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

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Cup Pre-Practice Reports

Cup Pre-Practice Reports

Lake Murray is hardly an unknown among FLW pros. The site of this year’s Forrest Wood Cup near Columbia, S.C., also hosted the championship in 2008 and 2014. Nevertheless, several Cup qualifiers made pre-practice scouting trips to the lake prior to it going off limits on Monday and found it pretty much aligning with what you’d expect for this time of year – stifling heat, high water temperatures and tough, tough fishing. Then again, pros are rarely willing to divulge too much information, and they usually report that fishing is “tough” before any major event.

Formed by the Saluda Dam, which impounds its namesake river, the 50,000-acre Lake Murray measures 41 miles long by 14 miles wide and boasts a maximum depth of 200 feet. Summer events typically find anglers leveraging a mix of offshore and shallow-water patterns, and the pros I spoke with predicted the same for this year’s event.

Here’s a brief report from several.

FWC details page

FWC event schedule

FWC event map

 

JT Kenney

JT Kenney

The 16-year FLW Tour pro from Palm Bay, Fla., spent four days on Lake Murray before cutoff and reports the water level a little below normal summer pool of 360 feet. The official report as of Wednesday, July 26 shows the water level at about 357.

Kenney says it looked like there might have been an algae bloom throughout parts of the lake. Predictably, the water was clearer down by the dam, with the mid-lake region sporting a greenish tint that Kenney referred to as “good fishing water.”

He didn’t locate much of what he’d consider fishable grass, but Kenney did note a band of stringy pondweed growing from about 7 feet out to 13 to 14. He also saw schooling activity, compliments of a non-native forage fish known for whipping up brief moments of tremendous opportunity.

“There’s a lot of blueback herring in the lake, and you can get right really easily on those if you find a school of fish running them to the top,” Kenny says. “I had a day where I had a big bag — probably 14 to 15 pounds in 12 casts – when that happened. But if that doesn’t happen, you’re struggling to catch 10 pounds.”

While he recognizes the blueback potential, Kenney says he wouldn’t even consider staking his tournament solely on this open-water game of cat-and-mouse. He spent a lot of time scoping out attractive shallow cover to balance the pelagic stuff. For the schoolers, he’ll watch and listen for the telltale signs.

“Those fish that chase the blueback herring are fat, healthy 3 1/2-pound fish that you can definitely win with,” Kenney says. “But they don’t come up on the same spot, on the same schedule all the time. I think you’re going to have to run spot-to-spot and keep your eyes open for little baitfish flopping on the surface.

“It’s probably going to be your typical ‘summertime in the Southeast’ tournament. I’m sure that one day there’s going to be a 17-pound bag, but 13 1/2 a day over three days will probably win it. It’s just a tough time of the year because of the heat.”

 

Chris McCall

Chris McCall

The Texas pro had planned to spend four days on Murray, but pulled the plug after two and a half. Hot, still conditions yielded only four keeper bites: two on the bank, two on docks. Noting water temperatures in the upper 80s to low 90s, McCall also found plenty of pondweed, just none of the vegetation he would have preferred.

“The last two times [the Cup was on Murray in 2008 and 2014], the water willow has been a big player, but I saw no grass [water willow] that had more than 6 inches of water on it in a lot of the areas where they caught them last time,” McCall says.

He also reports seeing some beds of grass that he believes were milfoil or something similar, though it wasn’t formed up in such a way that he thinks it’ll be a player. 

McCall says he marked more bait upriver than down the lake. He’s reasonably certain he was looking at shad, but he’s not overlooking the blueback influence.

“Obviously, because of the bluebacks, those fish suspend a lot in that lake,” he says.

Even though his pre-practice was less than stellar, McCall says it was time well spent. A big chunk of such efforts involves elimination, and he feels he definitely did a lot of that.

 

Roy Hawk

Roy Hawk

The Western standout from Lake Havasu City, Ariz., spent a week on Lake Murray and left with memories of voluminous bait schools. Hawk says he marked big balls of shad inside the creek arms and on the main lake, while several instances of schooling activity caught his attention from outside his casting range.

“I couldn’t tell if it was blueback herring or shad, but the bass were blowing up on it,” he says. “There were also a lot of little bluegills on the shoreline.”

While doing more looking than fishing, Hawk says he averaged two keepers a day. Reaction baits and slow presentations produced fish, some of which came from shallow vegetation.

“There’s a lot of bank grass, and there’s some that has good water on it – like 3 to 4 feet deep,” Hawk says. “A lot of times, if you have 2 feet on that grass, that’s good enough. There’s also some low-lying aquatic vegetation that blankets the bottom. I didn’t catch anything out of that, but I think that helps keep fish coming up shallow.”

 

Bryan Thrift

The 2017 FLW Tour Angler of the Year says the overall water quality reminded him of his 2014 Cup experience: high clarity on the lower end, with visibility levels ranging from about 8 to 30 inches as he progressed toward the river. Thrift also found plenty of pondweed growing out to 15 feet, with matting in the shallower stretches. This stringy, clingy vegetation, which Thrift likened to Velcro, probably has some attraction for bass, but efficient presentations are mostly limited to surface baits.

