UPCOMING EVENT: FLW SERIES - 2020 - Toledo Bend Lake

College Fishing Updates – Day 1

College Fishing Updates – Day 1
Ray Hingson, Daniel Ellenburg

This story will be updated throughout the day with more from day one of the YETI FLW College Fishing National Championship presented by Lowrance C-Map Genesis on Wheeler Lake. 


1:15 p.m. – Final update; docks heating up

It’s almost weigh-in time, which means it’s time to sign off the daily update blog.

The latest happening is that we’ve had some good catches reported by anglers fishing docks. In fact, other than dragging rigs and other slow-moving baits offshore, dock fishing might be the most productive pattern we’ve seen so far.

Several of the top teams are fishing close to takeoff at the lower end, while others moved into the Elk River in the afternoon, mostly around boat docks. Should be interesting to see how those areas have produced come weigh-in.

 

A few updates:

Ramapo anglers Zachary Orsino and Andrew Annuzzi have a small limit, but their boat broke down and they’re stuck fishing close to the weigh-in area.

Michael Dunn and Henry Colberg of the University of Pittsburgh checked in with 9 or 10 pounds.

Rogers State anglers Dillon Roberts and Brett Fite have a nice limit for about 13 pounds, though they weren’t sure on their estimate. Said it could’ve been a pound less or a pound more.

 

12:15 p.m. – Moving time

Weigh-in starts in just over two hours, which means it’s time for teams to start exploring Plan B – or whatever it takes to secure limits or make final upgrades before heading back to Joe Wheeler State Park. The weigh-in will be broadcast live, by the way, so you can follow along as the 139 best college teams in the nation weigh their catches.

Updates have slowed to a trickle in the last hour or so. There are a lot of boats running around and some new faces fishing closer to takeoff for the final hours. The shallow bite still hasn’t materialized, though a big bank of fluffy clouds is rolling over the weigh-in site at the moment. Maybe the shade will open a bite window.

 

Here are some recent catch reports:

Greenville College anglers Ray Hingson and Daniel Ellenburg had a limit when we found them fishing a boat ramp and courtesy dock. They made a nice cull and probably have a double-digit stringer.

Penn State’s Clayton Frey and Derek Horner have a limit and have culled, too, but no word on their total weight. They’re dock fishing.

Caiden Sinclair and Ethan Flack of Alabama wish their fifth fish was a keeper bass. The 40-pound catfish blasted a crankbait. They’re still stuck on four fish and less than 10 pounds.

UNC Chapel Hill anglers Graham Burke and Stephen Smith have three fish for almost 6 pounds.

Zack Montalvo, fishing alone for Tarleton, has two quality 4- to 5-pound bass in his livewell. He’s excited for a couple of afternoon spot he’s got lined up. Apparently he had some good bites at around 1:30 p.m. during practice.

 

11 a.m. – Everyone is chipping away

Gettys Brannon and Patrick Walters of the University of South Carolina are still the unofficial leaders, while Cole Sands and Connor Cohran of Bryan College are close behind. Chasing them down is a whole crew of teams that are chipping away little by little at limits in the 8- to 10-pound range. As predicted, big bites are tough to come by.

Current conditions are hot, sunny and humid with a light breeze. The bright skies might be part of the reason for the tough bite, at least for anyone wanting to use reaction baits. Most teams are focusing on mid-depth and shallow points, as well as steep banks leading out of creeks lined with spawning pockets, though the better bags have come a little deeper on structure in the mouths of creeks. The two top teams are working deep structure. Virtually no one is exclusively fishing reaction baits. Shaky heads, drop-shots and Carolina rigs are the most popular lure choices.

 

Other catches include:

McKendree’s Shane Campbell and Phillip Germagliotti with four keepers, including one smallmouth. Total weight is about 7 pounds.

Ethan Flack and Caiden Sinclair of the University of Alabama have two. They’re trying to get a buzzbait bite going, but it’s not been great so far.

Missouri State’s Grant Gaskill and Brandon Duemmel are hoping to drum up a keeper by ripping a big spoon offshore.

Kansas State anglers Travis Blenn and Kyle Alsop have four bass, including one “good one.”

Anthony Thorn and Scott Ellis of the University of Tennessee have two keepers.

Adrian College’s Jack Hippe III and Brandon Herzberg have a small limit.

UCF anglers Caleb Bundy and Jake Carter have one keeper that’s less than 1 pound.

