UPCOMING EVENT: YETI FLW COLLEGE FISHING - 2019 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Rain Raises the Bar

Looking down the Tennessee River toward the Ohio River confluence.

When the 171 pros and their co-angler equivalents roll out of Paducah, Ky., onto the Ohio, Tennessee and Cumberland rivers on Thursday morning they’ll have to contend with conditions that are totally different from practice. Hosted by the City of Paducah and the Paducah Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Rayovac FLW Series Championship is the last event of the season for many and will be the gateway to the 2016 Forrest Wood Cup for 10 pros come Saturday afternoon.

Though the anglers take off in the Paducah pool of the Ohio River, there is quite a bit of water elsewhere to fish. Besides fishing right by Paducah on the Ohio, the competitors could choose to run upstream and lock into the Smithland Pool, a big pool with more backwaters and wood cover than elsewhere. It stretches from Smithland, Ky., up past the Indiana border to Uniontown, Ky.

The Tennessee and Cumberland rivers would also play. Neither is particularly long, but the stretches running from below Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley and their respective dams are both productive fisheries and house the biggest smallmouths in the system.

You can find an in-depth rundown of the various rivers here.

The following factors figure to come into play this week:

  • Heavy rainfall, both prior to and during the tournament
  • Three species of bass
  • A large tournament field of 171 boats
  • A cold front

 

The Rain

One of the major factors in play is the potential for rising water due to the rain that fell over the region from the end of the third practice day on Monday through the night of the fourth and final practice day on Tuesday. Depending on how the rain muddies the various creeks and inflowing rivers, things could get pretty interesting.

“One of the things I did yesterday [Tuesday] was I went and checked my Smithland Pool fish,” says Tommy Williams, a longtime stick who frequents the Ohio just a few pools upstream. “Those creeks were starting to blow out, the current was starting to run pretty good and the wind was bad. I ran almost 48 miles up the river toward Uniontown. The further I went the harder the current was coming out of the creeks. That’s death on the river.

“Historically, this time of year on the Ohio the fish stack up in the mouths of creeks,” Williams explains. “That’s what I had going on up there. You could catch numbers there, but they weren’t but small fish. When the water started pulling out yesterday I couldn’t catch them, so I just wrote it off.”

Toby Corn, who hails from West Frankfort, Ill., and calls the Ohio, Cumberland and Tennessee rivers home, thinks the rain and added current could both help and hurt the bite.

“This water coming up is gonna definitely hurt the backwater guys,” Corn says assuredly. “I don’t know how muddy it’s gotten, but it’s gonna get muddy. That helps the Tennessee and the Cumberland. There’ll be more water flowing there, and it will be clean water. That makes the smallmouths bite.”

There’s a small chance that the water makes a truly large rise if the engineers at Kentucky and Barkley dams decide to release a lot of water from the reservoirs up above. If that happens, it’s likely that few in the field will have any prior experience on the system in those conditions to confidently predict where the fish will go. Happily, the chances of that happening are slim, and the main concerns are that the increased current could reposition bass found in practice and that certain areas could be blown out with mud.

In the latter case, Keystone Light pro Jeff Sprague thinks locals like Corn and Williams could be happy.

“I think that because of how the river has changed since practice ended a local guy will have an advantage,” Sprague says. “He’ll know where the fish will move when the water comes up. The fish here are used to water moving around, and someone who knows how they move with it could do well.”

 

 Three Species of Bass

Besides being home to a tremendous population of sheepshead, gar and Asian carp, the rivers also have some big smallmouths and plenty of largemouth and spotted bass. All three species appear to have winning potential.

“If I get a good boat number I’m going to gamble and try and catch smallmouths,” says Corn. “That’s how it’s going to be won. I think half the top 10 will have three or four smallmouths in their bags on day one. If I don’t get a good draw then I’ll just scrap around. There are about six smallmouth spots on each river [the Cumberland and Tennessee]. If you get on one of them all day, you might only get three or four bites, but they’re all going to be 3 or 4 pounds.”

Williams plans on taking a safer route.

