UPCOMING EVENT: YETI College Fishing - 2019 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Anglers to Watch in the All-American

The boats are lined up and ready for the 2015 BFL All-American.

Clearly, there’s no such thing as home-lake advantage in the Walmart Bass Fishing League All-American. Consider the five most recent winners: Troy Morrow of Georgia in 2010 on DeGrey Lake in Arkansas, Jacob Wheeler of Indiana in 2011 on Cross Lake in Louisiana, Brian Maloney of Missouri on the Potomac River in 2012, Kerry Milner of Arkansas on Lake Nickajack in Tennessee in 2013 and Marcus Sykora of Missouri on Wilson Lake in Alabama in 2014.

Dig into the facts behind how those All-American champions captured their respective titles, however, and it’s evident that the fisheries supported patterns that made the winners feel right at home. Sprawling Kentucky Lake is expected to be just as neighborly to a lot of out-of-town guests when the 2015 All-American gets underway Thursday, July 18 at Paris Landing. Granted, June is synonymous with ledge fishing on the big Tennessee River impoundment, but other options and a range of depths and cover are available in many of the big coves and tributaries from the dam near Gilbertsville, Ky., all the way south to beyond New Johnsonville, Tenn. Some daring anglers might even make the run to Lake Barkley, which is accessed by a canal that connects it with Kentucky Lake near their dams.

Time and the weather will tell. In the meantime, here’s a short list of some of the contenders who figure to be favorites in this year’s test.

Bobby Padgett, LaGrange, Ga., Bulldog Division

Bobby Padgett, a ledge specialist on Lake Eufaula, felt right at home on Pickwick.

If Padgett’s name seems familiar, it might be because he placed eighth in last year’s All-American on Wilson Lake, or you’ve seen it associated with the Preacher Jig – or both. Padgett is one of the true ledgemeisters in this year’s event, having cut his angling teeth on Lake Eufaula’s drop-offs. He did more to popularize the Preacher Jig, a bass-busting hair jig composed of a heavy lead-head and long white bucktail, than any other angler. Although the Georgia veteran’s fishing history on Kentucky Lake is limited, his favorite patterns overlay well with the big impoundment’s superb offshore fishery.   

 

Dustin Vaal, Gilbertsville, Ky., Hoosier Division

Toward the end of day two, IU's Dustin Vaal figured out a pattern that paid big dividends in the final round.

Is this the year a graduate of FLW College Fishing wins the All-American? Vaal would like to see it happen, and he hopes he’s the one to do it. Vaal is a former University of Indiana team angler and a member of the 2010 FLW College Fishing All-America squad. Having moved to the shores of Kentucky Lake from Indiana in 2014, Vaal has had plenty of time to reconnoiter and formulate a general game plan for the All-American.

 

Lloyd Pickett Jr., Bartlett, Tenn., Music City Division

Carolina rigging was the go-to tactic for Lloyd Pickett Jr.

Pickett has won more than $400,000 in one FLW circuit or another, though the Mississippi Division of the Walmart Bass Fishing League might be considered his main stomping grounds. Pickett knows his way around the All-American, having finished seventh in the 2014 tournament, 22nd in 2013 and fourth in 2011. As his impressive multi-circuit track record on various fisheries suggests, Pickett is a well-versed journeyman in a variety of techniques and presentations – from Carolina rigging to cranking.

 

David Williams, Maiden, N.C., North Carolina Division

2014 BFL Lake Cherokee Oct 09 -  11 - DAVID WILLIAMS

Like Pickett, Williams is due to hoist the All-American’s $100,000 winner’s check above his own head. In the four All-Americans he’s fished since 2004, Williams has never finished lower than 19th. That record includes a third-place finish in 2012 and a fifth-place finish in 2013. By the way, Williams also fishes on the B.A.S.S. Elite Series.

 

John Hopkins, Hendersonville, Tenn., Music City Division

John Hopkins of Hendersonville, Tenn., won the Sept. 28-29 Music City Division Super Tournament on Percy Priest with a two-day total of 30 pounds, 3 ounces. Hopkins earned more than $2,600 for his efforts.

Hopkins qualified via the Music City Division, but he also fishes the LBL Division and has been successful on Kentucky Lake’s ledges in the past. In his most recent tournament there, May 2 out of Kenlake State Park, he claimed sixth place.

 

J.R. Henard, Rogersville, Tenn., Volunteer Division

J.R. Henard of Rogersville, Tennessee, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 18 pounds, 13 ounces to win the Volunteer Division tournament on Cherokee Lake. For his victory, Henard earned $5,514.

Henard has been a power in the BFL’s Volunteer Division since his rookie campaign in 2007. He had what was, for him, an “off” year in 2014, when he placed 51st overall, but previously he’s never finished below 26th (in 2007). He’s currently ranked ninth in the standings. In his last outing, on Cherokee Lake May 30, Henard won first place.

 

Bill Schroeder, Paducah, Ky., LBL Division

Schroeder has been fishing the LBL (Land Between the Lakes) Division since 1995, and few anglers have more knowledge of Kentucky Lake and the fishing patterns that dominate there, regardless of the season. Schroeder finished second to Henard in a Wild Card tournament in October 2014 to earn a trip to the All-American. Incidentally, Bobby Padgett was third in that event. 

 

Leland Nixon, Bee Branch, Ark., Arkie Division

Now a guide near his Arkansas home, Leland Nixon sold his cattle farm to fund a career in the fishing industry.

Unlike his famous older brother, Larry, Leland Nixon didn’t get bit by the tournament bug until recently. Still, in only two seasons in the Walmart BFL circuit, he’s represented the family well. Leland was fifth in the Arkie Division standings last year, and currently resides in 29th place.

 

Shawn Gordon, Russellville, Ark., The Bass Federation 2015 National Champion

This one will help Shawn Gordon.

Gordon is a threat anywhere he fishes. He earned his berth in the 2015 All-American by winning The Bass Federation’s National Championship on Grand Lake in April, but he’s no newcomer. In 2013, he finished fourth in the All-American as a representative of the BFL’s Arkie Division, where he was first in the standings that year. He’s currently third in the Arkie Division’s point standings.

 

Anybody from the Ozark Division

Given that Ozark Division anglers (Brian Maloney in 2012 and Marcus Sykora in 2014) have won the All-American in two of the last three years, you’ve got to take the Missouri contingent at face value and make them favorites. This year’s Ozark Division qualifiers are Jeremy Lawyer and Lance Williams. By the way, Lawyer has fished 74 FLW events in one circuit or another, and placed in the top 10 in 25 of them.

Tags: all-american  colin-moore  pre-tournament  2015-06-18-bfl-all-american 

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