The SUNY ESF team, Raymond Bentz and Ethan Hall, have two small keepers. They’re not fans of the sunshine, saying it killed their bite. They’re working in the shade of a bridge.

UW-Platteville’s Aaron Gohla and Colby Peterson have four, with one good one.

Sonoma State anglers Pete Bizzini and Jake Banuelos have zero keepers so far.

Patrick Henry Community College anglers Blaine Atkins and Dillon Crowder have zip.

McKendree’s Taylor Schmitt and Curtis Lilly have a pair.

Sam Houston State’s Dillon Harrell and Dustin Moreno have a limit.

 

9:45 a.m. – The action is picking up offshore; South Carolina and Bryan College on top

Cole Sands and Connor Cohran are still at it. They’ve not only filled their limit but have culled up to about 13 1/2 pounds. Sands caught what he says is his biggest drop-shot fish ever – it straightened his hook – but now they’re mixing up some reaction baits, swimbaits and other stuff to try and get one more big bite and cull a fish that weighs less than 2 pounds. Interestingly, they’re considering making a 40-mile run to a smallmouth spot, but the action on their current area – a point where fish are stopping on their way out of a spawning creek – is too good for them to leave right now.

Here’s a quick rundown of recent updates:

Slippery Rock’s Tyler Sheppard and Logan Pollman have two keepers – one of them is “decent.”

Doing a little better is the Bryan College team of Conner Thompson and Dylan Pritchett, with a 4-pounder and a 3 1/2-pounder. They’re on the main lake fishing finesse stuff.

Ohio State’s Michael Whitacre and John Belluardo are dragging rigs on the main lake and have a small limit.

Local favorites Triston Crowder and Lake Blasingame from the University of North Alabama have four for 8 pounds. They’re hopping around near the dam.

Patrick Walters and Gettys Brannon are hoping to make it three straight championships for the University of South Carolina. They have 15 to 16 pounds so far, which is the best we’ve heard of, and they’re working a couple of different patterns. We're getting more details on them now.

Tartleton State-Stephenville’s Dakota Ebare and Zach Ziober have a small limit courtesy of a Carolina rig. Their teammates, Justin Seeton and Stetson Overton, have just one and are on the hunt for a supposed 6-plus-pound smallie that they saw in practice.

Finally, Mississippi State anglers Cody Peak and Jeff Roman Clayton have a quality 3 1/2-pounder in the box.

There’s a light breeze right now that’s making for a very pleasant morning on the water. The sun is shining, birds are chirping and the fish are biting. The offshore action is the best game at the moment, but once the sun gets fully up it could turn on some bank action with a frog or flipping. We’re going to investigate that possibility further in the coming hours.

 

8:45 a.m. - Bryan adds another

The trolling motor was stowed. Cole Sands and Connor Cohran were ready to head for new water. But they're staying put a bit more now because they just landed another keeper. It's not big, but as we mentioned in the last post, any keeper is a bonus right now until the flows increase. The Bryan College anglers now have three keepers.

Also, Zachary Orsino and Andrew Annuzzi of Ramapo have two keepers for 4 pounds.

 

8:30 a.m. – Too late for the shad spawn? Waiting on current

There appears to still be a pretty strong shad spawn going on. The only problem is that tournament takeoff at 6:30 a.m. is a bit late to capitalize on the early morning shad spawn pattern. It’s light enough to run by about 5:30. On the flip side, there’s so much bait around that, as one local angler speculated at the ramp this morning, the fish might be able to be picky about what they eat. That, coupled with fish in full-on transition mode, has made for a challenging bite early on.

Cole Sands and Connor Cohran of Bryan College are the first we’ve seen catch a quality fish. They estimated it at 2 1/2 pounds, though we guessed a tad bigger. They moved to an offshore spot in the mouth of a creek to catch it, then said that any decent fish is a bonus until the current starts. They’re on the trail of some big smallies that only bite in the flow.

Elsewhere, one of the Bethel teams has checked in a small limit that includes a 3 1/2-pounder. Zachary Bennett and Chase Williams of Georgia College have one dink. McKendree’s Brock Wilke and Austin Niggli have zip. Christian Brown and Jared Rascoe of LSU-Shreveport are still looking for No. 1. Kile Quick and Mark Adams of Virginia Tech have one keeper. They’re way up shallow in the Decatur area.

The field ended up spreading out quite a bit, at least as far as Decatur and all places in between there and Wheeler Dam.

