UPCOMING EVENT: PHOENIX BASS FISHING LEAGUE - 2020 - Lake Lanier

Wheeler Should Produce Mega Mixed Bags in March

Wheeler Should Produce Mega Mixed Bags in March
Sam George

If you love mixed bags of big largemouth and smallmouth bass (and who doesn’t?), you’re going to want to pay close attention to the Toyota Series Southeastern Division opener on Wheeler Lake March 26-28. Local pro Sam George, who fishes the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit, expects to see mid-20-pound limits cross the weigh-in stage, and predicts the winner will almost certainly weigh both green and brown fish. 

Here’s a rundown of what’s on tap for a potential Tennessee River prespawn slugfest.

 

Tournament Details

Toyota Series Southeastern Division

Wheeler Lake

Decatur, Ala.

March 26-28, 2020

Hosted by Decatur Morgan County Tourism

 

How the lake sets up

The 60-mile-long, 67,100-acre Wheeler Lake is the third largest reservoir on the Tennessee River system and is just a tad smaller than Lake Guntersville, the legendary reservoir that’s just upstream. On the other side of Wheeler is Wilson Lake and then Pickwick, making it one of the main jewels on the legendary chain that stretches across the northern end of Alabama before turning north through Tennessee and Kentucky. 

Wheeler is well known among bass anglers for its tailrace fishery, offshore ledges and other structure, as well as the Decatur flats area. Below Decatur, which is where the tournament will put in, Wheeler opens up into a broad, slowly snaking reservoir as is typical of the Tennessee River system. The lower end is lined with small pockets and a handful of large tributaries that stretch off from the main stem. Upstream of Decatur, Wheeler necks down and takes on the look of a true river, winding its way to the Guntersville Dam.

While Decatur isn’t exactly in the center of the reservoir, it’s a good dividing line. George says pros have to make a choice in most tournaments: Run upstream and fish the river, or go downstream and fish the lake.

At one point in time, parts of Wheeler were full of hydrilla and milfoil, but now eelgrass is the primary vegetation. 

“It’s been a while since they’ve had a major FLW event here, and there’s actually quite a bit of eelgrass in the lake now,” says George. “It’s been a factor a little bit locally, but it’s going to definitely be a wild card for that event just because I’ve never been to a lake with grass in it where the grass hasn’t been a factor.”

Finally, Wheeler is capable of producing mammoth largemouths and smallmouths, particularly in early spring. 

“As far as big fish, it [Wheeler] has been putting them out recently. I’ve had two smallmouth over 7 pounds in the last three years out there,” George says. “The smallmouth will definitely be a factor. There’s no way they’re not that time of year. I think mixed bags of largemouth and smallmouth will be a factor. I think that Wheeler is home to some of the biggest smallmouth in the Tennessee River. It doesn’t get the attention that Pickwick and Wilson and some of the others do, but as far as true giant smallmouth, they live there. And they get mixed in.”

 

What to expect

Not surprisingly, the weather will ultimately decide the fate of this tournament. The entire Tennessee River Valley has been drenched this spring, causing flooding in many areas and higher flows than normal throughout the system. Wheeler was at 558 feet above sea level in mid-February, which is 2 feet above summer pool and 6 feet above the 552-foot winter pool mark that is sort of the standard this time of year. At the time of this writing (March 5), the lake was on a steady drawdown and had returned to 553.5. 

The water usually starts to rise to normal summer pool by mid-April, but resource managers have a lot of factors to consider when they determine flow levels that could result in any number of scenarios come March 26.

According to George, the kind of unstable conditions experienced this spring have, in past years, kept bass from heading to the banks early. That, and the fact that the tournament is still a couple weeks ahead of the usual prime spawn time, makes him think that this will be a full-on prespawn event.

“There’s no telling what’s going to happen,” says George. “If we get a whole bunch of rain it could be won in 2 feet of water, or it could be won offshore. We’re going to have to treat it week by week or even day by day. With normal conditions, I highly doubt spawning fish are going to be playing a factor by then. If we just get astronomical warm weather, then possibly. But those fish are dependent on water level as to when they want to pull up. 

“It’s going to be a prespawn deal. When I say prespawn, I mean the last leg of a prespawn transition into the spawn period. You’re going to be able to catch them on moving baits unless a complete cold front hits. I can see guys doing well covering water, trying to find fish that are starting to move up but not on the bank yet. They’ll be on those last few places they get before they head to the bank.” 

Last season’s Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine Bama Division event at Wheeler in mid-March was won with 21 pounds, and everyone in the top 10 had at least 15. George thinks that’s light for this time of year. He’s predicting 58 to 60 pounds for the winning three-day total, with at least a couple mid-20s limits. The rest of the top 10 won’t be far behind.

