UPCOMING EVENT: Costa FLW Series - 2019 - St. Lawrence River

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Heckman Heads up TBF Championship Field

Heckman Heads up TBF Championship Field

GROVE, Okla. – Some bass are still spawning in Grand Lake, and others are yet to make their way up to the shallows, but none of that interests Sam Heckman. Diligent commitment to his postspawn plan here Friday landed Heckman atop the boater field with 34 pounds, 3 ounces and locked up his Southwest Division win at the 2015 The Bass Federation National Championship.

Saturday, the top boater from each of seven TBF divisions will vie for the TBF National Championship and the “Living the Dream” package that goes with it. The package includes paid entry in the 2016 Walmart FLW Tour as a pro, a Forrest Wood Cup berth and use of a custom-wrapped truck and Ranger boat on Tour for the year, as well as a travel stipend for each event.

Seven non-boaters – one from each TBF division – also will fish in tomorrow’s final round for a chance at paid entry into a Rayovac FLW Series division of choice.

The final weigh-in will precede the Walmart FLW Tour Beaver Lake weigh-in in the John Q. Hammons Center in Rogers, Ark., beginning at 3 p.m. CT Saturday.

Resuming the same tactics that put him in second place in his division on day one, Heckman fished just a couple of miles from the takeoff site at Wolf Creek Park. He threw a green pumpkin Z-Man ChatterBait with a Reaction Innovations Skinny Dipper in the dirty Sanchez color.

“I’m fishing a foot and a half of water, and those fish are there – they’re moving up,” Heckman says. “Today [Friday] the water temperature was 66 degrees, but when we started pre-fishing, the temperature was 61. It’s warming up, and I think these fish are wanting to eat again.”

While some in the field devoted at least part of their time to negotiating with bed fish, Heckman decided he’d forego that game and pour his effort into looking for more cooperative bass that are interested in feeding.

“The water isn’t as dirty as it was when I was there in practice, but it’s still dirty and the fish I’m targeting are fish that want to eat,” he adds. “They’re fish I can catch. I tried that sight-fishing, and that’s done and over with [for me]. I’m focused on a reaction bite. That’s what I’ll be doing all day tomorrow [Saturday]. I’ll probably have two rods on the deck, a couple of ChatterBaits, and I’m going to go with that.”

Heckman says he mostly fished main-lake points Friday. He worked back into some coves, but he didn’t care for the vexation he found therein.

“We tried to get in between those docks, but I got tangled up on one, and I looked down and saw a water moccasin sunning,” he recalls. “There’s a lot of stuff you have to watch out for back in there.”

A member of the Fountain Valley Bass Club and the TBF youth fishing director for Colorado, Heckman was pleasantly surprised to lead his division. Adding 18 pounds, 4 ounces to his opening-round weight of 15-15, he edged out day-one overall leader Jon Griffith, also from the Southwest Division, by 8 ounces to earn a berth into the final round.

“I was looking at Jon’s bag and thinking, ‘There’s no way I can make it,’” Heckman adds. “In my head, I was thinking my five were all 3-pounders.”

 

Central Division – Shawn Gordon – 31 pounds, 8 ounces

Topping local pro Dean Matts by just 4 ounces, Shawn Gordon of Russellville, Ark., weighed 14 pounds, 5 ounces today to win the Central Division title. After lucking into a big bed fish on day one, Gordon added more weight by sight-fishing in the second round.

“I found two decent bed fish that I didn’t know were there,” he says.

Splitting his day between Grand’s clear lower end and the moderately stained mid-lake area, Gordon caught a total of three bed fish on craw baits and added two others on a square-bill crankbait. Overall, he says his day was a grinder.

“It was slow; I didn’t catch my fifth fish until about 2:40,” he says. “In fact, Dean Matts watched me catch my fifth one on a crankbait.”

 

Southern Division – Mark Lundgren – 27 pounds, 11 ounces

His day was a bit of a roller coaster, but Mark Lundgren, of Cocoa, Fla., remained focused and posted a day-two weight of 16 pounds, 14 ounces to win his division.

“I caught three fish pretty early when it was cloudy, but then I went probably four or five hours without catching another keeper,” he notes. “I caught one around midday, and my last keeper came about five minutes before we had to leave.”

A jig and a shallow-running crankbait produced Lundgren’s early bites. Targeting shallow cover, he fished rocks with the crankbait and used the jig to pick apart any wood he found.

Lundgren says his areas probably held a mix of prespawn and postspawn fish.

“It’s hard to tell what stage they’re in. Some of them had big bellies,” he says. “I think some of them are still moving in, and some of them are moving out.”

 

Mid-Atlantic Division – Brian LaClair – 27 pounds, 5 ounces

Call him Mr. Consistency. Brian LaClair of Denton, Md., weighed 13 pounds, 10 ounces on day one and backed that up with 13-11 today for the Mid-Atlantic Division win. The key for him was making the most of a window of partly sunny conditions.