 

7:30 a.m. – Small keepers the story early

There aren’t many big-fish catches to report yet on Wheeler Lake, but the fish are biting. Lake Superior State University’s Jake Dorony and Hunter Scharphorn put a couple of small keepers in the boat by fishing for schoolers on one of the community hole points on Wheeler’s lower end. KJ Queen and Evan Owrey of Bethel University were fishing nearby and had landed a few shorts by 7 a.m., while Cole Sands and Connor Cohran of Bryan College had one small largemouth in the livewell. The latter were waiting on some current to flow to ignite the fish.

It’s mostly spinning rods for the crew on the main lake’s lower end. Up in Spring Creek, a half-dozen or so boats are working shallow cover with power-fishing baits. Only four boats ran up the Elk River, which is surprising, and about 10 headed up Second Creek, which is located adjacent to Wheeler Dam. We’ll catch up with those crews momentarily.

It’s currently sunny and slick, with barely a breeze. The water has a nice green tint to it on the main lake, with a few areas more stained here and there. There also has been a mayfly hatch, which had a few anglers at takeoff hypothesizing about a good frog bite under overhanging trees along the shore.  

 

Takeoff report

The situation at Wheeler Lake right now is fitting for a championship event that includes the best college bass anglers from one end of the country to the other. Presumably, a roster of 139 teams from every region would include anglers of all types – finesse specialists, power fishermen, deep-water electronics wizards and shallow-water flippers and pitchers among them. Well, all types will find something to like about Wheeler this week during the 2017 YETI FLW College Fishing National Championship presented by Lowrance C-Map Genesis. The biggest challenge will be figuring out where to begin in what is setting up to be a junk-fishing tournament, and figuring out how to pattern the better quality fish.

Small keepers are abundant, from the banks to the Tennessee River ledges. Catching 9 to 12 pounds doesn’t seem like too big of a challenge. Catching 15 pounds means finding those one or two kicker bites to get over the hump, while catching an upper teens bag will probably land a team at or near the top of the standings.

Right now, they’re eating topwater, reaction baits and bottom baits. There are fry guarders and bluegill hunters around shallow cover, as well as fish keyed on remnant spawning shad, though none of the anglers who FLW interviewed after Tuesday’s final practice round was willing to divulge whether any of those patterns had produced their better bites in practice. Several did report catching good bags of smallmouths, which could factor into the outcome at least on day one.

Last year, at the Costa FLW Series event held on Wheeler in mid-May, Bradley Dortch won the tournament by targeting postspawn bass transitioning out of spawning areas up the Elk River. In fact, most of the top 10 anglers were up the Elk, and the college anglers know it. Surely many of this week’s contestants will try their luck there. Recent rains have dirtied the Elk and cast about floating debris to dodge, but that area’s potential will be too much to resist.

Compared to its situation during Dortch’s Costa win last season, Wheeler right now has had two extra weeks for the spawn to progress and bass to funnel out of shallow areas, and due to the unusually warm winter and spring that most of the region experienced, it’s likely that this week’s patterns will be indicative of a bite that’s quite a bit “further along” toward a summer pattern.

On most of the other lakes on the Tennessee chain, that means ledge fishing, but according to University of North Alabama angler Triston Crowder, who lives near enough to Wheeler to keep tabs on the bite, Wheeler Lake’s ledge bite doesn’t set up the same. He says the ledges are deeper here, and the bass don’t pile up at the end of May like they do on Pickwick and Kentucky. Instead, they linger around the banks or middepth transition areas, or move out the ledges in smaller groups.

All it means is that the winning bag is anyone’s to catch, with the potential for it to be caught just about any way, and that’s good news for the out-of-towners who likely have little experience on the big reservoirs of the Southeast.

 

Tournament format

All 139 teams fish Wednesday and Thursday, with the top 10 teams based on cumulative weight making the cut to fish on Friday. The top team based on cumulative weight after Friday’s round will be crowned the champion, earning a first-place prize of a new Ranger Z175 with 90-hp Evinrude outboard.

The two members of the winning team will then participate in a fish-off on Saturday on Wilson Lake. The winner will earn a berth in the 2017 Forrest Wood Cup at Lake Murray.

Full roster/results

 

Takeoff and weigh-in

Takeoff each morning is at 6:30 a.m. CT at Joe Wheeler State Park, 4401 McClean Dr., Rogersville, Ala. Weigh-ins will be held at the park on Wednesday and Thursday at 2:30 p.m. Friday’s weigh-in will be held at McFarland Park, 200 Jim Spain Dr., Florence, Ala., at 3 p.m. prior to the day-two weigh-in at the 2017 T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League All-American, which is being held concurrently at Pickwick Lake.

