ROGERS, Ark. – Five years ago, if you had told Andy Morgan of Dayton, Tenn., that his first FLW Tour win would come on Beaver Lake with a spinning rod in his hand, he would have laughed in your face.
Truth is, five years ago, Andy Morgan did not even own a spinning rod – or “fairy wand” as he called it – and he abhorred Beaver Lake’s crystal-clear waters and dinky spotted-bass game.
After collecting $200,000 for his first FLW Tour win at the Wal-Mart Open on Sunday afternoon, Morgan has a little different attitude about Beaver Lake, shaky heads, dinky spotted bass and fairy wands.
The Duracell pro started 2 pounds, 7 ounces behind red-hot pro Jay Yelas this morning, and when Yelas’ “magic dock” dried up, Morgan grinded past him with a five-bass limit weighing 8 pounds, giving him the win by a margin of 1 pound, 10 ounces.
This marked Morgan’s 11th top-10 on the FLW Tour.
“I’m glad to finally get the monkey off my back!” Morgan announced after receiving his first FLW Tour trophy.
“This win is really the result of making a concerted effort to become more versatile over the last two years,” Morgan explained. “I grew up with a flipping stick and 25-pound-test, running up rivers and fishing for largemouth. But that kind of fishing will only get you so far.
“Two years ago I bought a bunch of spinning tackle and really worked on the finesse end of this sport, because you can’t survive out on the pro tours without doing it.”
And as for Beaver Lake: “I used to hate it. It’s been my nemesis for years on this tour. It took me seven years to learn to never go under that Highway 12 Bridge (up the river). Trying to catch largemouths up there on power tackle is like chasing a mirage.
“So to come to Beaver and win my first FLW Tour event on a shaky head with a spinning rod is like some form of poetic justice,” he laughed.
And that’s exactly how Morgan caught his bass this week. Though he did catch a few schooling bass over the four days, today he settled down and relied on what he has spent two years perfecting: the shaky head.
“I caught two on a Tiny ‘E’ swimbait and the rest on a 1/8-ounce War Eagle shaky head with a Zoom watermelon-candy finesse worm,” Morgan said. “I used my favorite set-up: 10-pound-test Spiderwire stealth braid tied to a leader of 8-pound-test Vanish fluorocarbon on a G. Loomis 822 spinning rod.”
Morgan fished around Prairie Creek most of the week to catch a two-day winning total of 17 pounds, 6 ounces.
Yelas’ hot spot dries up
After taking the lead on day two of the Wal-Mart Open, Jay Yelas of Tyler, Texas, uttered some very prophetic words.
“There was enough bass for Andy Montgomery and I to make the top 10 on that schooling hole, but I’m afraid neither one of us can win it by splitting those fish up.”
“Over the course of the tournament, between Andy and I and our co-anglers, we caught 40 keeper bass off that dock,” Yelas said. “I knew it would eventually give out, but I thought I would at least catch one or two there this morning – never did.”
By day’s end, Yelas ended up with just three keepers, leaving him in second place with 15 pounds, 12 ounces.
“If you would have told me last night that I could not catch at least one keeper off that dock, I would not have believed it,” Yelas lamented.
On the bright side, Yelas collected $75,000 and now leads the Land O’Lakes Angler of the Year points race with 716 points, just seven points over none other than Andy Morgan, who is in second.
Catching the biggest limit of day four was local angler J.R. Beehler of Bella Vista, Ark., who weighed in five bass for 9 pounds, 4 ounces to give him a two-day total of 14 pounds, 14 ounces for third place, worth $50,000.
Beehler utilized his deep local knowledge of Beaver Lake this week to catch his fish.
“I was fishing big trees on the edge of the main river channel,” he explained. “The trees top out in about 35 feet of water, and the fish sit right over top of them.”
To access the fish, Beehler relied on a Mizmo tube and a Kinami single-tail grub, both rigged on a 1/4-ounce jighead and tied to 6-pound-test line.
“When the fish are really feeding, they’ll suspend over top of the trees, and I can count a grub down and they’ll eat it on the fall,” he said. “When they’re not feeding, they get in the middle of the trees, and I have to send a drop-shot down there to catch them. But so many times they’ll hang you up in the tree when you get a good one on, which happened to me several times this week.”
Powroznik used a Tru-Tungsten shaky head to make the top 10, but once he got into the finals, he shifted his focus to schooling fish around Rocky Branch Marina.
“For the schooling fish, I was using a Lake Fork Magic Shad swimbait, a Fluke and a Basstrix swimbait,” Powroznik said. “A lot of fish were just slashing at the swimbaits, so I rigged up a stinger treble hook to hang off the back that caught a lot of the slashers.
“Also, when the fish would come up and just follow the swimbaits, I’d suddenly start burning the bait, and that provoked them to slash at it.”
Rounding out the top five was Andy Montgomery of Blacksburg, S.C., who finished fifth with a two-day total of 12 pounds, 3 ounces, worth $30,000.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros in the Wal-Mart Open:
6th: Chad Morgenthaler of Coulterville, Ill., two-day total of 12-3, $29,000
7th: Glenn Browne of Ocala, Fla., 11-8, $28,000
8th: Ray Scheide of Russellville, Ark., 11-8, $27,000
9th: Dwayne Horton of Knoxville, Tenn., 6-5, $26,000
10th: Alfred Williams of Jackson, Miss., 5-8, $25,000
The next event on the FLW Tour will be stop No. 5 at the Potomac River June 14-17.