UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Lake Erie

Let the Ledge-fest Begin

Let the Ledge-fest Begin
Justin Atkins

It’s been 68 days since the last cast was made in competition at an FLW event. Since the advent of COVID-19 and the subsequent nationwide lockdowns and shutdowns in March, the familiar sounds of whizzing reels, chugging topwaters and roaring outboards have been silent.

With the start of the Toyota Series Central Division event on Pickwick Lake this morning, today marks the first day back to competition in the world of professional bass fishing.

With the return comes a pent up sigh of relief – not just from the competitors fishing Pickwick this week, but from the bass fishing industry as a whole. To see some semblance of a world we remember is a welcome sight for all.

“Absolutely, I’m glad to be back at it,” gushes former FLW Cup winner Justin Atkins of Florence, Ala., “I think we’re all relieved to see tournament action return. As professional anglers, we only have so many days to work. And to be grounded on the bank the last two months during the peak of our season has been a challenge.”

Atkins was coming off his best Bass Pro Tour finish at Lake Fork in March with a ninth-place showing when COVID-19 stopped the entire world in its tracks.

“Momentum means a lot in this sport and I felt like I had the ball rolling coming out of Fork,” says Atkins. “And then it all came to a screeching halt with the virus. So I’m looking to use this event to get that flame rekindled this week. And what better place to do it other than right here at home on Pickwick.”

 

Pickwick Lake

About the fishery 

Set between Kentucky Lake and Wilson Lake along the Tennessee River chain of lakes, Pickwick Lake encompasses about 43,000 acres and runs some 53 miles from Wilson dam to Pickwick Dam. As part of the fertile Tennessee River, Pickwick is renowned for its smallmouth bass, but it houses a respectable population of largemouths as well. Like its Tennessee River cousin lakes, Pickwick features various forms of vegetation including hydrilla, milfoil and more recently eelgrass. But it’s the old submerged Tennessee River banks themselves that form offshore ledges, bars, back ditches and points that get most of the attention during the post spawn.

Pickwick’s famous offshore structures and ledges never disappoint in summer tournaments. In recent years, Pickwick has showed out in several FLW events. In the first week of June in 2017, Marshall Deakins won the BFL All-American on Pickwick with a three-day total of 60 pounds, 6 ounces. In May of 2016, Buddy Gross targeted offshore eelgrass along the river channel to win an FLW Tour event with a four-day total of 74 pounds, 5 ounces. In the first week of June in 2014, Greg Hackney won an FLW Tour event on Pickwick by racking up an astonishing 97 pounds and 7 ounces fishing a subtle river bar in 5 to 7 feet.

 

Current conditions 

With ample rainfall over the Tennessee Valley over the last couple of months, the Tennessee River has been bustling with current. Over the last week, flow levels have been in the 80,000 to 90,000 CFS range, which is double or triple the normal flow. With that, the water color has been a little more stained than usual as well. The water level is also a little high for the time of year and water temperatures are running in the mid 70’s.

With more rain expected during the event, it’s unlikely the heavy flows will slow down any time over the next three days. Forecasts call for clouds and a 50 percent chance of rain for today and tomorrow, with sunny skies on Saturday.  

Fishing pressure on the ledges and recreational boat traffic will be an issue this week as hundreds of anglers and resource users hit the water. Michael Neal spent his Memorial Day idling Pickwick’s ledges during the thick of the holiday weekend traffic. Neal has two runner-up finishes at Pickwick in FLW Tour events in 2014 and 2016. He is looking for a little redemption this time around.

“I wanted to see how bad the fishing pressure and boat traffic could be on this,” Neal says. “And now I know – it’s pretty intense. Everyone knows where the fish set up on these ledges now; those places are covered up with boats. The waves from the big cruisers and pontoons made idling and looking a little challenging over the weekend.”

Neal believes to do well offshore, anglers will either need to camp on a spot three days to guard it or find a spot where the fish just showed up in the last 24 hours.

“The final day of practice today was the most critical one for me,” he adds. “The whole idea is to idle places where you haven’t seen a school all week in hopes that a fresh school has just showed up. If you can find a spot that most guys have already written off and a big school suddenly shows up that can be gold.”

With the increased current, Atkins believes the offshore spots will get smaller, tighter and more confined.

“Normally the fish might use a large stretch of a ledge and you have more real estate to work with,” he explains. “But with these kinds of flows, it really forces the fishes into smaller current breaks. I’m talking single cast type spots that are a little harder to find.”