The tournament is hosted by the Florence/Lauderdale Tourism Bureau.

 

Conditions

The weather on days one and two is forecast to be favorable and typical of north Alabama for late May, with highs in the upper 80s and lows in the mid-60s. Light winds will be welcomed by the field because Wheeler can get pretty bumpy in a stiff blow.

The weekend forecast isn’t as pretty. Storms are likely on Friday and Saturday.

 

About Wheeler

Though Wheeler extends about 70 miles to include about 67,000 acres of water, most of the anglers will focus their efforts this week on the lower half, versus the “river” portion up past Decatur. Last year, the Forrest Wood Cup takeoffs were held up the river near Huntsville, but that area is dirtier due to recent heavy rains and is a long run from takeoff near Wheeler’s lower end.

Traditionally, the Decatur Flats area has been a good area in the main lake, with shells, stumps and natural structure to fish, and the lower end does have offshore ledges to fish. However, expect most of the field to work up the creeks – Second, First and Spring – plus the Elk River where shallower bass are easier to target. 

Aerial tour of Wheeler Lake

Pre-tournament press release with full details

Tags: wheeler-lake  flw-college-fishing  curtis-niedermier  article  2017-05-31-wheeler-lake 

Big Bags Expected at Bama Division Kickoff on Lake Martin

Big Bags Expected at Bama Division Kickoff on Lake Martin

Big largemouths and lots of spots are the main attractions at Alabama’s Lake Martin, where the Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine Bama Division kicks off its 2020 season Feb. 8. Local hammer David Gaston, who’s won the last two Bama events at Martin, expects a typical wintertime tournament this season with solid weights across the board. READ MORE »

Sharing Forrest Wood Stories

Sharing Forrest Wood Stories

In the few days since Forrest Wood passed away, thousands of people have taken to social media to share their favorite “Forrest Wood story” in public tribute to one of bass fishing’s most iconic men. In keeping with the trend, we reached out to people within the FLW family and the broader fishing industry and invited them to share a Forrest Wood story or two, or to reflect on what Forrest meant to them. READ MORE »

Warm, Wet Winter Setting up Big Weights at Murray

Warm, Wet Winter Setting up Big Weights at Murray

The Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine kicks off its 2020 South Carolina Division schedule at the Jewel of South Carolina, Lake Murray, which is the former host site for multiple FLW Cup events. Murray is full of big bass and can churn out weights in the upper 20s if conditions line up right. Thus far in 2020, warm, wet conditions have been great for bass fishing. Though patterns might vary slightly from a “normal” winter, competitors can expect to have a good time fishing shallow with power-fishing baits.  READ MORE »

Forrest Wood’s Legacy

Forrest Wood’s Legacy

Surrounded by his family, Forrest Wood passed away in a Mountain Home, Ark., hospital just after 9 a.m. Saturday, four days after suffering a heart attack in his home. Wood, who was 87 at the time of his death, was the founder of Ranger Boats of Flippin, Ark. A pioneer of bass tournament fishing, he helped launch the careers of hundreds of aspiring tournament anglers through sponsorships. During his 20-year span at the helm of the company he founded with his wife, Nina, Forrest is credited with laying the groundwork for the modern bass boat through his innovative designs and engineering advancements. READ MORE »

Forrest L. Wood, 1932-2020

Forrest L. Wood, 1932-2020

FLW is saddened to report that Forrest L. Wood, the namesake of our organization and a longtime member of the FLW family, passed away today at age 87. He spent his final days surrounded by his family, including his wife of 68 years, Nina. READ MORE »

Daniel Fennel to Direct Pro Circuit

Daniel Fennel to Direct Pro Circuit

At the registration meeting for this week’s Pro Circuit season opener at Sam Rayburn Reservoir, FLW announced that Daniel had been promoted to senior director of tournament operations for the Pro Circuit, FLW Series and Phoenix Bass Fishing League, with responsibilities to include directing the Pro Circuit. Bill Taylor, who served as tournament director for the FLW Tour from 2001 through 2019, has been promoted to senior director of operations, where he’ll lend his expertise acquired through more than two decades as a tournament director toward logistics, angler relations and event planning for all FLW circuits. READ MORE »

2020 Pro Circuit Predictions

2020 Pro Circuit Predictions

The Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit is at Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Brookeland, Texas, this week to kick off what promises to be another great season of professional bass fishing for FLW. In anticipation of great things to come during the inaugural Pro Circuit season, a few FLW staff members and one Pro Circuit pro decided to play pundit and make a few predictions.  READ MORE »

