UPCOMING EVENT: PHOENIX BASS FISHING LEAGUE - 2020 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Wolf-pack bass: The Advanced course

Wolf-pack bass: The Advanced course
Gillette-Duracell pro Jacob Powroznik may have coined the term wolf-pack bass.

Editor's note: Wolf-pack bass peak in May and June, but with another smaller peak in September plus a full-moon phase drawing near, this article from FLW Outdoors Magazine is timely.
-------------------------------------------

Jacob Powroznik might very well have been the first to coin the term.

It was the fall of 2006, and the Gillette/Duracell pro had just hauled in 15 pounds on the third day of the EverStart Series Northern Division tournament at Kerr Lake to finish seventh. When asked about his pattern, the Prince George, Va., pro told media that he had targeted "wolf packs."

The following year at an EverStart Series Northern Division event at Lake Gaston, Powroznik brought in another 15-pound bag of bass to the scales, finishing fifth. Again, he used the term "wolf pack" when he explained his pattern.

Fast forward to the 2008 Forrest Wood Cup at Lake Murray. Kevin Vida of Clare, Mich., took an early lead on the first day and described his 17-pound midsummer catch as "wolf-packers." Vida eventually placed fifth.

Three years, three top 10s and three mentions of wolf packs, which essentially are pods of bass that hunt together. Yet it wasn't until the 2010 Walmart FLW Tour event at Lake Ouachita that the term really stuck in the mainstream for good.

Not only did National Guard pro Brent Ehrler of Redlands, Calif., win the event by targeting wolf packs, but so did pro David Dudley, who finished third, Ish Monroe, who placed fifth, and Powroznik, who wound up sixth.

Since the Ouachita event, "wolf pack" has become a popular term in the tournament-fishing lexicon. But what does it mean exactly? When do wolf packs form and why? And more importantly, what's the best way for an angler to go about catching such fish?

Ehrler, Powroznik and Chevy pro Anthony Gagliardi of Prosperity, S.C., shared their thoughts with us. In addition, retired professional bass angler and former fisheries biologist Ken Cook of Meers, Okla., weighed in on wolf-pack bass behavior.

Defining wolf packs
All four experts agree that wolf-pack behavior in bass is nothing new. Furthermore, they agree that wolf packs are essentially schooling bass that, during certain times of year, roam in groups close to a bank where anglers can see them swimming.

"After catching both open-water schooling bass and wolf packs on Lake Murray, I believe they are one and the same," Gagliardi says. "And I say that because the places I find the most wolf packs on the bank are always near some of the best open-water schooling places."

Ehrler agrees, but adds that he believes they are open-water bass that are "straight roamers," meaning they spend their entire lives wandering the lake in search of food.

The number of bass in a pack varies. What defines a wolf pack is not the size of the school, but what the fish are doing.

"If I troll into a pocket and see seven bass hanging out in a laydown, that's not a wolf pack," Gagliardi says. "But if I look over and see another group of seven bass swimming in one side and out the other, sort of stalking along the bank, to me that's a wolf pack."
Chevy pro Anthony Gagliardi believes wolf packs are the same as offshore schooling bass. The difference is that wolf packs are shallow.

Gagliardi believes stationary fish in the tree are resident bank bass, but the wolf pack in the same creek is composed of a completely different type of fish.

Not so fast, says Cook.

"I think it's the action of the fish that defines wolf-packing," Cook says. "If a group of bass hangs out in a submerged tree doing nothing, the bass are neutral or inactive. However, if that same group of fish heads to the bank and begins hunting for food together, then it becomes a wolf pack."

Another defining element of wolf-pack bass is that they will typically all be of similar size.

This stems from a biological premise regarding schooling bass: Bass school together by age class, and therefore size.

"In most lakes, there are a lot more 12-inch bass than 4- to 5-pounders," Cook says. "So when 12-inchers school, there are usually a whole bunch of them. But when 4- and 5-pounders school, there are only five, six, maybe seven bass to a school, and it looks more like a `pack.' Again, both groups of fish are doing the same thing: hunting food."