A final factor to consider is the tailrace bite. In mid-March, it can be red hot, but everybody knows it. A good boat draw might be the difference in getting on the juice and getting left out.

“There is no way, shape or form that Guntersville Dam does not play a factor in that event,” George adds. “I hate going up there because there are only a couple places they get on, but I would be shocked if that wasn’t a factor in that event. It’s probably going to get won up there. 

“Otherwise, with it being a prespawn deal, current is going to play a role – typical Tennessee River fishing.”

 

Crankbaits

Baits and techniques 

A little bit of everything should work in March at Wheeler. 

“I really think in the top 10 you’ll have guys up the river close to Guntersville and all the way on the lower end closer to Wheeler Dam,” says George. “If I had to pick five baits, I would pick a crankbait, a spinnerbait, a jig of some sort – whether a flipping jig, football jig or some other kind of jig – probably a single swimbait, and an umbrella rig.”

No surprises there. Those are Tennessee River 101 baits; power-fishing favorites. And they’re surely going to dupe their share of big Alabama bass when the Toyota Series commences at Wheeler Lake.

Tags: flw  toyota-series  wheeler-lake  curtis-niedermier  article  2020-03-26-wheeler 

Three Generations of Chapmans Take on Lake of the Ozarks

Three Generations of Chapmans Take on Lake of the Ozarks

Three generations of the Chapman family competed on Lake of the Ozarks – Brent, his son Mason, and his father Ron. Although they’ve all fished professional tournaments before, it was the first time all three were competing in the same event. Brent fished as a pro, while Mason and Ron fished in the co-angler field. READ MORE »

Sam Rayburn Midday Update – Day 3

Sam Rayburn Midday Update – Day 3

Our crew on the water hasn’t had very good luck tracking the top pros down in the Toyota Series Southwestern Division event on Sam Rayburn, but the fishing has still been pretty good. With the entire top 10 within striking distance, it’s still anyone’s game, and the good fishing today could help someone run into a mega-bag. READ MORE »

Sam Rayburn Midday Update – Day 2

Sam Rayburn Midday Update – Day 2

Day two of the Toyota Series Southwestern Division event on Sam Rayburn has been exactly as forecast. Somewhat chilly, with scattered rain and wind in the morning, it’s starting to brighten up now. Though most fished with jackets and bibs on in the morning, it’s now very comfortable and the sun is out pretty steadily. READ MORE »

Sam Rayburn Midday Update – Day 1

Sam Rayburn Midday Update – Day 1

Day one of the Toyota Series Southwestern Division event has been beautiful so far, with mild weather and apparently decent fishing. Though Rayburn isn’t kicking them out like it can, there seem to be plenty of ways to catch fish and at least one pro has seen some success. READ MORE »

Lake of the Ozarks Tapped for Wild Card

Lake of the Ozarks Tapped for Wild Card

FLW announced Sunday that the 2020 Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine Wild Card tournament will take place on Lake of the Ozarks in Osage Beach, Missouri, Nov. 20-21. The two-day event, hosted by Fish-Intel, will launch from Public Beach No. 2 in Osage Beach. READ MORE »

How to Catch Bass with Shrimp

How to Catch Bass with Shrimp

Bradley Dortch, who grew up on the Tensaw River and the Mobile Delta, says throwing shrimp for bass is a winner, and a viable tournament technique if you use plastic ones. It all has to do with the seasonal movement of the forage. READ MORE »

Toyota Series to Host Event on Lake of the Ozarks

Toyota Series to Host Event on Lake of the Ozarks

OSAGE BEACH, Mo. – The 2020 Toyota Series Plains Division will continue with a tournament this weekend in Osage Beach, Missouri, with the Toyota Series at Lake of the Ozarks. Hosted by the Tri-County Lodging Association, the three-day tournament will feature the region’s best bass-fishing pros and co-anglers casting for a top prize of up to $65,000, plus a $35,000 bonus if the winner is a... READ MORE »

Eastanollee’s Morrow Wins Toyota Series Event on Lake Norman

Eastanollee’s Morrow Wins Toyota Series Event on Lake Norman

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Oct. 3, 2020) – Pro Troy Morrow of Eastanollee, Georgia, brought a five-bass limit to the scale Saturday weighing 9 pounds, 7 ounces to win the three-day Toyota Series at Lake Norman event in Huntersville, North Carolina. Morrow’s three-day total of 15 bass weighing 32-3 earned him the win by a 4.... READ MORE »

Lake Norman Top 5 Patterns – Day 2

Lake Norman Top 5 Patterns – Day 2

Bass seemed to be a bit more cooperative on day two of the Toyota Series Eastern Division event on Lake Norman, especially in the largemouth department. READ MORE »