“I’m looking for four spotted bass and one big largemouth,” says the veteran river rat. “I’ve been catching a good limit of fish, sometimes two limits of fish, every day. It’s a typical river deal; you drop the trolling motor and go and cover as much water as you can. I think 10 pounds a day makes the cut, but that’s probably not going to win it. For that you’ll have to have a big fish or two come into play one day.”

“I’ve come here a couple times on days off when I’ve had tournaments on Kentucky Lake and absolutely smashed the smallmouths,” adds Sprague, who drove up from his home in Texas for the event. “I mean, we’ve caught 20 pounds before. But I haven’t found any of those fish in practice. For the tournament, I’m hoping to see some smallmouths and some spots. I think the spotted bass will be players. They’re healthy looking and extremely filled out.”

 

Crowds and a Cold Front

Fishing pressure impacts every tournament, but the predictions for this one are all over the board. According to Corn, the smallmouth spots are at a premium, but even if crowded they could still have an impact. The tailwater areas were crowded in practice and likely will get plenty of attention. There’s also the chance (not really a bad one) that someone has found fish in a location not predicted by history that he can have to himself.

Fishing pressure has taken a toll in other ways too. In the Smithland Pool, for instance, anglers report that it’s not just the rain that’s muddied the creeks. The increase in boat traffic has also contributed to the turbidity.

Finally, there’s a cold front headed in to make things a little tougher. The forecast for day one is cool and crisp, with a low of 36 degrees in the morning – classic fall weather that will likely have the fish a little sluggish.

Regardless of the obstacles, this week 10 pros will punch their tickets to the 2016 Forrest Wood Cup on Wheeler Lake. That in itself is reason enough to pay attention as a big field of very talented anglers looks for the winning fish on a tricky and interesting system of rivers.  

Tags: ohio-river  jody-white  morning-story  2015-10-29-ohio-river 

AOY Update: Lake Toho

AOY Update: Lake Toho

 With the first two events of the 2019 FLW Tour season in the books, it’s time to take a look at how the Angler of the Year race is shaping up. At Sam Rayburn and Lake Toho the pros were tested with very different conditions, and the standings include anglers different specialties and skill sets than at this time last year, when the Tour’s first two events were both held in Florida. 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 »

Roaming Kissimmee with Douglas

Roaming Kissimmee with Douglas

Hailing from Minnesota, Josh Douglas is in his third year on the FLW Tour and looking for his first FLW Cup qualification. Were it not for a disqualification in the final event of the year at St. Clair in 2018, Douglas would have sailed into the Cup. After a tough start to the year at Rayburn, he’s planning to get back on track at the FLW Tour event presented by Ranger on Lake Toho. READ MORE »

A Look at Lake Toho

A Look at Lake Toho

Stop No. 2 of the 2019 FLW Tour takes us to Lake Toho and the several other lakes strung along the Kissimmee River. Presented by Ranger Boats, the tournament will take off from Big Toho Marina on the north end of the namesake lake, but competitors will be able to spread out down the Kissimmee River into Cypress Lake, Lake Hatchineha (Hatch), Lake Kissimmee, and perhaps even Tiger Lake and Lake Rosalie if they’re feeling adventurous. READ MORE »

A Different Okeechobee

A Different Okeechobee

Cold fronts, dirty water and lower water levels make for an interesting start to the Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division season. READ MORE »

2019 Lake Toho Preview

2019 Lake Toho Preview

Lake Tohopekaliga (Toho for short) is the first of four lakes on the menu for pros in the second stop of the FLW Tour. At the south end of Toho, a lock and a series of canals leads to Cypress Lake, Lake Hatchineha (Hatch) and Lake Kissimmee, which are all fair game for the pros. 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 »

Cecil’s Final Morning of Practice

Cecil’s Final Morning of Practice

Russell Cecil is one of a number of standout Texas anglers fishing the FLW Tour opener this week on Sam Rayburn. After a lackluster rookie campaign in 2018, fishing near home is a great opportunity for the Willis, Texas, pro to get the year started off strong. Though the conditions are far from normal, a few hours on the final day of practice reveal that Cecil certainly has a read on the bass. READ MORE »

Figuring Out Rayburn with Powell

Figuring Out Rayburn with Powell

Hensley Powell has quickly and quietly amassed quite a record with FLW. In just three years fishing the Costa FLW Series, he’s earned over $90,000, and he got a win at Table Rock in the Central Division in 2018. READ MORE »

