UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Clear Lake

Beavers Wins Potomac Regional

Beavers Wins Potomac Regional
Bradford Beavers

“It was a grind” may be one of the most over-used phrases in fishing. Yet, sometimes, it’s actually accurate. 

The T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League Regional on the Potomac River Oct. 17-19 was one of those times.

A cold front and significant winds didn’t just cancel the first day of the event; they drastically changed water levels and left anglers scrambling for any semblance of a pattern. A total of 37 pros never weighed in a fish either day, and Bradford Beavers sure felt like he might be one of them when he got to his planned starting spot and found it on dry ground. Yet, a little luck can go a long way in an event like that, and he got just the right amount of luck. 

The FLW Tour pro found a magic pass through a grass flat that accounted for the majority of his weight, as he caught 13-15 and 14-9 over two days to win with a total of 28-8. 

“I don’t really know why they were there,” says Beavers, who hails from Summerville, S.C. “There was nothing really different. But if I had gone 50 yards in either direction, I never would’ve found them.”

Beavers had only been to the Potomac once before – five years ago – for a Costa FLW Series event in the summertime. So he spent the majority of practice refamiliarizing himself with the fishery. Overall, practice was OK, and he figured he at least identified a starting spot for Thursday.

Then the storm happened, with winds gusting so hard the river went from flood stages to as low as what even locals had ever seen. Bryan Schmitt, who finished third in this event, guides on the river and said he’d never seen the Potomac change that much so quickly. 

“The place was a mud hole,” adds Beavers, who never ventured more than five miles from takeoff. “I was afraid I’d get stuck at blastoff because we were kicking up mud. I got to my first spot and it was practically dry. So I went to another spot that was a little deeper. I was fishing around, not catching anything, so I started fishing my way out because it was too shallow.”

As he fished his way out, he caught his first keeper. And then he caught another, and another, and another. He landed four keepers by 9:15 a.m. from a 50-yard stretch by alternating between a 1/2-ounce white spinnerbait and a black-and-blue homemade vibrating jig thrown on Dobyns Champion 734 C rods. 

At that point, Beavers thought he might’ve figured the fish out in terms of depth, and he made two more passes – on either side of his first pass. Both produced the same result: nothing. So he made one more pass exactly like the initial “accidental” pass and caught two more before leaving. 

Beavers fished another five hours without a single bite, making it pretty easy for him to know where he’d be starting on Saturday.

“I lined up and made the exact same pass, and I had a limit by 9:30 a.m.,” says Beavers of the final morning. “It wasn’t a flurry or anything. You just had to grind and fish for them; make a lot of casts and eventually you ran into one.”

Fortunately, the water had started to come back by then, which allowed him to get back on his previously planned starting spot. He then played ping-pong between the two spots the rest of the day, seemingly able to catch one keeper that culled him up every time he moved.

One key to his best water was the presence of plenty of bait.

“There were seagulls picking crawdads off the top of the water,” adds Beavers. “I’d never seen that. I’d seen them dive down to get shad, but never just easily picking up crawdads like that.”

By the time Saturday was over, Beavers had managed to land nine keepers, with seven coming from that magic 50-yard stretch, to help him close out his season with consecutive victories.

“I won the BFL on Lake Hartwell in September to qualify for the Regional,” says Beavers. “So, I’m extremely surprised and extremely satisfied to win the Regional. It’s the best way to end my season.”

 

Al Fiorille

Fiorille finds quantity, lacks quality

In a tournament where more guys zeroed both days (37) than caught a limit both days (32), having a spot where catching keepers was easy is a true luxury. Al Fiorille certainly had that luxury.

Fiorille hails from Mount Airy, Md., so he knows the river well. When he realized the water level was the lowest he’d ever seen on Friday, he knew anything he had in practice was shot, and instead decided to go off a bit of history.

“I remembered two old ditches I’d found years ago right off the edge of a big grass flat out in front of Farm Creek,” says Fiorille. “With the water being so low, I thought it might congregate the fish, and it definitely did.”

