera. Aside from individual catches, pros also documented their practice and tournament days to give the viewer and inside look at how their event unfolded. Below is the full list of videos released by the pros at this point.  READ MORE »

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Toho

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Toho

While the Lake Toho FLW Tour event presented by Ranger Boats fell basically right on top of a wave of spawning bass piling into the shallows, many of the top finishers targeted bass that were staging out or transitioning to or from their beds. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from Toho

Top 10 Baits from Toho

The second stop of the 2019 FLW Tour landed right on the spawn on Lake Toho and the other lakes on the Kissimmee Chain. Top finishers caught bass in all phases of the spawn. Collectively, they used just about every bait you’ll ever need if you want to catch a bass this time of year in the Sunshine State. READ MORE »

Marshal Program a Big Hit for Hughes

Marshal Program a Big Hit for Hughes

Retired minister Dan Hughes made the most money he’s ever banked in a fishing tournament, and he did it without even picking up a rod. The 70-year-old Fitzgerald, Ga., resident was the winner of FLW’s marshal contest at the Tour’s second stop of the season at Lake Toho, presented by Ranger Boats. Paired with John Cox on day one and Chris Neau on day two, Hughes’ pros combined for 41 pounds, 10 ounces during his two days on the water to take home the $2,500 top prize. READ MORE »

Top 10 Patterns from Okeechobee

Top 10 Patterns from Okeechobee

Whether it was a canal or small sections of the lake, each pro in the top chose to hunker down in an area and milk it for all it was worth in the season opener of the Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division presented by Power-Pole. Here’s a look at how the action unfolded. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from Okeechobee

Top 10 Baits from Okeechobee

Lake Okeechobee wasn’t her normal self in the Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division opener presented by Power-Pole. Bites were few and far between, but the top-10 pros dialed it in and got it done. Winner Nick Thliveros relied heavily on a crankbait and so did others, but Florida faithful’s like swim jigs, soft plastics and topwaters also fared well. READ MORE »

Sam Rayburn on YouTube

Sam Rayburn on YouTube

With mandatory POV cameras and marshals this year, there's sure to more video footage than ever from the FLW Tour. In addition to simple fish catches like Andy Wicker's 11-pounder and Terry Bolton's 9-pounder, lots of pros are putting together longer videos and giving fans a front-row seat to practice and the tournament via YouTube. Below is the full gamut of videos pros have put out to this point.  READ MORE »

Beight Rings in Marshal Program in Big Way

Beight Rings in Marshal Program in Big Way

Timmy Beight won the FLW Tour Sam Rayburn Marshal prize after marshaling for Jordan Osborne and Terry Bolton. READ MORE »

Top 10 Patterns from Sam Rayburn

Top 10 Patterns from Sam Rayburn

Fishing crankbaits, Carolina rigs and drop-shots around flooded hydrilla for Sam Rayburn Reservoir largemouths dominated the top 10 at the FLW Tour opener. Check out the top 10 patterns feature to learn more about effective patterns for working grass. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from Sam Rayburn

Top 10 Baits from Sam Rayburn

Fishing deep-diving crankbait, dragging Carolina rigs and working finesse baits such as drop-shots were the keys to success at the FLW Tour opener at Sam Rayburn. Here are the bass-fishing baits that the top pros used. READ MORE »

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Amistad

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Amistad

Wintertime patterns with just a touch of prespawn action dominated the Costa FLW Series opener presented by Ranger Boats on Lake Amistad. Crankbaits, jerkbaits, umbrella rigs, swimbaits and drop-shots were the go-to baits used by the top finishers. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from Lake Amistad

Top 10 Baits from Lake Amistad

Wintertime bass fishing tactics dominated at Lake Amistad in January, as the top finishers relied on jerkbaits, crankbaits, drop-shots, swimbaits and umbrella rigs to get the job done. READ MORE »

Corn Wins Wild Card

Corn Wins Wild Card

Faced with brutal conditions for the final event of the 2018 T-H Marine Bass Fishing League season, everyone who managed to catch anything in the Wild Card on Old Hickory Lake in central Tennessee accomplished something. READ MORE »

ETBU wins on Toledo Bend

ETBU wins on Toledo Bend

The East Texas Baptist University duo of Brett Clark of Center, Texas, and Cody Ross of Livingston, Texas, won the YETI FLW College Fishing event on Toledo Bend presented by Bass Pro Shops Saturday with five bass weighing 19 pounds, 3 ounces. The victory earned the Tiger’s bass club $2,400 and a slot in the 2019 FLW College Fishing National Championship, scheduled for June 4-6, 2019 at the Potomac River in Marbury, Maryland. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from Lake Guntersville

Top 10 Baits from Lake Guntersville

You can flip it, frog it, punch it and fish any number of moving baits through it. It’s grass, of course, and Lake Guntersville is full of it. That’s why so many grass-fishing baits were in the mix among the top 10 finishers at the 2018 Costa FLW Series Championship on Guntersville. READ MORE »

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Guntersville

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Guntersville

Aside from figuring out grass patterns, contestants in the championship had to deal with heavy pressure from another championship derby and major weather swings. Day one was cancelled due to the threat of severe storms, so the entire field fished Friday and Saturday. On day two, windy, overcast conditions forced many anglers to adjust. The wind died and the clouds lingered on Saturday, eventually parting and giving way to a beautiful autumn day on the water. READ MORE »

Feldermann Consistent for Ozark Win

Feldermann Consistent for Ozark Win

It’s been nearly 20 years since Mike Feldermann of Galena, Ill., has been to the T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League (BFL) All-American. Now, after sacking up 45 pounds, 4 ounces of bass to win the 2018 BFL Regional presented by Mercury on Lake of the Ozarks, he’ll finally make it back to the prestigious championship. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from Lake of the Ozarks

Top 10 Baits from Lake of the Ozarks

It may have felt like fall for the final Costa FLW Series Central Division event of the year on Lake of the Ozarks, but it didn’t exactly fish like it. The tournament, which was presented by Evinrude, saw fish caught from deep to shallow and it was clear that the majority of fish were in transition from their summer haunts to where they’ll feed up for fall. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from Fort Gibson

Top 10 Baits from Fort Gibson

The final Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division event of the year was a true grinder. In fact, both first and second place only landed 13 keepers all week on Fort Gibson. When it’s that tough, little differences between baits can sometimes make a difference. Below is what the top 10 threw to get it done. READ MORE »

Top 10 Patterns from the Cal Delta

Top 10 Patterns from the Cal Delta

Two heavy-hitting days buoyed Gregory Troughton to a 6-pound, 11-ounce lead going into a tough day three in the Costa FLW Series Western Division event presented by Power-Pole on the California Delta. The Discovery Bay, Calif., pro stumbled in the final round with a limit of 12-13, but outlasted the field and secured the win with 60-2. Troughton caught most of his fish by punching a Yamamoto Flappin Hog, but he added a few keepers on a Z-Man/Evergreen ChatterBait Jackhammer and a Don Iovino Splash-It popper. Read on to learn about the rest of the top 10. READ MORE »