Sam Rayburn Lake Tour

Sam Rayburn Lake Tour

This year, the FLW Tour kicks off in Texas with a showdown presented by Polaris on Sam Rayburn. Big Sam hasn’t hosted too many FLW Tour events in the past, but it’s loaded with bass and bass fishing history. The lake is much higher than normal right now, which will no doubt produce different fishing than is typical for winter on Rayburn. READ MORE »

Practice Starts at Rayburn

Practice Starts at Rayburn

Day one of practice for the FLW Tour presented by Polaris on Sam Rayburn started this morning. We hung around takeoff to see friends we haven't seen in months and to get the season underway.  READ MORE »

High Water will Factor at Rayburn

High Water will Factor at Rayburn

Typical winter fishing on Sam Rayburn would call for a lot of lipless crankbaits, Carolina rigs and a focus on offshore structure and submerged grass. However, for the FLW Tour opener January 10-13 a lot of that may be out the window – or at least a lot different than many of the Rayburn sticks in the field are used to. Sam Rayburn has risen steadily since December 10th, and as of January 3, the lake is at 171.43 feet, which is 7 feet over full pool of 164.4 feet. READ MORE »

Perfect Weather Now on Tap in Texas

Perfect Weather Now on Tap in Texas

Amistad is one of south Texas’ most famous reservoirs – the other being Falcon. Though it’s not the juggernaut that it was in the not too distant past, Amistad is still an incredible tournament fishery, with room to spread out and plenty of grass and rocky structure to target for big giant wintertime bass. READ MORE »

2019 Rookie Rundown

2019 Rookie Rundown

No matter how you get to the FLW Tour, you’re only a rookie once. This year, 34 pros are taking their talents on Tour for the first time. READ MORE »

How to Catch Winter Spotted Bass

How to Catch Winter Spotted Bass

Some of the best fishing of the year in the South occurs on the reservoirs with spotted bass in Georgia and the Carolinas. As a guide on Lake Lanier, FLW Tour pro Rob Jordan is adept at staying on the spots all winter. He knows when to fish deep or go shallow, and how to apply a jigging spoon, jig, underspin and crankbait to take full advantage of the opportunities. READ MORE »

Rookie Profile: Ron Nelson  

Rookie Profile: Ron Nelson  

While plenty of the Tour’s new pros have impressive resumes, few boast records as well-rounded and superlative as Ron Nelson’s. After years of success at the Costa FLW Series level, it’s finally time to see what the Michigan angler can do against the best in the nation.   READ MORE »

How to Fish Umbrella Rigs for Bass

How to Fish Umbrella Rigs for Bass

Castable umbrella rigs, also called Alabama rigs or A-rigs, were first deployed in tournament bass fishing by Paul Elias in the 2011 FLW Tour Open on Lake Guntersville. Since then, they’ve garnered a lot of controversy and caught a lot of bass. READ MORE »

Sinking a Staysee for Winter Bass

Sinking a Staysee for Winter Bass

Fishing late and early in the season is often challenging. Because the water is cold, it can take a lot more patience to find fish or to coax them into biting. If you truly want to put your patience to the test, you might consider fishing a jerkbait ultra-slow. If you want to try for superhuman patience, you might want to fish a jerkbait like Cody Murray. READ MORE »

Hallman’s 5 Go-To Baits for New Lakes

Hallman’s 5 Go-To Baits for New Lakes

Deciding how best to figure things out on a new lake is one of the toughest challenges Tour pros and regular anglers alike encounter. Sometimes familiarity with the style of lake makes it easy, but other times you eventually need to stretch well outside of your comfort zone. Bradley Hallman has had success all over the country, and he’s got a stable of baits that he likes to rely on early in the process of breaking down a new lake. Your starting baits might be a little different, but Hallman’s approach to new water is worth considering. READ MORE »

Review: Graph Glass

Review: Graph Glass

Graph Glass is a tempered screen protector that you can self-install on the most popular models of fishing electronics. For about $45 to $60 per unit, it protects the screen from flying tungsten or other projectiles, and there are other benefits as well. As far as I can tell, it’s a real winner of a product. READ MORE »