UPCOMING EVENT: YETI FLW COLLEGE FISHING - 2019 - Lake Erie

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Starting Practice with McMillan

Starting Practice with McMillan

Hailing from Clewiston, Fla., Brandon “Big Mac” McMillan started his career as an Okeechobee stick. A threat to win at any time on the Big O, he partook in some of the most memorable Okeechobee duels of all time back around 2010, and came out on top with more than 100 pounds in the FLW Tour Open there in 2011. Even so, his career began in fits and starts – though his stats say he’s fished the Tour for five years, 2013 and these last two years are really his only full seasons. After finishing 27th in the Angler of the Year race in 2016, McMillan built on that for a 16th place finish in 2017 and has now made the Forrest Wood Cup in back-to-back years.

Competition on Lake Murray goes down August 11-13, but the pros get four days of practice before it’s time to battle it out. McMillan was kind enough to let us hop aboard to see how he attacks the start of practice.

 

McMillan starts things off at about 6:30 a.m., launching his boat at a house Jeff Sprague and Jason Reyes are staying at and then helping Sprague get his boat in the water. As Sprague heads out to make the most of the fast-retreating dawn, Big Mac pulls a few rods out and gets his bearings before putting the hammer down and streaking to a main lake point to start things off.

 

The first point McMillan hits has rip rap on the bank and some houses mixed in with the tall Carolina pines. It’s not one of the prototypical long, flat points that Murray and the other blueback herring lakes in the region are known for, but it looks like as good a place as any to start. He starts off throwing a walking bait, tossing in front of the boat some, but mostly toward the actual bank. After working along the point and the bank for a fruitless 50 yards or so, McMillan picks up and moves to a flatter point with some wind on it.

 

Getting to work with his topwater on stop No. 2, McMillan delves into his pre-practice a bit, which consisted of three days on the lake back in July, prior to ICAST.

“I had 17 to 18 [pounds] every day I was here,” says McMillan, not bragging, but matter-of-factly. “One day I was maybe pushing 19 [pounds], but I just had five bites that day.”

From the sounds of it, McMillan’s pre-practice was good, at least from a weight perspective, but left a little to be desired on the numbers and consistency front.

Finishing the point and a few docks along the bank, now mixing in a single swimbait a little, McMillan cranks up for possibly greener pastures.

 

After running a ways nice and slow to look for points of interest or possible schoolers, McMillan stops at the mouth of a shallow pocket and pulls out a buzzbait with a Zoom Horny Toad. The time has come for some Canterbury action. Trolling motor on perhaps 60 percent, he quickly rolls through the shallow pocket, skimming his buzzbait underneath the docks and tossing it tight to the patches of water willow that stud the bank. As good as it looks shallow, our foray doesn’t last long – with four days of practice, McMillan wants to get out of his comfort zone some, and that means a serious effort for the schooling bite.

 

Our next point actually has some activity on it – after a few casts, a group of bass come up busting just out of reach. A short while later, McMillan catches the first of the day, an absolute giant that smoked his topwater. After fishing the rest of the point with no success, he opts to do a little idling to poke around where the best group of fish first came up schooling. Sure enough, there’s a little brush underneath it.

 

All morning, McMillan has kept it simple on the tackle side of things. With just a few topwaters and schooling baits rigged on rods he had made with MHX blanks, it’s apparent that he doesn’t like to complicate things too much. That said, he might not have it all covered with just the basics – McMillan says he only owns two spinning rods.

 

Midway through the morning, McMillan shoots Scott Martin a text with a waypoint. They aren’t meeting up for some kind of Clewiston powwow, they’re meeting to do a camera handoff. After filming one of his myriad YouTube videos at McMillan’s house Martin forgot one of his cameras – he needs to this week to fully document the Cup, so they needed to meet up at some point in time. After a quick discussion about not catching fish, the pair separate, McMillan to work down the bank a little and Martin to roll to parts unknown.

