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


River Showdown Looms

The 2015 Rayovac FLW Series Championship, which is being hosted by the Paducah Convention & Visitors Bureau and City of Paducah on Oct. 29-31, will be a true test of fishing skill rather than a rehash of past experiences, as it will be decided on a fishery with which few of the contestants are familiar.

Though the lower Ohio River has flown under the radar screen of most FLW anglers, competitors in the Walmart Bass Fishing League’s Buckeye, Illini and Hoosier divisions have proved time and again that the river can provide hefty limits of bass. Typically, it’s a question of fashioning three days of milk runs where several patterns and presentations might come into play.

Official practice for the 2015 Championship begins Saturday. Here’s what anglers will encounter.


How it Lays Out

Smithland Pool, in particular, has gained some fame in recent years as one of the Ohio’s most productive stretches, and it’s open for business during the Rayovac FLW Series Championship that commences next Thursday out of Paducah. That stretch of the river, which wends roughly 72 miles from the Smithland Dam to the John T. Myers Dam (above) near Uniontown, Ky., encompasses an abundance of tributaries, islands and sloughs that offer all sorts of alternative possibilities.

Among the major feeder streams are the Wabash River (above), which serves as a boundary between Indiana and Illinois and enters the Ohio on the north side a few miles downstream of the Uniontown dam, and the Tradewater River, which feeds in from the south side between Sturgis, Ky., and Cave-in-Rock, Ill.  Other tributaries downriver include Crooked Creek, Hurricane Creek, Peters Creek, Lusk Creek, Deer Creek, Hosick Creek, Big Grand Pierre Creek, Bay Creek and Phelps Creek.

As the river snakes its way southwest toward Smithland, its course is detoured by a number of large islands, including Wabash Island, Raleigh Bar, Pryor Island, Dog Island and Bay Creek. Many of these offer wood cover in the form of snags and willow banks, and some have substantial grass beds.

Below Smithland Dam (above), the Tennessee River and the Cumberland River, from their mouths upriver to Kentucky Dam (22 miles) and Barkley Dam (31 miles), respectively, should dominate in terms of seeing the most angler pressure. Depending on the amount of water being released through the dams, the rivers could provide good fishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass. The mouth of Massac Creek, just upstream from Metropolis, Ill., will also wind up on some milk runs, as will Post Creek Cutoff, Hodges Creek and the Cache River – on the Illinois side – and Humphrey Creek on the Kentucky side. Otherwise, there are no dominant features from there to the Ohio’s juncture with the Mississippi River.


A Smorgasbord of Patterns

The vast expanse of rivers and backwaters in play combined with plenty of manmade structures that deflect current and corral bass will supply the Championship contestants with a number of pattern options.



The various tailwaters in play offer anglers what is likely the easiest fishing on the system. Of course, the most popular tailwaters – at the Smithland Dam on the Ohio, Kentucky Dam (above) on the Tennessee and Barkley Dam on the Cumberland – will get heavy fishing pressure, so some anglers might opt to avoid them altogether, or at least to save them until the last day, if they can make it that far.

Another lock and dam downstream of takeoff is a less popular fishing area, though maybe it’s a well-kept secret, and the upstream tournament boundary at the John T. Meyers Lock and Dam might be a good fishing location, but it’s almost too long of a trek to be in play.

Heavy, concentrated current and big, obvious current breaks such as lock walls, fishing piers, bridge pilings and shoreline obstructions (mostly subtle bends and break walls) will concentrate fish, but mostly pros can catch bass just by running the bank for the first half- or quarter-mile downstream of each dam. These areas are heavily lined with riprap and often steep and deep, plus rubble piles from construction projects and maintenance are common.

Mid-river in the tailwater areas anglers can fish submerged “trash piles,” humps and other slightly-harder-to-find current breaks that also hold quality bass.



Everyone knows the tailwaters will be in play, and everyone knows where to find them. Likewise, everyone knows that backwater areas could produce winning fish. Finding the right backwater, however, will be a bigger challenge.

Locals have an advantage here, especially if they know which creeks, sloughs and ponds will be full and accessible at various water levels – many are too silted in to access at all.

Out-of-towners will have to think like waterfowl hunters scouting for duck sloughs. The search usually begins with a Google Earth scan. From there, the official practice period will be critical for visiting these tucked-away honey holes to judge water clarity, current flow, bait and bass populations, and ease of access. Flipping, topwater and other shallow presentations will be put to use.

Expect the Smithland Pool, particularly the Golconda, Ill., area where Lusk Creek (above) and several other large creeks and adjoining channels are the main attractions, to draw most of the backwater anglers.

Bass aren’t the only fish in these waters, and many of the backwater creeks are filled with Asian carp, which launch themselves into the air even at the sound of an approaching trolling motor. A facemask might be a good tool to have along at this derby.


Traditional River Structure

This is the unknown factor at the Championship. Mid-river structure such as sweeping inside bends, points, rock bars, riprapped banks, channel edges and the like are present. However, the main stems of the Ohio, Tennessee and Cumberland are mostly flat-bottomed, without a lot of obvious contour changes.

If a pro spends enough time idling and scouring the bottom, he could find a mother lode of offshore fish. The odds are even higher in the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers, which are greatly overlooked, quality fisheries in a region that is home to massive reservoirs.

Also, big smallmouths live out in the depths of all three rivers. The catch is that they’re roamers. A school that promises 20 pounds in practice might vanish by tournament time.


Islands, Shorelines and Bank Cover

Pros shouldn’t overlook obvious bank cover such as laydowns and rock. Islands and the smaller channels that often wrap around islands are also good targets where bass can set up in eddies or in areas with slower flow. Some of these areas also have grass mats.

The junk-fishing purists ought to be sure and check out these spots.

Heck, at times, just running down the bank with a spinnerbait or Rat-L-Trap is all that’s necessary to catch fish, especially in the Tennessee and Cumberland.


Manmade Structure and Trash

We mentioned fishing “trash” in the tailwaters section above, but the influence of industry and man-made structure isn’t limited to areas immediately downstream of the dams. There are marinas, industrial complexes, sunken barges, wing dams, riprap-lined stretches of bank, barge tie-off columns, old bridge structures and plenty more fish-attracting objects for anglers to fish.


River-Runnin’ Baits

Topwater – It’s fall, and it’s a river, so of course topwater will be in play. Buzzbaits will be popular in heavier flow areas, while poppers and frogs will get the call in the backwaters.

Crankbaits – From square-bills to deep-divers, pros should have along a mix of crankbaits. Lipless baits too.

Spinnerbaits and swimbaits – Great for covering water, either a spinnerbait or swimbait is a great river tool. The choice between the two usually comes down to water clarity.

Jigs – Flipping, dragging, finesse, football … all types of jigs will produce.

Tubes and Texas rigs – Smallmouths love tubes, and there are some giant brown bass in this system. Likewise, a Texas rig is a smart choice for flipping snaggy riprap areas and trashy current breaks.


More Details

Qualification – The top 40 pros and co-anglers in the 2015 standings from each of the five Rayovac FLW Series divisions qualified to fish the Championship.

Cup Berths – A total of 10 Rayovac FLW Series pros advance to the 2016 Forrest Wood Cup based on their finish at the 2015 Rayovac FLW Series Championship. Cup qualification is determined in the following two-step process. Step 1: Select the highest finishing pro from each Rayovac FLW Series division at the Championship. Step 2: Select the five highest finishing pros not already selected in Step 1.


Tournament Info Page click here

Tags: ohio-river  colin-moore-and-curtis-niedermier  pre-tournament  2015-10-29-ohio-river 


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