The ditches weren’t anything special, maybe 2 feet deeper than the adjacent flat. Yet, when the flat only has a foot of water on it, that extra 2 feet is a lot. It still wasn’t enough water at low tide to congregate the fish, as Fiorille didn’t have a fish in his livewell by noon. However, by around lunchtime, the tide had come in enough to bring the fish with it, and in 20 minutes he caught a limit. 

“I never left that 200-yeard stretch after that for the rest of the tournament,” says Fiorille.

Fiorille caught all his fish on one lure: a 3/8-ounce Big Mouth Lures Big Shakey bladed jig in KM candy with a Reaction Innovations Little Dipper trailer, which he threw on 15-pound test Seaguar Tatsu Fluorocarbon line. He cast it down the center of the ditch, which was only 4 to 5 feet wide. 

However, as easy as he made the fishing look come lunchtime on day one, that was nothing compared to day two. 

“I blasted off the last day at 7:40 a.m., and I had a limit by 8 a.m.,” says Fiorille. “I probably caught 20 keepers, and I never lost a fish. The bigger fish just weren’t there. So I was close, but it just wasn’t enough.”

 

Bryan Schmitt

Schmitt “wins” by targeting isolated grass

With more than 30 top-10 finishes on the Potomac and other nearby tidal fisheries, Bryan Schmitt was the obvious favorite coming into the Potomac Regional.

Yet, when you’re the favorite, there’s pressure; pressure that only multiplies when the conditions bottom out like they did.

“I knew the conditions were lining up to be tough. Being the backside of a full moon was already going to make the tide go lower than usual,” says Schmitt. “Then with the wind, I scrapped everything I had in practice and decided to 100 percent fish the current conditions and fishing ‘simple stupid.’”

“Simple stupid” for Schmitt meant basically hunkering down in Belmont and targeting isolated stretches of grass out off the main grass beds that were now too dry to fish. Unfortunately, he was only able to find two of them, and both were maybe 40 yards long. They were so isolated that he figures he wouldn’t have been able to find them if the water had not been so low. So it was better than anything else, because everything else was gone.

“I mean, we were fishing places in practice you normally could never get a boat in because the water was so high at high tide,” says Schmitt. “So, [in the tournament] I never fished anything I did in practice because you couldn’t.”

With such limited options, Schmitt slowed down and beat up on both grass patches, flipping a Missile Baits D Bomb in El Diablo on a 5/0 Hayabusa straight shank hook with a 3/16-ounce weight. He threw the rig on 17-pound-test P-Line fluorocarbon and a Fitzgerald Bryan Schmitt Signature Series Swim Jig rod.

While the setup seemed just as simple as his plan, one key for Schmitt was the color of his soft plastic.

“I think a big thing was matching the crayfish,” he says. “They’re very plentiful right now, and they’re all orange and red. So the El Diablo color is a spitting image.”

Schmitt admits the fishing was slow going, as he only got seven or eight bites a day, but it was enough to punch his ticket to the All-American.

“With the conditions changing so much, I’m thrilled to finish third,” says Schmitt. “I feel like I won.”

 

Top 10 boaters

(The top six qualify to fish the 2020 BFL All-American)

1. Bradford Beavers – Summerville, S.C. – 28-8 (10) – $71,200

2. Al Fiorille – Mount Airy, Md. – 25-11 (10) – $10,100

3. Bryan Schmitt – Deale, Md. – 24-5 (10) – $5,00

4. Dennis Burdette – Pembroke, Va. – 23-12 (10) – $3,000

5. Otto Hecht – Snead Ferry, N.C. – 23-5 (10) – $2,000

6. Frank Ippoliti – Mercersburg, Pa. – 23-4 (10) – $1,800

7. Ryan Powroznik – Hopewell, Va. – 23-3 (10) – $1,600

8. Andrew Heivly – Malvern, Pa. – 23-0 (10) – $1,400

9. Chris Baldwin – Lexington, N.C. – 22-15 (9) – $1,200

10. Derek Brown – Charlottesville, Va. – 22-12 (10) – $1,000

Complete results

 

Mark Blankenship

Blankenship drop-shots way to co-angler title

When you’re a co-angler, you’re at the mercy of where your boater wants to fish. Fortunately for co-angler Mark Blankenship, his boaters wanted to fish more or less exactly where Blankenship wanted to go, which sealed the co-angler’s victory.

