FLORENCE, Ala. – Faced with the pressure of fishing against two prior Anglers of the Year and four past tournament champions, Wal-Mart FLW Tour rookie pro George Jeane Jr. proved as cool as the weather by evenhandedly dominating the final round of a tough competition at Pickwick Lake. With 29 pounds, 1 ounce of bass caught over the last two days, he calmly dismantled the competition and won by almost 8 ½ pounds.
Jeane established a strong lead on a blustery Friday with a five-bass limit weighing 17 pounds, 1 ounce. With slightly warmer temperatures and calmer water Saturday, the pro from Evans, La., managed to catch another limit – weighing 12-0 – and left no doubt about who was leaving Florence with the $100,000 top prize.
“I feel really good,” Jeane said. “I got really happy after I had my limit.”
Jeane, a Stren Series Central Division veteran with a pair of top-10 finishes on that circuit, won in just his third FLW Tour event fished. In the finals, he defeated the likes of David Walker and Dan Morehead, both prior tour Anglers of the Year, as well as Jim Moynagh, Dave Lefebre and Tommy Biffle, who, along with Morehead, are all past winners on the FLW Tour.
But Jeane showed no overt signs of nerves throughout the two-day final round.
“I don’t get intimidated on the water when I’m around other fishermen,” he said. “I just go out and do what I need to do.”
What he did was find a submerged ditch on the bottom end of Pickwick Lake filled with largemouth bass. Fishing a long point near Pickwick Dam all week long, he worked along an offshore ditch that ran parallel to the point, and he stayed deep. He said he caught his fish Friday and Saturday in water 18 to 25 feet deep on a black-and-blue PJ’s football-head jig with a green-pumpkin trailer. He fished mainly ½-ounce jigs, but switched over to ¾-ounce when it was windy.
“These fish were in 20 to 25 feet of water. If you didn’t swing on them hard, you didn’t get them,” said Jeane, who used a hard hookset Saturday. “Since Thursday, every fish that I stuck, I put in the boat. That’s how you win the tournament.”
Knowing he had a pretty solid lead heading into Saturday, Jeane returned to his main area with the idea of just catching a limit. It turned out to be way more than he needed.
“I went back to the same area to catch 10 or 12 pounds,” he said. “And actually, that’s all I caught.”
It’s been nearly three years since Jim Moynagh of Carver, Minn., last made an FLW Tour cut, but he returned to the top 10 with a flourish at Pickwick Lake. He caught four bass weighing 9 pounds, 9 ounces Saturday, finished second and earned $36,000 with a final weight of 20-11.
“I was holding the boat in 15 feet of water and throwing the Rock Jig close to the bank,” said Moynagh, who threw a 3/8-ounce Jim Moynagh’s Rock Jig in Pickwick Lake this week. “I was just fishing it really slow and working around deep brush piles.”
After dominating the opening round, Rob Kilby of Hot Springs, Ark., couldn’t maintain momentum and finished the week in third place and earned $25,000 with a final-round weight of 18 pounds, 2 ounces.
Kilby fished a suspended jerkbait pattern most of the week, working areas on both Wheeler and Wilson lakes.
“The bait was running about 8 to 10 feet,” he said. “I was setting up the boat in about 50 feet of water and throwing at the bank. On the retrieve, they come at it and I’d catch them close to the boat, almost right at my feet. They were way out in the middle of nowhere.”
When his jerkbait pattern dried up Saturday, however, and with no keepers in his livewell, Kilby switched to light line and a 4-inch worm late in the day to catch two small fish, his only keepers.
“I’d already had the white flag up by then,” he said.
David Walker of Sevierville, Tenn., finished fourth and won $20,000 with a final weight of 17 pounds, 2 ounces.
Walker earned his keep this week by fishing a Berkley Power jig off the tail ends of bluffs in the Elk River area of Wheeler Lake. In fact, the bulk of his big keepers came off a single log in that area the last couple days.
“Yesterday, all four of my fish came off that one log,” said Walker, who caught just three bass today. “Today, when I got there, two local boats were sitting there and they said, ‘Man, you should have been here two hours ago.’ But I’m really proud of what I was able to do here. I didn’t lose a fish all week.”
Perennial Pickwick Lake standout Dan Morehead of Paducah, Ky., bounced back after a two-fish showing Friday by catching the second – and heaviest – limit Saturday. His five bass weighing 13 pounds, 4 ounces today pushed his final total to 16-9, good for fifth place and $18,000.
“Today, I switched lakes. I went to Wilson on a pattern where I did well in a Stren event,” he said. “It all comes down to the decision-making process. That’s what determines winners and losers.”
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pro finishers in FLW Tour competition at Pickwick Lake:
6th: Andy Morgan, Dayton, Tenn., 14-13, $17,000
7th: Brennan Bosley, Benton, Ark., 9-4, $16,000
8th: Dave Lefebre, Erie, Pa., 8-14, $15,000
9th: Todd Auten, Lake Wylie, S.C., 8-5, $14,000
10th: Tommy Biffle, Wagoner, Okla., 5-3, $13,000
With a top-50 finish at Pickwick Lake, Anthony Gagliardi moved up into the top spot in the yearly standings with 523 points. Darrel Robertson is second with 519 points.
Top-10 finishes at Pickwick also pushed three of this week’s finalists into the top 10 in the standings. Bosley is ranked fourth with 515 points, Morehead is sixth with 490, and Jeane is 10th with 484.
The next Wal-Mart FLW Tour event, the fourth of the season, is the Wal-Mart Open scheduled for Beaver Lake near Rogers, Ark., April 5-8.