Establishing wolf-pack ranges
The first requirement for an angler who targets wolf packs is clear water. On one hand, you need clear water to see the fish, since catching them is primarily a visual technique. Equally important is that clear water fosters wolf-packing.

"Bass likely spend more time wolf-packing on clear-water lakes than on turbid lakes," Cook says. "And the reason is simple: Clear-water lakes tend to be less fertile than dirtier lakes. Infertile lakes have less forage, and therefore bass must travel to find their food. For instance, bass in Lake Mead probably wolf-pack a lot more than, say, in Lake Eufaula."

How far do wolf packs roam? The answer to that question is still open for debate. Ehrler believes that true wolf-packing fish are always on the move; they don't have a home range and never settle down. Gagliardi, however, believes that wolf packs have a home range and will revisit the same banks on a daily basis, almost like a milk run.

"I know wolf packs will circle back around," Gagliardi says. "I've followed wolf packs down the bank for hundreds of yards and spotted specific marks on particular fish. I've followed them out into deep Chevy pro Anthony Gagliardi has found that topwater prop baits are great tools for targeting wolf packs because they imitate bluegills, a favorite forage of the shallow hunters.water until they disappeared. But the next day, when fishing that same area, here they come again. It's the same fish with the same marks with the same group."

According to Cook, it's possible that wolf packs stick to a home range, considering that tagging and tracking studies have shown that individual fish maintain a home range over a period of time.

"Again, I think it's dependent on the lake's fertility and availability of forage," Cook adds. "Brent is probably right in that packs in Mead have to roam long and far just to keep themselves fed, whereas a school in Guntersville hardly has to move. At times, the current does the roaming work for them, bringing food to them."

We all know that bass are efficient hunters. If there is plenty of food in a system, it does not take a bass long to feed up. So in lakes where there is plenty of food, a bass might hunt or join a wolf pack for a shorter period of the day compared to a bass that lives where there is very little foraging opportunity.

You can then draw the conclusion that if wolf-packing is more common and more pronounced in clear, infertile lakes, then highland-type impoundments would be the best suited for such behavior. Lakes such as Mead, Ouachita, Table Rock and even clear-water Eastern lakes such as Buggs Island, Murray, Hartwell and Lanier all fit the bill.

Locating wolf packs
As for seasonal considerations, May through September seems to be the best period for locating wolf packs, with a peak in May and June and another smaller peak in September.

Why then?

The answer: It's all about the forage.

In most lakes, bass are the first fish to spawn. Once they're finished, other fishes such as bream, shad and herring begin their procreation process. Bass inherently know that when their spawning activity is finished, much of their forage base is just starting to spawn. Instincts tell bass to gang up on bream beds, spawning shad and spawning herring. They want to find prey that is not paying attention, and they inherently "know" that spawning prey is preoccupied, thus lowering its guard.

Touring pros have seen this bait spawn-wolf pack relationship throughout the country. Bream were the catalyst for Ehrler's 2010 Ouachita win, but he says he has also observed bass wolf-pack on trout out West.

And before herring took a stronghold in Lake Murray, Gagliardi remembers watching wolf-pack bass gang up on hoards of white perch that were spawning on the ends of boat ramps.

With this in mind, the places to target wolf packs are around forage spawning locations - especially when they are adjacent to big main-lake areas - at times when bait is grouped in the shallows. It seems a common trend that most of the wolf-pack activity is also focused in small, short pockets off the main lake with particular cover types.

"Bushes are a big key for me," Powroznik says. "Not bushes way back in long creeks, but bushes on flat points and flat coves right off the main lake. It's the same way at Buggs or Gaston: Find bream beds around bushes in the main lake, and just sit there and watch what happens. Before you know it, a pack of bass will show up out of nowhere and raid the bed."

Catching wolf packs
When it comes to targeting wolf-pack bass, there is good news and bad news.

First, the good news: Since wolf-pack bass are hunters, they are aggressive and they will eat.

The negatives, however, are that wolf-packers are extremely wary. Also, they are sight-feeders usually looking for a certain type of forage, which means the concept of "matching the hatch" is important. Finally, catching more than one bass out of a wolf pack is difficult to do.