The Christiansburg, Va., co-angler put in plenty of practice time for the event, during which he located a key stretch up the Occoquan River in the back of Belmont Bay were the fish were more than willing to eat a drop-shot.

His first-day boater John Vanore of Mullica Hill, N.J., initially ran to the Occoquan River, but it wasn’t the stretch Blankenship had found. Instead, they started out on a grass bed in the middle of the river, where they were getting beat up by the last remnants of the cold front blowing through.

“We ended up running up to D.C. when the tide got up to fish some jetties, but we really didn’t do much up there,” says Blankenship. “So we ended up running back down to the same grass bed in Occoquan, and I had a limit by about 10 a.m. and was even able to cull up three more times by 10:45 a.m.”

A key was simply committing himself to throwing a 3/8-ounce Dave’s Tournament Tackle swim jig in green pumpkin with a Zoom Super Chunk trailer.

“The grass was on top of the water, and I felt a vibrating jig would get hung up,” says Blankenship. “So I’d toss the swim jig to every pocket or hole I could. I’d swim it on the surface until it reached a hole, and then I’d drop it in.”

The game plan had him in first by a commanding 2-pound, 2-ounce lead thanks to his 12-2 limit, but Blankenship knew he’d have to back it up to be one of the lucky few co-anglers to make the All-American.

Paired with Thomas Guthke from Townville, S.C., on Saturday, Blankenship went back to D.C., where he was able to coax a pair of keepers to eat his drop-shot. But after that, they hit a long dry spell until a fateful move.

“He knew I was leading and wanted to help,” says Blankenship. “I couldn’t tell him where to go, but it just so happens that around 1:45 p.m. he decided to move to the Occoquan River. As we’re idling all the way back, I was giggling to myself inside. 

“Within 15 minutes I had my three other fish, and I probably caught 10 or 12 more keepers. It was a pretty magical thing.”

The “magic” drop-shot was a Roboworm Straight Tail Worm (morning dawn) on a 1/4-ounce Swagger Tungstenweight. 

“My absolute favorite thing to do in a tournament is throw a drop-shot,” adds Blankenship. “So it was kind of cool to be able to win like I did on the lure I love.”

 

Top 10 co-anglers

(The top six qualify to fish the 2020 BFL All-American)

1. Mark Blankenship – Christiansburg, Va. – 21-3 (10) – $50,200

2. Michael Duarte – Baltimore, Md. – 19-3 (9) – $5,050

3. Robert Wedding – Welcome, Md. – 18-13 (10) – $2,500

4. Chad Dorney – Mucungie, Pa. – 18-12 (10) – $1,500

5. Brent Jones – Okeana, Ohio – 18-10 (10) – $1,000

6. Timothy Kinder – Manassas, Va. – 18-7 (10) – $900

7. Patrick Hash – Roanoke, Va. – 18-6 (10) – $800

8. James Wilcox – Cincinnati, Ohio – 18-3 (9) – $700

9. Mike Wotanowski – Lake Hopatcong, N.J. – 17-9 (10) – $600

10. Cort Gardner – Jessup, Md. – 17-4 (10) – $500

Complete results

Tags: sean-ostruszka  headline-story  2019-10-17-potomac 

Lieblong Again at Dardanelle

Lieblong Again at Dardanelle

Jason Lieblong is no stranger to Toyota Series titles on Lake Dardanelle. He claimed his first back in August of 2015 and five years later thanks to a final-day bag worth 15 pounds, 15 ounces (the biggest of the event) Lieblong added his second Series trophy to the mantle. The Conway, Ark., pro finished the event with 40-9 overall, moving up the leaderboard every day of the tournament. For winning the Plains Division opener presented by Fish-Intel, Lieblong took home over $70,000 thanks largely to the FLW PHOENIX BONUS, which earned him and extra $35,000. READ MORE »

