UPCOMING EVENT: Costa FLW Series - 2019 - Lake Mead

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

LeHew Ready for a Tough Slog

Shane Lehew

We should all be so lucky to have stock market returns that trend like Shane LeHew’s FLW Tour record. Since joining the Tour in 2008, when he placed 161st in the standings as a co-angler, the North Carolina pro’s annual finishes have progressively gotten better. He switched to the front of the boat in 2014 and kept moving upward in the ranks. This year he finished seventh and clinched a spot in the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Murray. If he’s not on a roll, LeHew nevertheless is closing out his best season ever in the big leagues, and that makes him a solid contender for the championship.

The 28-year-old angler is understandably proud and happy he qualified for the Cup, but he’s also apprehensive. Even though Murray is only about three hours from LeHew’s home in Catawaba, N.C., his experience fishing it has mainly been limited to the spring. He knows that the most difficult period of the year to catch decent limits at Murray is at about the same time that FLW’s best gather there to settle all bets. Having pre-practiced on the lake, he sees a long, hard slog ahead. “Tough” is his one-word summation of the fishing.

 

LeHew’s prediction

“I think whoever wins it is going to have to do like Anthony [Gagliardi] did, and mix it up,” says LeHew, referring to Anthony Gagliardi’s Cup win at Murray in 2014 with a four-day total of 51-2. “I don’t think it’s going to be won doing any one thing in one place. And any limit’s going to be a good limit, with 10 or 11 pounds a day likely to get you in the top 20 somewhere.”

Fish are caught in Murray’s vast main lake and along its shorelines, though everything in the wide-open spaces is pretty much part of a waiting game on a typical summer day: Fishermen wait for schooling activity on long, flat points that jut into the lake’s depths, and bass wait for blueback herring or threadfin shad to come along. Only the herring don’t wait. Their nature of constant wandering in search of plankton effectively keeps them in the food chain merry-go-round. The pelagic baitfish aren’t going to the points on purpose; the points just happen to be in the way of their nomadic travels. If the bottom on and adjacent to the points has a few irregularities, rocks or manmade cover where bass can set up ambush points, such spots are golden.

“There’s always some schooling activity going on,” observes LeHew, “but it might not be all largemouths. That lake is full of 2-pound stripers, and sometimes it’s them busting herring and shad, or them mixed in with the largemouths. The herring move around aimlessly so much, too. Could you do some good with three days of that? If you have enough good points and flats to fish and it’s sunny and all the other conditions are right – maybe.”

 

How it sets up

Docks, planted brush piles in the main lake and wood cover in the back ends of coves and feeder creeks produce bass, and scattered grass beds of Southern naiad or water willow usually give up a few fish, especially to the anglers in the first couple of flights. Afterward, everything settles down into a game of catch-as-catch-can for most with crankbaits, swimbaits, buzzbaits, frogs, skipping baits and a variety of bottom-bumping jigs and soft plastics.

Some anglers, including LeHew, contend that the lake’s aquatic vegetation has become more abundant. The lake level is at about 357 feet now and likely to stay there, so if Cup competitors locate fish in the grass, they probably won’t have to worry about any sudden changes in depth that might chase bass offshore. The water temperature is in the low to mid-80s.

“There could be a frog bite,” says LeHew. “The water was a little high when I was there last, and there’s been a lot of bank grass [emergent water willow] this year toward the middle and lower end of the lake. There’s also that stringy pondweed [submergent naiad] growing out in 12 to 15 feet of water in some pockets. I saw some bluegills and that sort of thing swimming around in it, so that’s probably a pretty good indication there’s going to be bass around, too.”

In many impoundments, current or the lack thereof regulates fishing success. Not so in Murray; having been relegated to a seldom-used backup source of hydroelectric power if the main grid gets overtaxed, a whimper of current flows down its upper end from the Saluda River, its main feeder.

 

A test of the best

“Mental and physical stamina are definitely going to be factors in this tournament,” opines LeHew. “The long times between bites – you’ve got to keep yourself pretty focused and fish like every cast is the most important one. I’m pretty sure I’m not going to catch 20 or 30 fish a day, but if I get five of the right bites, that would be great. I’ll know more after practice. I’m going to practice from daylight to dark all four days they give us, so we’ll see.”

The weather forecast for the Forrest Wood Cup is atypical of South Carolina in August, with highs expected to nudge into the low 90s, and the likelihood of rain each day. At least there's a waning full moon that's going to land on top of the championship too, which should make the fishing a bit better, according to Lehew.

“I don’t understand the science of it, but something about a full moon always seems to improve the fishing,” he says. “The last time I pre-fished Murray, it was awful. The first time, when it was just coming off a full moon, it seemed like I got a few more bites. I think it gets the fish a little more active in early morning. There’s a lot of leftover fish that were feeding the night before, but even the schooling fish seem more active.”

Wishful thinking and nothing more? Could be, but a Forrest Wood Cup contender needs all the mojo he can muster at Lake Murray in August.


Forrest Wood Cup details page

Forrest Wood Cup event schedule

Forrest Wood Cup event map

Tags: colin-moore  pre-tournament  2017-08-11-forrest-wood-cup 

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