 

After parting with Martin, McMillan rededicates himself to the schooling game, running a few more main-lake points with little success. Sometimes he fishes them with a topwater, sometimes he just stands and waits, sometimes he slings a Carolina rig, and sometimes he just sits at the helm and watches. It’s all fruitless – for some reason, the schooling bass aren’t digging Big Mac’s baits today. He’s even stymied by line twist when he tries to tie up a double Fluke rig for the first time ever.

 

As we fish points, FLW Video Production and Digital Brand Manager Chris Burgan and local guide Michael Murphy stop nearby and then crank on past. They’re out shooting for a pre-tournament patterns video, so McMillan figures he’s at least in something of the right area.

 

“This is why I just flip a jig all day,” says McMillan as he stows his trolling motor around 10:20 a.m. It’s time to head shallow.

Running to a nearby creek arm, McMillan sets down on a section with good exposure to the bigger section of the creek and pulls out a buzzbait. Almost immediately, we begin to see life, from minnows flitting through the grass, to bluegill beds and actual bass. Between the shade of the docks and the presence of southern naiad, McMillan loves it.

“You add in a few bream beds or whatnot, dude there’s going to be a bunch of fish caught up shallow this week.”

Slinging along, you can tell McMillan is more at home shallow. He’s more alert, his casts are precise and he’s comfortably whipping from dock to dock, eager for the next spot. It’s not very productive, but he appears to enjoy doing it.

 

Moving farther back into a creek, McMillan is chasing shade lines now as the southern sun begins to climb high. He’s not bothered by it, but he does say that the heat of the day has been his least productive time period.

“No matter how hot it gets it’s still about 10 or 15 degrees cooler than the back of my UPS truck,” says the part-time driver. “I’d much rather be hot than cold, this year was brutal on me.”

McMillan first started fishing more seriously back in 2008 when he had a lot of time off from his job delivering packages, but he might be on the verge of totally leaving his big brown truck behind. This year he had to hurry back to Florida for work after each tournament, next season he’s already planning on a lot more time off to dedicate to fishing.

Back in the creek, McMillan finally picks up another fish, but it’s still shy of the keeper mark. Nonetheless, any fish helps.

 

We wrap up around 11:30 a.m., as I head back to type, McMillan heads back out to hunt. It hasn’t been a very successful morning, but there are still three days of practice to go. Part of his plan is to use the extra practice time to take some gambles, so not catching them right off the bat hardly fazes him. What he finds in practice might help, but what will really count is getting 15 of the right bites into the boat on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. 

Tags: lake-murray  jody-white  pre-tournament  2017-08-11-forrest-wood-cup 

Top 10 Baits from the Potomac River

Top 10 Baits from the Potomac River

Late summer on the Potomac is often tough fishing, so the contenders in the Costa FLW Series Northern Division presented by Gajo Baits event had to pull out all the stops. Fishing everything from grass to docks and rocks, the anglers mixed up all sorts of power and finesse presentations to get the job done in the second stop of the season presented by Lowrance. READ MORE »

Short Tops co-anglers

Short Tops co-anglers

Weighing a limit on day one and two bags of just four fish each over the next two days was enough to earn Jim Short the co-angler title in the Costa FLW Series Northern Division presented by Gajo Baits on the Potomac River. Weighing 9 pounds, 15 ounces on the final day for a total of 29-9, Short took home a new Ranger Z175 and $5,350 in cash. READ MORE »

Reese Goes Wire-To-Wire

Reese Goes Wire-To-Wire

The final weigh-in of the Costa FLW Series Northern Division presented by Gajo Baits event on the Potomac was one of the most intense of the season. In the end, with just enough to hold on, Marvin Reese weighed four for 8 pounds, 5 ounces to earn the win with a 38-15 total. For his win, which was his first on the boater side, Reese earned $38,026. Finishing second, Troy Morrow rocked up from tenth with 14-7, which was the biggest bag of the day. READ MORE »