Dobson Grabs Second Toyota Series W

Dobson Grabs Second Toyota Series W

Weighing 18 pounds and 9 ounces on day three for a 59-3 total, Scott Dobson moved from second to first to win the Toyota Series Northern Division event on the Detroit River. The win is Dobson’s second in Toyota Series competition and his eighth overall with FLW. For the win, Dobson takes home $27,534 and further burnishes his record as one of the best smallmouth anglers on the planet.   READ MORE »

Bennett Takes Dardanelle Lead

Bennett Takes Dardanelle Lead

Backing up his day-one weight of 13 pounds, 6 ounces, Joe Bennett brought 13-14 to the scale to take the lead at Lake Dardanelle in the Toyota Series Plains Division opener presented by Fish-Intel. Bennett will carry 1-1 lead into Saturday’s final round over Kevin Riney as he looks to grab his first victory with FLW. READ MORE »

Burton Edges Ahead at the Detroit River

Burton Edges Ahead at the Detroit River

Day two of the Toyota Series Northern Division event on the Detroit River saw the pros stuck in the river itself again due to the wind. Moving up from fourth place into the lead, Wilson Burton weighed 20 pounds, 4 ounces to get up to a 40-11 total. With the only 20-pound bag of the day, Burton slipped past Scott Dobson by just one ounce, who weighed 19-12 and sits behind him with a 40-10 total. READ MORE »

Montevallo Takes College Open Title

Montevallo Takes College Open Title

As tough as Kentucky Lake was fishing this week in the Abu Garcia College Fishing presented by YETI Open, Grayson Morris and Jacob Pfundt of the University of Montevallo leading after day one and finishing the job on Thursday resulted in one of the more impressive wins you’ll see. After weighing in a day-one best 12-13, the duo backed it up with another 12-7 on day two for the victory, displaying the kind of consistency it takes to grind it out in tough fishing conditions. For their efforts, Morris and Pfundt were awarded a new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat with a 115-hp Mercury outboard. READ MORE »

King Tops Day 1 at Dardanelle 

King Tops Day 1 at Dardanelle 

Zach King of Clarksville, Ark., used a Heddon Zara Spook to catch 14 pounds, 11 ounces claim the day one lead in the Toyota Series Plains Division event on Lake Dardanelle presented by Fish-Intel. King will take a 6-ounce lead over Matt Wood of Jessieville, Ark., into day two.  READ MORE »

Dardanelle Midday Update – Day 1

Dardanelle Midday Update – Day 1

Thursday’s opening round of the Toyota Series Plains Division opener at Lake Dardanelle followed the script many anglers predicted. Despite many favorable conditions at the beginning of a peak fishing season, muddy water and bright sunshine made fishing difficult across the 34,000-acre Arkansas River impoundment. READ MORE »

Stokes Leads on the Detroit River

Stokes Leads on the Detroit River

Strong winds kept the pros in the Toyota Series Northern Division event on the Detroit River pinned to the actual river, but the fishing was still very good. Plenty of anglers brought in 17 pounds or more, and the leaders are all concentrated around the 20-pound mark. In first, Troy Stokes of Brownstown, Mich., weighed 21 pounds, 4 ounces to kick things off. READ MORE »

Detroit River Midday Update – Day 1

Detroit River Midday Update – Day 1

Right off the bat, the anglers in the field at the Toyota Series Northern Division event on the Detroit River were thrown a curveball by the weather. This morning, with increasing wind forecasts, tournament officials made Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair off-limits, thereby penning up the 87 pros and co-anglers on the American side of the Detroit River. READ MORE »

Montevallo Leads College Open 

Montevallo Leads College Open 

As expected, weights were down across the board on day one of the Abu Garcia College Fishing presented by YETI Open on Kentucky Lake. With high water during what’s typically a tough transitional time of year, it took just 12 pounds, 13 ounces for Grayson Morris and Jacob Pfundt of the University of Montevallo to grab the lead. READ MORE »

