ROGERS, Ark. – When Ray Scheide of Dover, Ark., was declared the winner of the 2009 Walmart Open on Beaver Lake this afternoon, he looked more like he had just won a game show than a bass fishing tournament.
As he covered his mouth in disbelief, no one was more surprised than Scheide himself: It was a classic case of winning when it’s least expected.
“I’m shocked,” said a stunned Scheide after being named the $200,000 winner of the fourth Walmart FLW Tour event of 2009. “I had no idea it would end up this way.”
Perhaps Scheide’s disbelief came because he really had no idea what kind of fish he was on before the tournament began. In fact, the BP pro never even practiced the way he fished during the first two days of the tournament.
“Once the lake came up fast like that, I knew exactly what I was going to do in the tournament,” Scheide said. “And there was no need to even try it in practice.”
Essentially, Scheide’s tournament plan all along was to wait his turn to fish some of Beaver Lake’s more popular pockets in the Prairie Creek and midlake areas and then simply push farther back into the flooded, matted debris than all the others who had fished before him.
In one instance on day two of the tournament, Scheide saw two boats fishing in a pocket he wanted to fish. Twenty minutes later he came back by the pocket and noticed it was empty. So he pulled in the popular spot and idled all the way to a lay-down log that blocked off the back end of the pocket.
“I could tell every boat that had fished in there had turned around at that log because the debris behind the log was completely undisturbed,” he explained. “And there was still a lot of water behind that log, including a big green flooded tree. I used my Yamaha to jump that log and get back there where no one else had been. I ended up catching four keeper largemouths from the one tree in the back of the pocket.”
“You can’t practice for those kinds of fish,” Scheide grinned. “They just happen in the tournament. So I really had no idea what I was on.”
Scheide flew under the radar the first two days of the event, posting a limit weighing 11 pounds, 7 ounces on day one for 13th place and a limit weighing 10-9 on day two to qualify in seventh for the top-10 cut.
After jumping logjams the first two days of the tournament to find virgin water, Scheide used the last two days of the tournament to rely on his instincts to “just go fishing.”
“Once all the other boats were eliminated and we were down to just 10 boats, then I didn’t need to push myself back into those places,” Scheide explained. “I started fishing more obvious spots, but I knew with most of the field eliminated, there had not been five or six boats in front of me on some of those more high-percentage spots.”
On Sunday, Scheide focused his efforts on large flooded green trees that provided a big canopy of shade. His day-four winning limit of 12 pounds, 4 ounces included a solid 4-pounder, which sealed the victory. The surprise of that kicker fish is a vignette of Scheide’s whole week.
“I pitched my bait way into the heart of a flooded hardwood tree,” Scheide recalled of the winning fish. “I didn’t even see where my bait landed. But when it hit the water, I felt the line tighten from a bass bite. I set the hook and I could hear the fish thrashing around back there amid the branches and dark shade, but I could not see it at all. So I put the trolling motor on high and crashed into the interior of the tree, wrestling my way into the branches. When I got in there, I saw this big fish pinned up in the branches.
“Five times out 10, that fish would have come off. But today it stayed hooked up, and I got her in the boat.”
For most of the week, Scheide used a Berkley Chigger Craw in watermelon-candy color on a ½-ounce weight to punch the debris mats. Today, when fishing the deeper trees (some down to 8 feet) and wanting a larger-profile, he went to a bigger creature bait on a ¼-ounce weight.
“All week I relied on 15-pound-test Trilene 100% fluorocarbon to get those fish out of all that gnarly stuff and never broke off once,” he added. “I did have some fish pull off – which is going to happen the way I was fishing – but I never broke off.”
This is Scheide’s second FLW Tour win. His first came in 2004 at Lake Okeechobee.
Rose second, again
For Rose, it was déjà vu all over again: He finished second at Beaver Lake in 2006.
“How can you be upset at second place and $55,000?” said Rose, shaking off the disappointment. “I’m not going to be sorrowful about that. I know if I keep working hard, making cuts and honoring the Lord, I’m going to win one of these Tour events someday. I congratulate Ray on his win – he got the big bite when it mattered most. I got a big bite every day except today, and that’s why I ended up short.”
Each day of the event, Rose had a starting spot that allowed him to get a quick 8-pound limit on a wakebait by 8 a.m. Then he could comfortably go hunt a kicker fish by pitching a Strike King Rodent to flooded stuff.
“That plan pretty much worked for three days, but it kind of fell apart today,” Rose said. “The main thing that hurt me was I could not get that quick limit that I had been getting on top due to the wind this morning. I had to have calm conditions to make the wakebait work. And we had wind this morning. So I had to fish around the area with an 1/8-ounce Strike King shaky head until I got my limit. And when I finally did get a limit, it was much smaller and much later, leaving me little time to hunt a big fish.”
Kellogg’s pro Clark Wendlandt of Leander, Texas, aka Mr. Beaver Lake, made a hard charge for his third Walmart Open title today with a 14-pound, 12-ounce catch that left him less than 2 pounds from victory.
Instead, Wendlandt finished third with a two-day total of 19 pounds, 12 ounces worth $45,000.
Wendlandt located an on-again-off-again feeding table for largemouths up the lake that produced most of his weight. He fished the same spot all four days, but days one and three it produced only tiny fish, while on days two and four it produced the two biggest limits weighed in the tournament.
“I have no idea why those big ones were there one day and not the next,” said Wendlandt, who noted that he was only “slightly disappointed” in not being able to claim an unprecedented third Walmart Open crown. “I hardly ever bank my whole tournament on one spot, but, then again, I’ve never dealt with a spot as lethal as that one in terms of making you a hero one day and then leaving you high and dry the next.”
The Kellogg’s pro worked his flat, gravely sweet spot with a variety of crankbaits including an RC 1.5 and a hand-made shallow diver tied to 12-pound-test Trilene 100% fluorocarbon. Today he resorted to a Carolina-rigged creature bait to show the sweet spot a different presentation.
Christie brought in just three bass on the final day, falling short of his first FLW Tour victory by less than 3 pounds.
“I’m not too upset about it,” Christie said. “I came here and fished this tournament the way I wanted to fish it on my terms. If I had run off today and fished for spotted bass or something, I’d be unhappy with myself. But I fished the way I like to fish all four days, and I came up two fish short, so I can’t complain.”
Christie spent the week flipping flooded debris and bushes with a Yum tube and Wooly Hawg in the midlake area.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros in the 2009 Walmart Open on Beaver Lake:
6th: Jay Yelas of Corvallis, Ore., two-day total of 16 pounds, 4 ounces
7th: Gabe Bolivar of Ramona, Calif., two-day total of 16-1
8th: Glenn Browne of Ocala, Fla., two-day total of 13-10
9th: Rob Kilby of Hot Springs, Ark., two-day total of 13-6
10th: Brent Ehrler of Redlands, Calif., two-day total of 12-3