The North Carolina pro says he didn’t mark a lot of bait, but he saw some breaking action that could have been bluebacks or shad. Bream were abundant, and considering the bluegill spawn can stretch into August, Thrift says he’ll keep watch for this pattern.

Overall, Thrift says he’s expecting this year’s Cup to play out much like the 2014 event. During that tournament, in which Thrift placed seventh, anglers caught fish offshore, as well as in the river. 

“I think the shallow or deep bite could be dominant. I think it would be best to have a mix, but it could be won without having both,” Thrift says. “I think you’ll need to fish with an open mind. A guy could win this tournament with five bites a day – even five bites one day and four the next. That’s why I like summertime fishing; one bite could make all the difference. I really think that’s what it’s going to come down to.”

 

Zack Birge

Zack Birge

The Oklahoma pro says he found Murray’s warm summer water considerably clearer than he was expecting, with clarities ranging from a foot in some areas to 10 feet in others. He located several types of grass, including water willow and large fields of matted pondweed.

“I had never been to Lake Murray before, but it reminds me of Lake Ouachita, and I think it’s going to fish very similar,” the third-year Tour pro says. “There’s a main river running in, and there are a couple of arms that run way back in there with good creeks. Then you have the main lake that will be a factor with schooling fish and deep brush pile fish.

“You can pick your poison and do what you’re confident in. I’m going to do my best to make the river thing work and then try to upgrade later in the day on the make-lake stuff.”

Birge says he actually fished (versus just scouting and looking) for several hours during his week of pre-practice and caught enough quality fish – mostly on reaction baits – to have an optimistic Cup outlook. He made a mental note of the blueback deal, but he’s not going to base his game plan on blueback-eating bass.

“There are a lot of schooling fish, and you can either catch them good or it can bite you in the butt,” Birge says. “If I can figure out the river fish, I’m more confident with that, rather than waiting and crossing my fingers for schooling fish.

“In practice, I saw several good fish following my bait. These fish revealed themselves in areas that maybe I can go back and make them productive during the tournament.”

Tags: david-a-brown  pre-tournament  2017-08-11-forrest-wood-cup 

Big Smallmouths, Big Water for Season Finale

Big Smallmouths, Big Water for Season Finale

Any tournament with smallmouths in it is a good one, but when the Costa FLW Series Northern Division presented by Gajo Baits heads to the St. Lawrence River it's usually a show-stopper. This year’s event, which is presented by Realtree Fishing, shouldn’t be any different as the Northern Division looks to close its season out on one of the best smallmouth fisheries in the world September 19-21. READ MORE »

Another Potomac Rumble Looms

Another Potomac Rumble Looms

Moving south from Lake Champlain, the second stop of the 2019 Costa FLW Series Northern Division presented by Gajo Baits is on the Potomac River. The tournament, which is presented by Lowrance and runs Aug. 22-24, should offer a fairly standard set of August conditions for the anglers, with plenty of quality largemouths to go around. READ MORE »

Smith Honored with Sportsmanship, Community Leadership Award

Smith Honored with Sportsmanship, Community Leadership Award

Capt. Blake Smith was presented with the 2019 Forrest L. Wood Sportsmanship & Community Leadership Award by the award’s namesake, Forrest Wood, at the 2019 FLW Cup pre-tournament banquet in Hot Springs, Ark. Smith, of Lakeland, Fla., has fished the FLW Tour since 2015. READ MORE »

Day 3 of Practice with Scanlon

Day 3 of Practice with Scanlon

Casey Scanlon won the FLW Tour season finale at Lake Champlain, which he almost had to do to make the FLW Cup. Now that he’s here at Lake Hamilton, he’s got a shot at $300,000 and a possible edge over the competition due to his momentum and extensive Ozark experience. READ MORE »

Hard Lessons and the FLW Cup

Hard Lessons and the FLW Cup

Two terrible tournaments to end the season cost Miles Burghoff his shot at the Polaris Rookie of the Year title. This week at the FLW Cup on Lake Hamilton, he's hoping to apply the lessons learned at the end of the season to his preparation for the championship event. READ MORE »

Thrift Roams Hamilton on Day 2

Thrift Roams Hamilton on Day 2

In seemingly any tournament that Bryan Thrift shows up to he is without a doubt one of the favorites to win. With two FLW Tour Angler of the Year titles, six Tour wins and five Costa FLW Series wins – including his most recent on Lake Champlain just a few weeks ago – it’s easy to understand why. READ MORE »

Riding Around Practice on Day 2

Riding Around Practice on Day 2

In a Ranger Z520L with a 250-hp Evinrude G2, it takes about 15 minutes to run from Carpenter Dam, which impounds Lake Hamilton, to the Blakely Mountain Dam that separates Hamilton from Lake Ouachita. If you stop and chat with 11 pros along the way, however, you’ll need most of the morning, but you’ll also wind up with a pretty sound idea of what’s going on at Hamilton for this week’s FLW Cup. READ MORE »