Dickneite Again on Lake of the Ozarks

Dickneite Again on Lake of the Ozarks

Boater Andre Dickneite of Freeburg, Mo., brought a five-bass limit to the scale Sunday weighing 18 pounds, 7 ounces to win the Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine event on Lake of the Ozarks in Warsaw, Missouri. For his victory, Dickneite earned a total of $3,794. READ MORE »

Wallis Sacks 19-14 on Truman

Wallis Sacks 19-14 on Truman

Boater Mike Wallis of Hallsville, Mo., brought a five-bass limit to the scale Saturday weighing 19 pounds, 14 ounces to win the Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine event on Lake Truman in Warsaw, Missouri. For his victory, Wallis earned a total of $5,009. READ MORE »

Houchin Gets Hamilton W

Houchin Gets Hamilton W

Boater Quincy Houchin of Mabelvale, Ark., brought a two-day total of nine bass to the scale weighing 23 pounds, 5 ounces to win the Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine Arkie Division Super-Tournament at Lake Hamilton. For his victory, Houchin earned $13,460, which includes the lucrative FLW PHOENIX BONUS contingency payout. READ MORE »

Foutz Claims Chick Title

Foutz Claims Chick Title

Boater Jacob Foutz of Charleston, Tenn., brought a two-day total of 10 bass to the scale weighing 29 pounds, 12 ounces to win the Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine Volunteer Division Super-Tournament at Lake Chickamauga. For his victory, Foutz earned $5,126. READ MORE »

Honnerlaw Nets Big O Title

Honnerlaw Nets Big O Title

Boater Bryan Honnerlaw of Moore Haven, Fla.,brought a five-bass limit to the scale Sunday weighing 22 pounds, 9 ounces to win the Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine Gator Division Super-Tournament at Lake Okeechobee. For his victory, Honnerlaw earned $6,817. READ MORE »

Amerson Wins First BFL

Amerson Wins First BFL

Boater Keith Amerson of Bethel Springs, Tenn.,, brought a two-day total of six bass to the scale weighing 22 pounds, 7 ounces to win the Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine LBL Division Super-Tournament at Kentucky and Barkley Lakes. For his victory, Amerson earned $5,376. READ MORE »

Morgan Wins No. 3

Morgan Wins No. 3

Boater Brian Morgan of Mooresville, N.C., brought a two-day total of 10 bass to the scale this weekend weighing 24 pounds, 10 ounces to win the Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine North Carolina Division Super-Tournament at Lake Norman. Morgan earned a total of $5,831 for his victory – his third win of the year in the North Carolina Division. READ MORE »

Smith Scores Close to Home

Smith Scores Close to Home

Boater Michael M. Smith of Andalusia, Ala., brought a two-day total of 10 bass to the scale weighing 40 pounds, 4 ounces to win the Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine Bama Division Super-Tournament at Lake Eufaula. For his victory, Smith earned $6,329. READ MORE »

Maupin Takes Potomac Title

Maupin Takes Potomac Title

The dock talk all week at the Potomac River for the Toyota Series Eastern Division event was that fishing was tough. That rang true again today as the wind help stall the tide making things tough for most of the top 10. James Maupin, however, kept his streak of consistency alive as he weighed his third 13-pound-plus limit of the week to move from second to first with 40 pounds, 11 ounces overall. For the win, Maupin earns his first FLW trophy and over $24,000.  READ MORE »

Vaughan Cruising at the Potomac

Vaughan Cruising at the Potomac

The leaderboard definitely saw some shuffling on day two of the Toyota Series Eastern Division event on the Potomac River, but Wayne Vaughan managed to keep the top spot thanks to another solid day. Weighing 14 pounds, 10 ounces today, Vaughan’s total now stands at 31-10 and gives him a nearly 5-pound lead over second place. If he can put it together for one more day, Vaughan will take home his second Toyota Series title in just as many years. READ MORE »