Therefore, fishing for wolf packs is an acquired art. You must be able to see the fish, detect the direction they are going and make a careful presentation. The specific presentation falls under one of two scenarios:

Cruising packs: Where most anglers mess up on a pack of bass cruising down a bank is by casting over the pack instead of waiting for the right cast out in front of the pack.

"If you keep a long distance out off a wolf pack, they usually won't spook," Gagliardi says. "You can literally follow them down the bank. But once you draw your rod back, fire a cast or have a lure splash down on them, they disappear like ghosts."

A long cast way out in front of them is mandatory. The lure must splash down and be in a position to work properly long before the pack gets to it.

Attacking packs: The exception to the long-cast rule comes when the pack actually attacks the prey. Once they're excited, bass will bite anything that lands, splashes or moves around them for that frenzied few seconds.

Obviously, the most ideal situation for an angler is to position himself within casting distance of the forage, such as a bream bed, and wait for a wolf pack to move in for the kill before launching a lure into the fray.

Arming for wolf packs
As far as our four expert wolf-packers are concerned, wacky worms and topwaters are the top lure choices (see sidebar). A wacky-rigged soft-plastic stick bait cast low to the water on spinning gear can go a long distance and touch down with minimal splash. It also sinks slowly, so the worm will still be in front of a cruising pack once the pack gets there, assuming the cast is timed correctly. The worm also does a good job of mimicking a bream "sulking" inconspicuously on the bottom.

As for the topwater lure, it too can be launched from a long distance away. It's essential to keep it low to the water to avoid excessive splash. And topwaters should suggest the same basic profile as the baitfish being targeted - short and squat if imitating bream, for example.

Lures
When it comes to the best lures to fool wolf packs, wacky-rigged worms in natural colors such as watermelon or green pumpkin, as well as topwaters in color schemes to match the forage, are the top picks.

Here's a closer look at the specific lure choices of our wolf-pack panel.

Brent Ehrler wolf-pack bass baitsNational Guard pro Brent Ehrler
Primary: Lucky Craft Gunfish 115 for covering water
Secondary: Lucky Craft G-Splash for casting at particular targets or bream beds

Jacob Powroznik wolf-pack bass baitsGillette/Duracell pro Jacob Powroznik
Primary: 5-inch wacky-rigged Berkley PowerBait Heavy Weight Sinkworm
Secondary: Rebel Pop-R P70

Ken Cook wolf-pack bass baitsKen Cook
Primary: 5-inch wacky-rigged Berkley PowerBait Heavy Weight Sinkworm
Secondary: Rapala Skitter Prop

Anthony Gagliardi wolf-pack bass baitsChevy pro Anthony Gagliardi
Primary: 4-inch wacky-rigged finesse worm
Secondary: Brian's Bees Prop Bee #3

Tags: rob-newell  magazine-features 

Top 10 Patterns from Fort Gibson

Top 10 Patterns from Fort Gibson

The Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division event presented by Mercury on Fort Gibson was one of the more challenging tournaments in recent memory. Consider that with 115 pros fishing over three days, there were only 13 limits caught, and it took just 18 pounds, 2 ounces for two days to make the top-10 cut. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from Fort Gibson

Top 10 Baits from Fort Gibson

The final Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division event of the year was a true grinder. In fact, both first and second place only landed 13 keepers all week on Fort Gibson. When it’s that tough, little differences between baits can sometimes make a difference. Below is what the top 10 threw to get it done. READ MORE »

First Top 10 is a Win for Burke

First Top 10 is a Win for Burke

For three years, Johnny Burke, a 63-year-old retired county commissioner from Creek County, Oklahoma, has been fishing the Costa FLW Series as a co-angler just hoping he might score a top 10. Today, Burke not only scored his first top-10 finish, but he took it all the way to the top spot for the win. READ MORE »