“I had found some pretty good spots that were holding a bunch of fish,” he says. “When that sun came out today, I made sure I was on them. We had about two hours of sunshine today, and I moved to a spot and caught most of the better fish I had.”

His best spot was a bluff wall that was loaded with postspawners. He flipped a 1/4-ounce custom brown jig with a twin-tail grub trailer and a shaky-head worm. Feathering the bait down was the key to attracting bites and avoiding snags.

 

Northern Division – Nicholas Smyers – 24 pounds, 8 ounces

Returning to what he had bailed on yesterday proved to be a good decision for Nicholas Smyers of Franksville, Wis., who earned the Northern Division title after sacking up 14 pounds, 1 ounce Thursday.

“Yesterday, I left my dirty water around midday because none of the fish I caught had any size,” he explains. “Today, I went back to the dirty water because when I went to the clear water, I didn’t really see anything I liked. I didn’t see any size.”

With his faith in the dirty water rekindled, Smyers caught a 3 1/2-pounder first thing on a square-bill crankbait.

“That made all the difference to me,” he says. “I just felt that I’d get five bites if I stuck with this. I just need to put them in the boat.”

Covering water was important, but Smyers found that fishing ultra-shallow was the game-changer.

“You had to land your bait on the bank and crawl it and really dig in the rocks,” he says. “Most of my bites were in a foot or two at the most.”

 

Northwest Division – Mark Maderos – 23 pounds, 1 ounce

Coming up two fish short on his day-two limit had Mark Maderos sweating the final outcome, but the boater from Maple Valley, Wash., apparently found the right three. His day-two weight of 11 pounds, 5 ounces gave him what he needed to clinch the Northwest Division title.

“During pre-fishing, we were focused on bed-fishing,” Maderos says. “We found an area that was absolutely loaded and caught 19 fish over 4 pounds. With the weather changing, all those fish pulled off, so I completely changed up.”

Moving off the bedding areas, Maderos targeted what he believed would be the staging areas in 7 to 12 feet. He caught his two biggest fish on a 1/2-ounce Revenge jig with a Strike King Rodent trailer and a drop-shot with a short 6-inch leader, 1/4-ounce weight and a 4-inch Wave Tiki Monkey. His third fish, a small keeper, ate a 5-inch swimbait.

 

Eastern Division – Curtis Richardson – 21 pounds, 7 ounces

Adjusting with his fish was essential for Curtis Richardson of Belleville, Ontario. He entered the tournament expecting to catch spawning fish, but when he determined that it didn’t offer him a way to win, he shifted gears and targeted areas outside the spawning pockets that offered good staging grounds for those bass that had already done their thing.

“I fished the exact same as I did yesterday, I just had to follow the fish as they moved,” Richardson observes. “Where I fished Thursday, I didn’t get any bites there today [Friday]. Those fish that have spawned in the pockets – I keep following them out to the main lake.

“I haven’t been [sight-fishing] except for one fish today,” he continues. “I was short one fish on my limit, so I burned about 40 minutes looking at one. I never did catch it, but that’s the only one I even attempted to catch by sight-fishing all week.”

Fishing rocky banks, Richardson focused on areas near heavy concentrations of beds. He caught his fish in 3 to 8 feet on a 3/16-ounce jig teamed with 8-pound-test line and a 1/2-ounce football jig on 20-pound-test line. Both jigs had Zoom Speed Craw trailers.

 

Logan Leaps Ahead in Co-Angler Competition

Thursday, Wes Logan topped the co-angler division with 19 pounds – the heaviest sack of the entire day-one field. Today, the Springville, Ala., stick added 15-9 to win the Southern Division with a two-day total of 34-9 that again topped the entire field of boaters and non-boaters. Notably, Logan’s total is 8 pounds, 2 ounces heavier than that of the second-place co-angler, Eastern Division winner and past TBF champion Gilbert Gagner.

Logan caught all of his fish on a 5/8-ounce jig and an unidentified trailer.

“We went a good way up the lake and fished the dirty water,” Logan says. “That, I believe, helped me because it’s more like what I fish in Alabama.”

 

Other co-angler divisional winners include:

Eastern Division – Gilbert Gagner – Highgate Springs, Vt. – 26-07

Northern Division – Phillip Duracz – Chesterton, Ind. – 25-12

Mid-Atlantic Division – Steve Wiseman – Bryans Rd., Md. – 21-06

Northwest Division – Brian Merlini – Maple Valley, Wash. – 19-14

Central Division – Johnny Babb – Holdenville, Okla. – 19-07

Southwest Division – Will Treadwell – Buford, Ga. – 19-03

 

For complete results, click here.

Tags: tbf  grand-lake  david-a-brown  headline-story  2015-04-23-grand-lake 

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