 

Tactics in play 

There is little doubt the post-spawn, offshore bite will be at a premium during the event. Bass that live in lakes formed by the Tennessee River are inherently programmed to live out their lives along the main river channel where a conveyor belt of current brings them food every minute. With the shallow migration to spawn mostly behind them, Pickwick bass are dialed in on eating right now and offshore structure is where that feedbag will go down. Deep diving crankbaits, big swimbaits, preacher jigs and big football jigs are Pickwick staples this time of year.

As for a shallow bite, there are the remnants of a shad spawn still going on. It’s sporadic but still happening. Also, the lake’s faster, higher and more stained water might position more fish up on shallower bars than normal.

 

Critical factors 

1. Getting something to yourself – Offshore events on the Tennessee River have a reputation for crowding. Getting a good boat draw and being on a spot first or finding something that nobody else has could be key.

2. Having a hot bait – In recent years, baits have broken out into the public eye at a surprisingly regular pace in offshore events on the Tennessee River. We’ve seen magnum spoons do it, big hair jigs have a rebirth and Jason Lambert light things up with a Castaic Jerky J on a Scrounger. With so many anglers fishing out, having something just a little better than the competition can really make a difference. 

 

Dock talk

Tennessee River ace Mark Rose has racked up a total of three FLW wins on Pickwick Lake. He is not fishing the Toyota Series event this week but did have an opportunity to fish Pickwick last week and says the offshore bite was certainly hot and getting better.

“After what I saw last week, I would have to think a Strike King 10XD is going to do some damage in the tournament,” he offers. “When the current is rolling like that, that big plug is hard to beat.”

 

Tournament details 

Format: All boaters and co-anglers will compete for two days. The top 10 boaters and co-anglers based on cumulative weight after two days of competition will advance to the third and final round, with the winner in each division determined by the heaviest cumulative three-day weight.

Takeoff Time: 6:00 a.m. CT

Takeoff Location: McFarland Park, 200 Jim Spain Drive, Florence, AL

Weigh-In Time: 2:00 p.m. CT

Weigh-In Location: McFarland Park
Complete details

Tags: rob-newell  morning-story  2020-05-28-pickwick 

Eufaula Slugfest Kicks Off

Eufaula Slugfest Kicks Off

For the second week in a row, FLW’s Toyota Series is visiting one of Alabama’s premier bass fisheries at the perfect time of year for pros to hammer on big bags of postspawn largemouths. READ MORE »

Top 10 Patterns from Pickwick

Top 10 Patterns from Pickwick

Pickwick Lake greeted Toyota Series anglers with high, stained water and stronger than normal current last week. While the last week of May usually means fishing to depths of 25 feet on Pickwick, some anglers felt Pickwick’s bass were a little behind in their summer migration to the deep ledges. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from Pickwick

Top 10 Baits from Pickwick

From shallow bars to deep ledges, the offshore bite on Pickwick was the deal for the majority of the field in second stop of the Toyota Series Central Division. Because the offshore bite reigned supreme, it’s no surprise that the lures thrown by the top 10 pros were standard issue for the Tennessee River this time of year. READ MORE »

Lockard Locks up Pickwick Win

Lockard Locks up Pickwick Win

At the day-three weigh-in of the FLW Toyota Series at Pickwick Lake, the biggest five bass limit of the final day wasn’t caught from the front deck – it was caught from the back deck. READ MORE »

Jacob Wheeler Wins Toyota Series Tournament at Pickwick Lake

Jacob Wheeler Wins Toyota Series Tournament at Pickwick Lake

FLORENCE, Ala. – Major League Fishing (MLF) Bass Pro Tour angler Jacob Wheeler of Harrison, Tennessee, brought five bass to the scale weighing 17 pounds, 11 ounces to win the three-day Toyota Series at Pickwick Lake event Saturday in Florence, Alabama. Wheeler’s three-day total of 15 bass weighing... READ MORE »

Wheeler Wins on Pickwick

Wheeler Wins on Pickwick

What started out as a scouting trip to better learn Pickwick Lake turned into another tournament victory for Jacob Wheeler’s ever-expanding career resume at the second Toyota Series Central Division event of the season. Today, Wheeler brought in a limit of bass for 17 pounds, 11 ounces to take the win with a three-day total of 56 pounds, 8 ounces worth $38,545. READ MORE »

Pickwick Midday Update – Day 3

Pickwick Midday Update – Day 3

For two days Pickwick Lake gave up some nice early morning flurries for the top10 fishing the Toyota Series Central Division event. But this morning, the lake might as well have been frozen over. Despite ample amounts of current still rolling down the lake, and fairly light fishing pressure for a beautiful Saturday morning in the Tennessee Valley, the early bite was shut down for most of the field. READ MORE »