John Cox Making Most of Opportunities

John Cox Making Most of Opportunities

In addition to finishing second in the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit standings last season, John Cox finished runner-up in the Bassmaster Central Open standings and fourth in the Eastern Open standings, qualifying him to fish the Pro Circuit and Bassmaster Elite Series this year. While many pros were faced with some either-or decisions this offseason, Cox chose both – fishing the Pro Circuit and Elite Series – and he’s not even a bit nervous about doing both. READ MORE »

Tackle Warehouse Teams with FLW

Tackle Warehouse Teams with FLW

FLW, the world’s largest tournament-fishing organization, announced today that it has reached a sponsorship agreement with Tackle Warehouse, the sport’s leading online retailer that offers the guaranteed lowest prices on bass fishing tackle from every top brand. Effective immediately, Tackle Warehouse becomes the official tackle retailer of FLW and assumes title sponsorship of the FLW Pro Circuit, professional bass fishing’s premier five-fish-limit tournament series. READ MORE »

Rookie Profile: Laramy Strickland

Rookie Profile: Laramy Strickland

Being a rookie on the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit can be daunting no matter what age you are. This year, there are 28 newcomers eager to prove themselves against some of the best in the game. And while the bulk of them have been chasing the dream for a while, 22-year-old Laramy Strickland of Bushnell, Fla., will be one of the younger pros looking to make a name in the industry. READ MORE »

How to Prep Like a Pro

How to Prep Like a Pro

When it comes to getting ready for a season of tournaments, there are plenty of ways to do it. But, there’s no denying that for most people, being prepared will lead to better performance on the water. READ MORE »

Previewing the 2020 Pro Circuit

Previewing the 2020 Pro Circuit

With the kickoff of the 2020 FLW Pro Circuit coming up January 23 on Sam Rayburn, we've put together previews of every stop of the regular season. Below you'll find an overload of information on the fisheries, prospective patterns and anglers to watch throughout every minute of the season.  READ MORE »

Big Prespawn Potential at Toledo Bend

Big Prespawn Potential at Toledo Bend

Toledo Bend is a legendary reservoir that straddles the border between Texas and Louisiana. It spans some 65 miles along the impounded Sabine River, which runs north to south, and sprawls across about 185,000 acres at full pool. Though Toledo Bend has a number of major tributaries along its length, the bulk of the reservoir is its straight, wide-open main-lake span. READ MORE »

Silver Carp Found In Chickamauga

Silver Carp Found In Chickamauga

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources received a report on Jan. 10 that a silver carp was captured on Chickamauga Lake in October. READ MORE »

The Importance of Having a Mentor

The Importance of Having a Mentor

If you want a chance to have a pro as your personal coach and mentor for 2020, keep reading. READ MORE »

Florida Spawn: Key on Bottom Hardness

Florida Spawn: Key on Bottom Hardness

According to FLW Pro Circuit angler Tim Frederick, who’s lived in Florida since he was 4 years old, one of the most important factors for successfully locating both spawning and staging bass in the coming weeks is bottom hardness. In most situations, the harder the bottom the better, but there’s more to it than that. READ MORE »

Check-In Time: Matt Becker

Check-In Time: Matt Becker

From time to time, FLW checks in with its anglers to find out what they’ve been up to, what they’re listening to, who they’re following and where they’re heading while out on the tournament trail. This week, we caught up with Matt Becker.  READ MORE »

FLW Series Championship Returns to Cumberland

FLW Series Championship Returns to Cumberland

FLW (Fishing League Worldwide), in conjunction with the Somerset Tourist & Convention Commission and the Burnside Tourism Commission, announced today that the 2020 FLW Series Championship will be held at Lake Cumberland in Burnside and Somerset, Kentucky, Nov. 5-7, 2020. READ MORE »

Gator Division Kicking off at St. Johns River

Gator Division Kicking off at St. Johns River

The Phoenix Bass Fishing League’s popular Gator Division, which is presented by A.R.E., kicks off its 2020 season on Saturday, Jan. 11 at the St. Johns River near Palatka, Fla. READ MORE »

FLW PHOENIX BONUS Announced for 2020

FLW PHOENIX BONUS Announced for 2020

Phoenix Boats has announced the creation and details of the brand new FLW PHOENIX BONUS for the 2020 FLW tournament season. READ MORE »