Potomac River Midday Update – Day 3

Potomac River Midday Update – Day 3

The final day of the Costa FLW Series Northern Division presented by Gajo Baits event on the Potomac has offered chamber of commerce weather and some up and down fishing. The event, which is presented by Lowrance, has featured pretty tough fishing overall, and it seems like some of the top 10 may fall victim to it today. READ MORE »

Potomac River Top 5 Patterns – Day 2

Potomac River Top 5 Patterns – Day 2

Through two days of competition on the Potomac in the Costa FLW Series Northern Division presented by Gajo Baits event the weights haven’t been nearly what the river is capable of kicking out. That said, all the top pros have managed to put at least one good day together, and some have maintained really strong consistency, just at a lesser pace than would be the norm in June or some other time of the year. READ MORE »

Better Day Keeps Reese Out Front

Better Day Keeps Reese Out Front

A lovely morning gave way to a dismal afternoon on day two of the Costa FLW Series Northern Division presented by Gajo Baits on the Potomac River, but despite the difference in conditions, Marvin Reese kept on plugging. Weighing 14 pounds, 12 ounces on day one, Reese added 15-14 on day two for a 30-10 total. With his day two bag, Reese has now weighed the two biggest bags of the event, which is presented by Lowrance, and he’s widened his lead over Justin Atkins to nearly 4 pounds. READ MORE »

Potomac River Midday Update – Day 2

Potomac River Midday Update – Day 2

Day two of the Costa FLW Series Northern Division presented by Gajo Baits event on the Potomac has been quite a swing from day one. However, despite dramatically different weather, some of the top pros are still catching, and it looks like a tight race is setting up for the final day. READ MORE »

Potomac River Top 5 Patterns – Day 1

Potomac River Top 5 Patterns – Day 1

As is so often the case, the first day of the Costa FLW Series Northern Division presented by Gajo Baits on the Potomac River wasn’t quite as bad as some predicted in practice. Though it was hot and humid as all get out, plenty of limits hit the scale and enough pros weighed 12 pounds or better to make things really interesting READ MORE »

Reese Leads on the Potomac

Reese Leads on the Potomac

Day one of the Potomac River event, which is the second stop of the Costa FLW Series Northern Division presented by Gajo Baits, featured plenty of limits, but getting quality bites was definitely an issue for some. In the lead after day one, Marvin Reese of Randallstown, Md., weighed 14 pounds, 12 ounces to get things underway. Behind Reese, Justin Atkins and Jason Kervin both weighed 14-5, and Robert Grike rounded out the 14-pound brigade with 14-4. Overall, just 11 pros cracked the 12-pound mark on day one of the tournament, which is presented by Lowrance, but 8- and 9-pound limits weren’t too hard to come by.  READ MORE »

Potomac River Midday Update – Day 1

Potomac River Midday Update – Day 1

As predicted, day one of the Costa FLW Series Northern Division presented by Gajo Baits event on the Potomac River has been fairly tough. Though most folks have a fish or two, and many will undoubtedly fill limits by weigh-in, it certainly hasn’t been a catch-fest. READ MORE »

Underway on the Potomac

Underway on the Potomac

For the tournament, the wind isn’t forecast to be too strong any day, and the tides will be fairly standard, but not ideal from a timing standpoint. Today, low tide was at 6:15 a.m., and low tide on Saturday will be at 8:15. That means that pros will mostly be fishing a rising tide through the tournament, with the best windows likely coming early on Friday and Saturday. 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 »

Slow Down in Brush for More Success

Slow Down in Brush for More Success

Many times, hitting as many brush piles as possible is the key to success, with Bryan Thrift’s 2015 FLW Tour win on Lake Eufaula serving as a prime example of that strategy. However, with the fishing pretty tough on Lake Hamilton, both Wade Strelic and Joel Willert turned to more methodical approaches to generate bites. 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 »

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 »