Top 5 Patterns from Pickwick – Day 2

Top 5 Patterns from Pickwick – Day 2

Today’s weather was much sunnier, warmer and calmer; conditions that some think could push fish out deeper. But some are still counting on shallow grass. Here is a rundown of how the rest of the top five caught their fish on Pickwick today. READ MORE »

Murray Leads Wheeler by an Ounce

Murray Leads Wheeler by an Ounce

Sacking up 22 pounds, 10 ounces on day two of the Toyota Series Central Division event on Pickwick Lake, John Murray rocketed up the standings from 14th place to the lead. With a total of 38-14, Murray is just one ounce ahead of Jacob Wheeler, who weighed 20-11 on day two to move up from ninth place. READ MORE »

Pickwick Midday Update – Day 2

Pickwick Midday Update – Day 2

The red-hot shad spawn bite that fueled the big catches on day one of the Toyota Series Central Division event on Pickwick has fizzled this morning. READ MORE »

Top 5 Patterns from Pickwick – Day 1

Top 5 Patterns from Pickwick – Day 1

Grass seemed to be the dominant theme at the top of the day one leaderboard at the Toyota Series Central Division event on Pickwick Lake. Not only did Buddy Gross target grass for his leading catch, but three others in the top five seined the grass for top catches as well. READ MORE »

Buddy Blasts 24-1 on Pickwick

Buddy Blasts 24-1 on Pickwick

Buddy Gross won his first FLW Tour event on Pickwick Lake in May of 2016 fishing a shad spawn on eelgrass along the Tennessee River channel. Today, Gross rekindled those old memories from four years ago to bring in 24 pounds, 1 ounce and take the day one lead in the Toyota Series Central Division event on Pickwick. READ MORE »

Pickwick Midday Update – Day 1

Pickwick Midday Update – Day 1

Pickwick Lake didn’t disappoint on the first morning of the Toyota Series Central Division event. As predicted, fish were biting right off the bat. READ MORE »

Let the Ledge-fest Begin

Let the Ledge-fest Begin

With the start of the Toyota Series Central Division event on Pickwick Lake this morning, today marks the first day back to competition in the world of professional bass fishing. READ MORE »

FLW Set for Return to Competition with Toyota Series Tournament on Pickwick Lake

FLW Set for Return to Competition with Toyota Series Tournament on Pickwick Lake

FLORENCE, Ala. – FLW is set to return to tournament competition next week in Florence, Alabama, with the three-day Toyota Series event at Pickwick Lake, May 28-30. Hosted by Florence/Lauderdale Tourism, the event will feature a return to action for the region’s best bass-fishing pros and co-anglers... READ MORE »

Pickwick Will Produce in a Big Way

Pickwick Will Produce in a Big Way

The second stop of the Toyota Series Central Division ought to be a really good one. Set for Pickwick Lake in late May, the offshore bite ought to be in full swing, with plenty of shallow fish as well. READ MORE »

Two Species Spawning at Havasu 

Two Species Spawning at Havasu 

The weatherman did it again. About two weeks prior to today’s kickoff for the Toyota Series Western Division season at Lake Havasu, the forecast called for highs in the mid-80s and sunshine for three straight days during the tournament. Instead, practice was rainy, and the current forecast calls for precipitation for at least the first two days and highs that likely won’t top 70 degrees.  READ MORE »

Game Day on Okeechobee

Game Day on Okeechobee

The second stop of the Toyota Series Southern Division is hitting Lake Okeechobee later in the year than usual for FLW. Typically, big, multi-day FLW events on the Big O go down in January and February, but this one runs March 12-14 and should offer a different look at the familiar and ever-changing body of water. READ MORE »

It’s Anyone’s Game on Overfull Hartwell

It’s Anyone’s Game on Overfull Hartwell

South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell kicks off the 2020 Toyota Series Eastern Division season this week with a three-day, mid-week showdown of the area’s best bass anglers, hosted by Visit Oconee South Carolina. Hartwell definitely has the potential to produce 20-plus-pound bags, but Mother Nature has decided to create some havoc with lake levels this winter, and it’s anyone’s guess as to how well the fishery shows out. READ MORE »

Despite Cold, Expect Mega-Bags at Chick

Despite Cold, Expect Mega-Bags at Chick

Freezing temperatures greeted anglers for the 2020 Toyota Series Central Division tournament on Lake Chickamauga this morning. As usual on Lake Chickamauga this time of year, every angler is hoping for a 30-pound-plus bag of bass during the Feb. 27-29 tournament. READ MORE »