The First Morning with B. Lat

The First Morning with B. Lat

You won’t hear Brian Latimer complain about hot weather and tough fishing in Arkansas during this week’s FLW Cup at Lake Hamilton. For B. Lat, sweating it out on the water is vastly better than working in the heat installing landscaping and mowing lawns for a living, which is what he was doing just a few years ago. A lot’s changed since those days. Now, Latimer is an FLW Tour champion, with a growing fishing media company and his first shot at a Cup title. READ MORE »

From the All-American to the Cup

From the All-American to the Cup

Brennon McCord is a self-described quiet, easygoing guy, but the 22-year-old T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League All-American champion hopes to make some Lake Hamilton noise in his first FLW Cup appearance. For the moment, understandably so, he’s still basking in the afterglow of a victory that earned what he calls the biggest honor of his career. READ MORE »

FLW Cup Schedule of Events

FLW Cup Schedule of Events

The FLW Cup goes down August 9-11 on Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs, Ark. As the crowning event of the FLW Tour season, there’s naturally a lot that goes with it, from takeoffs, the FLW Expo, a Trace Adkins concert and of course the weigh-ins at the Bank OZK Arena. Below you’ll find everything you’ll need to follow or attend the Cup, from the times to each event and seminar to each giveaway going on. Keep in mind, everything is free to attend and all times are Central. READ MORE »

Pre-Practice Report from Hamilton

Pre-Practice Report from Hamilton

For some, preparation has been in the form of map study and online research, while others have made the trek to Lake Hamilton to get eyes on the playing field, which went off limits July 22. READ MORE »

The FLW Cup Playing Field

The FLW Cup Playing Field

It’s been 14 seasons since the FLW Cup has been held at Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs, Ark. In the years since, FLW fans have likely developed some familiarity with nearby Lake Ouachita, which has been a frequent destination for the Cup and, in fact, hosted last year’s championship event. Hamilton is less-known because it hasn’t gotten the nod to host the finale since July 2005, when George Cochran won his third bass-fishing world championship . READ MORE »

McCaghren Ready for Hamilton

McCaghren Ready for Hamilton

Billy McCaghren spends a lot of his free time coaching 8- to 10-year-old boys on how to swing and catch; but when the FLW Cup visits Hot Springs August 9-11, the Arkansas pro is hopeful that some of his young baseball players will be able to swing by and see the Lake Hamilton bass he plans on catching. READ MORE »

Summertime on Champlain

Summertime on Champlain

For three years running now, the Costa FLW Series Northern Division presented by Gajo Baits has kicked off on Lake Champlain. The tournament, which is presented by Polaris, should offer great fishing like usual, but it’s going to be far different than the last two FLW Series tilts on the big Northern lake. READ MORE »

FLW Live Schedule for Lake Champlain

FLW Live Schedule for Lake Champlain

FLW Live is back for the season finale of the FLW Tour on Lake Champlain. The event, which is presented by T-H Marine and hosted by the City of Plattsburgh and Adirondack Coast Visitors Bureau runs Thursday, June 27 through Sunday, June 30. READ MORE »

Exploring Champlain with Strelic

Exploring Champlain with Strelic

Living about as far as possible from Champlain, Wade Strelic is looking to finish his rookie season strong at the FLW Tour finale. Hailing from Alpine, Calif., near San Diego, Strelic is sitting 28th in points and has made the check cut in three out of six events so far – another good derby will lock him in to the FLW Cup. READ MORE »

Nelson Wraps Champlain Practice

Nelson Wraps Champlain Practice

Ron Nelson is easily in the group of favorites in the event and a bonafide Northern expert, so I was eager to hop in the boat for a morning with the smallie snatcher. Champlain isn’t fishing quite like it was the years he won, but Nelson is still guaranteed to have a lot of eyes on him come day one. READ MORE »

Scouting for Smallies with Felix

Scouting for Smallies with Felix

Over the years, a lot of anglers have established impressive records on Lake Champlain, but few have done it as quickly and authoritatively as Austin Felix. READ MORE »

Get to Know Lake Champlain

Get to Know Lake Champlain

Lake Champlain is a giant of a lake. It stretches 100-plus miles from its beginning down south at Whitehall, N.Y., and runs all the way up to the Canadian border between the Green Mountains of Vermont and the Adirondacks in New York. Though the competitors aren’t allowed to venture into Canada, there is still plenty for anglers to break down for the final event of the 2019 FLW Tour season. READ MORE »

High School Championship Top 10 Baits

High School Championship Top 10 Baits

June is typically ledge-fishing season in the Tennessee Valley, especially at Pickwick, but the 2019 High School Fishing National Championship was a more diverse event than most folks might have expected. Patterns ranging from junk-fishing the bank to targeting docks and other shoreline cover to working the main-lake ledges all worked. Here are the baits used by the top 10 teams during the week. READ MORE »