Dickerson Wins by Tiebreaker

Dickerson Wins by Tiebreaker

For the second time this season in the Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division, a tournament was settled by tiebreaker after the top two pros finished the tournament with identical three-day weights. Tommy Dickerson of Orange, Texas, came into the final day at Fort Gibson in first place. Kyle Cortiana of Coweta, Okla., started the day in fourth. The two anglers finished the tournament with 32 pounds, 6 ounces. Because Dickerson was higher in the standings after day two, he was declared the champion. Dickerson, who is Ranger Cup qualified, earned a prize package worth more than $80,000, including a new Ranger bass boat. READ MORE »

Fort Gibson Midday Update – Day 3

Fort Gibson Midday Update – Day 3

Things got a little crazy in the final-day action of the Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division event presented by Mercury on Fort Gibson. First, falling water levels overnight threw a major curveball to tournament leader Tommy Dickerson and third-place angler Cody Bird. For the last two days both pros have been shimmying their way through a rocky shoal far up a feeder creek. Yesterday, both said if the water dropped just 3 or 4 inches, the small crevice they’ve been following through the shoal would dry up and they would be denied access. When they awoke and checked water levels this morning, indeed the water had dropped. READ MORE »

Fort Gibson Top 5 Patterns – Day 2

Fort Gibson Top 5 Patterns – Day 2

Getting off the beaten path. Finding something off the wall. Thinking outside the box. Trying something unconventional. These have all been the common themes of the top pros facing a very obstinate Fort Gibson Lake this week for the Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division event presented by Mercury. To give some idea of just how stubborn Fort Gibson has been, only three pros have caught a limit both days of the tournament. Even more stunning is that the top-10 cut weight after two days among pros stands at just 18 pounds, 2 ounces. READ MORE »

Fort Gibson Midday Update – Day 2

Fort Gibson Midday Update – Day 2

Day two of the Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division event presented by Mercury on Fort Gibson dawned much sunnier and breezier this morning. Anglers had high hopes that the wind might help improve the bite a smidge, but it’s remained tough. Tournament leader Kyle Cortiana got off to a fast start in his primary spot with two immediate keepers, but then his action died. READ MORE »

Top 5 Patterns from Fort Gibson – Day 1

Top 5 Patterns from Fort Gibson – Day 1

When looking out across Fort Gibson Lake on day one of the Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division event presented by Mercury, one word came to mind: stagnant. For the last couple of weeks, the late-summer doldrums have set in across northeastern Oklahoma with warm, humid conditions. Current is virtually nonexistent in the lake. Aside from a couple of showers this morning and a little afternoon breeze, the lake was calm for much of the day. In all, things were pretty stale. During the day, anglers struggled to crack the stagnant code. Local pros leaned heavily on their home field knowledge, pulling out all the stops by fishing brush piles, obscure rock formations and anywhere there might be a breath of current. Local pro Kyle Cortiana compounded his home court edge into the tournament lead with 15 pounds, 8 ounces. Behind him, 11- and 12-pound limits were enough to earn a top-five spot on day one. READ MORE »

The Search is on at Fort Gibson

The Search is on at Fort Gibson

The last event of the 2018 Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division kicked off under rain clouds this morning out of Taylor’s Ferry Landing on Fort Gibson Lake. The event, which is presented by Mercury and hosted by the Wagoner County Chamber of Commerce, includes a field of 116 pros and co-anglers who will be scouring Fort Gibson’s highly pressured waters during the doldrums of late summer, trying to find an overlooked pattern or technique. READ MORE »

Cortiana Leads the Pack at Fort Gibson

Cortiana Leads the Pack at Fort Gibson

Kyle Cortiana has the early lead at the Costa FLW Series event presented by Mercury at Fort Gibson. The Oklahoma pro weighed in 15 pounds, 8 ounces on what was a very challenging first day of competition. He leads Tommy Dickerson of Orange, Texas, by 1 pound, 1 ounce. Tulsa’s Robin Babb leads co-anglers with 8-7. READ MORE »

Fort Gibson Midday Update – Day 1

Fort Gibson Midday Update – Day 1

Fort Gibson is testing the pros and co-anglers alike on day one of the Costa FLW Series Southwestern event presented by Mercury. Morning reports indicate very, very few fish being caught. Lots of pros were sitting on zero or with just one fish by the noon hour. The biggest catch discovered belonged to local angler Ryan Wilbanks who had boated four keepers with at least one of them being sizable. READ MORE »