Lake Norman Midday Update – Day 1

Lake Norman Midday Update – Day 1

Day one of the Toyota Series on Lake Norman dawned bright and sunny this morning with a morning low of about 52 degrees. A light breeze had the schooling fish popping early and anglers were taking advantage of the fall feed. A lot of topwaters, swimbaits, jerkbaits and spy baits were being offered to the schoolers on main lake points. READ MORE »

Major League Fishing and FLW Unify as One Brand

Major League Fishing and FLW Unify as One Brand

TULSA, Okla. – To further elevate the sport of tournament bass fishing and align multiple circuits as one company, Major League Fishing (MLF) announced today its unification with Fishing League Worldwide (FLW) as one brand, transitioning all FLW brand assets to MLF... READ MORE »

Simpson University Earns Win at Abu Garcia College Fishing presented by YETI Tournament on Clear Lake

Simpson University Earns Win at Abu Garcia College Fishing presented by YETI Tournament on Clear Lake

CLEARLAKE, Calif. – The Simpson University team of Luke Blanchard of Vancouver, Washington, and Nathan Phillips of Kelseyville, California, won the Abu Garcia College Fishing presented by YETI at Clear Lake event Saturday with a five-bass limit weighing 16 pounds, 13 ounces. The victory advanced... READ MORE »

Lake County High School Fishing Club Wins High School Fishing presented by Favorite Fishing Clear Lake Open

Lake County High School Fishing Club Wins High School Fishing presented by Favorite Fishing Clear Lake Open

CLEARLAKE, Calif. – The Lake County High School duo of Payton Lyndall and Tyler Brant brought five bass to the scale Sunday weighing 17 pounds, 14 ounces to win the FLW High School Fishing presented by Favorite Fishing Clear Lake Open in Clearlake, California... READ MORE »

Pennsylvania’s Mifflinburg High School Wins High School Fishing presented by Favorite Fishing Chesapeake Bay Open

Pennsylvania’s Mifflinburg High School Wins High School Fishing presented by Favorite Fishing Chesapeake Bay Open

EDGEWOOD, Md. – Pennsylvania’s Mifflinburg High School duo of Ty Stroup and Daniel Walter grinded out three fish Saturday weighing 6 pounds, 3 ounces to win a very tough FLW High School Fishing presented by Favorite Fishing Chesapeake Bay Open event in Edgewood, Maryland. The event was... READ MORE »

MLF and FLW Unify as One Brand

MLF and FLW Unify as One Brand

To further elevate the sport of tournament bass fishing and align multiple circuits as one company, Major League Fishing (MLF) announced today its unification with Fishing League Worldwide (FLW) as one brand, transitioning all FLW brand assets to MLF.   READ MORE »

Adrian College Wins Abu Garcia College Fishing presented by YETI Tournament on Chesapeake Bay

Adrian College Wins Abu Garcia College Fishing presented by YETI Tournament on Chesapeake Bay

EDGEWOOD, Md. – The Adrian College team of Grant Gallagher of Fremont, Ohio, and Ben Statly of Fenton, Michigan, won the Abu Garcia College Fishing presented by YETI at the Chesapeake Bay event Friday with a five-bass limit weighing 18 pounds, 2 ounces. The victory earned the Adrian bass club... READ MORE »

Arizona’s Au Wins Toyota Series Western Division Finale at Clear Lake

Arizona’s Au Wins Toyota Series Western Division Finale at Clear Lake

CLEARLAKE, Calif. – Pro Tai Au of Glendale, Arizona, crossed the stage with a five-bass limit Saturday weighing 26 pounds, 4 ounces, to vault to the top of the leaderboard and win the three-day Toyota Series at Clear Lake tournament in Clearlake, California. Au’s three-day total of 15... READ MORE »

Clear Lake Midday Update – Day 3

Clear Lake Midday Update – Day 3

It is the final day here at the Toyota Series Western Division event on Clear Lake and another beautiful day with the top 10 pros and co-anglers trying their best to take home the title. READ MORE »

Clear Lake Midday Update – Day 2

Clear Lake Midday Update – Day 2

The second day of the Toyota Series Western Division event on Clear Lake began with slightly cooler weather, but it has turned into a beautiful day here in the Golden State. READ MORE »

Clear Lake Midday Update – Day 1

Clear Lake Midday Update – Day 1

The first day of the Toyota Series Western Division event on Clear Lake started with calm conditions and pleasant weather. Some of the anglers surveyed today were struggling to get bites and others seem to have the fishing dialed in. It appears to be feast or famine so far, but there will be some solid bags crossing the stage starting at 3 p.m. PT this afternoon. READ MORE »