Studio Notes: Cup edition

Studio Notes: Cup edition

After two days of rather anemic action from the water at Ouachita, I was beginning to wonder if we were ever going to get any fireworks. Finally, Clent Davis delivered on the final morning, mounting a dream charge from 10th place to win and providing fishing fans with the most stunning comeback in Cup history. READ MORE »

Studio Notes: Lake St. Clair

Studio Notes: Lake St. Clair

While the first six tournaments of the season were quite a ride, FLW saved the best for last with the season finale at St. Clair and I must say, it was the most impressive event of the year. READ MORE »

Top 10 Patterns from Cross Lake

Top 10 Patterns from Cross Lake

The 2018 T-H Marine BFL All-American is in the books and it’s safe to say that Cross Lake was quite a pleasant surprise. What was expected to be a sweltering, summertime struggle-a-thon turned into a rather impressive display of big bass, with multiple 4- to 8-pound brutes being shown off at weigh-in each day. READ MORE »

All-American Top 5 Patterns – Day 2

All-American Top 5 Patterns – Day 2

As many projected, the weights on day two of the 2018 T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League All-American on Cross Lake fell off substantially. Given Cross Lake’s small size and the intensive fishing pressure it receives as a suburban fishery, it simply couldn’t keep producing the weights seen on day one (eight limits of more than 20 pounds) for multiple days. As a result, those who rose to the top of the leaderboard today had to find something different to do to survive the day-two slump. Leader Randy Deaver found success by moving out of the cypress tree jungle, down into the main lake to a mixture of cypress trees and docks along the bank. READ MORE »

Deaver Takes Over at Cross Lake

Deaver Takes Over at Cross Lake

Randy Deaver lives just seven minutes from the ramp where the 2018 T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League All-American takeoffs are being held this week, which means he’ll sleep comfortably in his own bed tonight with a 3-pound, 10-ounce lead over his good friend and day-one leader Nick LeBrun. Deaver, a fishing guide and firefighter from Blanchard, La., cracked a 25-3 limit today to go with 21-0 on day one. He’s the only angler in the field to catch two 20-pound-plus stringers, and most importantly, he figured something out today that he thinks he can repeat on championship Saturday when the All-American title will be settled. READ MORE »

LeBrun Leads Cross Lake Slugfest

LeBrun Leads Cross Lake Slugfest

An 8-pounder and a stack of 4s and 5s comprised the tournament-leading 26-pound, 9-ounce stringer caught by hometown pro Nick LeBrun on day one of the T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League All-American on Cross Lake. LeBrun, who hails from Bossier City, La., leads a pack of BFL hammers that flat out stomped on the Cross Lake bass today. There were eight limits of more than 20 pounds, and 22 limits of at least 15 pounds in the pro ranks. READ MORE »

All-American Top 5 Patterns – Day 1

All-American Top 5 Patterns – Day 1

Based on the activity posted to the FLW coverage blog on day one of the 2018 T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League All-American, the 49 pro qualifiers were scoring some hefty unofficial numbers on Cross Lake. But no one knew just how hefty until Tournament Director Daniel Fennel made those numbers official at weigh-in. And Fennel said the word “twenty” a lot. READ MORE »

Studio Notes: Smith Lake

Studio Notes: Smith Lake

The fun of Studio Notes is going back in hindsight and looking at an FLW Tour event with 20/20 vision to see what happened and what could be learned. After all, when a bunch of the nation’s best bass anglers fish a lake for a week, there are a lot of observations to be made that make for some interesting theories. READ MORE »

Hallman’s Resurgence

Hallman’s Resurgence

In the span of two and a half years, Bradley Hallman of Norman, Okla., has won a quarter million dollars on the FLW Tour. Since joining the FLW Tour in January of 2016, he has fished 17 Tour events, won two of them and cashed checks in five more. Considering there are pros who have been fishing the FLW Tour for 10 years with no Tour wins, Hallman’s track record is looking pretty good for this being only his third season. READ MORE »