GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. – Coming into the FLW Tour finale on Lake Guntersville, pro Brent Long had had a difficult 2010 season. In fact, his highest finish to date was an 80th-place showing on the Fort Loudoun-Tellico lakes. But with each Guntersville brute he boats, he slowly erases those bad memories. And in the process, he’s learning to love deep ledge fishing.
Admittedly a shallow-water angler, Long arrived in northern Alabama knowing that he at least needed to try fishing deep. After all, that’s where summertime tournaments are traditionally won. After averaging approximately 20 pounds per day in practice, Long was steadily gathering confidence. He whacked 25 pounds, 11 ounces on day one and followed that performance up with another 25-8 today.
Long had some unexpected company on his best spot this morning. After catching quick a limit on an underwater point, he runs to a specific hump for upgrades. But today he couldn’t get on it right away. He anxiously lingered nearby and in a few hours it was his turn.
“I get a limit every morning worm (Zoom Ole Monster) fishing. Yesterday I had that limit in 6 casts; today it took me an hour. And even when I got to fish my best stuff it wasn’t fast and furious. I only caught eight keepers there for a total of 13 on the day.”
This hump Long fishes is located at the mouth of a creek. It’s horseshoe-shaped and approximately 100 yards long. If possible, he prefers to work the deep side of it.
“It’s next to a river ledge and it’s loaded with big fish. Tomorrow I’m boat No. 2 so I’m going straight there and I plan to fish it all day. I know that if I leave it, someone else will get on it.”
Like yesterday, all of his five worm fish were eventually culled. One of his weigh fish came on a Norman DD22 crankbait, one on a hand-tied (Ernest Langley) 3/4-ounce football head jig with a Zoom Fat Albert Twin-Tail grub and the rest on a Strike King Shadalicious swimbait.
Just like Long, pro Mark Rose wasn’t able to get on his best deep-water spot. But he was able to scramble around and cobble together another hefty limit (24-8).
“It was just kind of a fish or two here and there,” said Rose, who has a two-day total of 49-15.
The Marion, Ark., pro said he sampled 12 different areas altogether, but only three of them have real quality. He described his pattern as “basic old ledge fishing.” But in reality it’s anything but. Over the past five years Rose has become infatuated with the deep ledge bite – analyzing every piece of shell and rock he can find. This week on Guntersville, he’s trying to make precise casts to the deepest sides of the ledge corners. He starts with a Strike King 6XD rattling crankbait and he follows up with the same 6XD only in the Silent model. He says the two baits are great for quality, but not so much for quantity.
“My partners are catching way more fish than I am. And that’s frustrating because I like catching fish as much as the next guy. But this bait is absolutely the key to getting the bigger bites so I’m going to continue to take my chances with it.”
Moynagh rises to third
Like Rose, pro Jim Moynagh has become obsessed with the ledge game. Despite living in the Twin Cities, Moynagh has a TVA track record that will make even a Tennessee River rat blush. Although he’s never been to Guntersville in the summer, he’s quickly learning that its ledges aren’t all that different than Kentucky’s or Pickwick’s. After catching 23-3 yesterday, he brought in 21-3 today for a total of 44 pounds, 6 ounces.
“I fished the exact same way I did yesterday,” Moynagh said. “I used a 3/4-ounce All-Terrain Tackle jig all day. The only difference was that some of the places that weren’t firing yesterday produced better today. And some of the better ones yesterday didn’t produce today. To fish these ledges effectively, you have to have quality electronics and my Vexilar Edge 3 is top notch.”
Moynagh fishes his jig close to the break if not on it. He usually casts to the shelf and drags down. But if it’s a certain stretch he has a lot of confidence in, he’ll reverse that and fish it deep to shallow.
“We’re halfway in, so my chances are way better than they were two days ago. But I don’t feel like I’m in a great position because I don’t have that many spots. What do I do if they’re all taken up?”
Keith Combs never got what he calls a “big bite” but he still managed to bring in a 21-pound, 12-ounce limit Thursday. Combs’ five keepers were all book-end 4 1/2 pounders. At the halfway point in the tournament, his total weight sits at 44 pounds, 1 ounce.
“It was slow this morning; in fact it was pretty much just one here and one there all day,” said the Del Rio, Texas, native.
Combs is fishing points and ledges with a variety of lures. He positions his boat in approximately 25 feet of water and casts to about 10. Each area he hits has a few sweet spots and if you can hit them just right, they are almost guaranteed to produce.
“These places have shells and hard bottoms. But there is something key down there. I don’t know if it’s a stump or a rock, but when you hit it hold on because you’re about to get a bite.”
Combs cranks a Strike King 6XD Silent Stalker when he first arrives on an area. Then he cleans up with a 3/4-ounce Oldham’s jig. He also mixes in a new prototype bait from Power Tackle called a Lateral Perch. Combs didn’t want to go into detail about this new bait, but he did say it fishes like a jig.
“I’ve got a short day tomorrow and that worries me because I haven’t had any good mornings. It would be awesome to make the finals and fish with just five boats.”
AOY all but Thrift’s
With a 21-point lead, Bryan Thrift was in good position to win Angler of the Year heading into the Lake Guntersville event. He was in even better position after catching 22 pounds, 1 ounce on day one. After catching 21-2 on day two, Angler of the Year appears to be nothing more than a formality. So much for the drama we experienced each of the past two years.
While many of the pros are jockeying for position on main-river ledges, Thrift is fishing the bend of a creek-channel ledge. And so far, he hasn’t seen another competitor come anywhere close to him.
“I started the day cranking, then I backed off and threw a jig,” said the Damiki pro. “Later in the day I caught some on a frog and some on a new Damiki Mega Miki worm.”
Thrift claims he hasn’t shifted his mindset from AOY to winning the tournament. In fact, he’s not thinking about either.
“I don’t really think about stuff like that. I just want to catch five of the biggest ones I can tomorrow. If that gets me AOY great. If that’s enough to make the cut than even better.”
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros on day two at Lake Guntersville:
6th: Jason Reyes of Huffman, Texas, 41-9
7th: David Walker of Sevierville, Tenn., 41-8
8th: Luke Clausen of Gainesville, Ga., 41-5
9th: Jay Yelas of Corvallis, Ore., 41-2
10th: Jimmy Houston of Cookson, Okla., 40-15
Jacobs worms his way to co-angler lead
Co-angler John Jacobs has never won an FLW Tour event and he’s entered plenty of them over the years. But after catching limits of 20-5 and 19-4, he’s in the driver’s seat with only one day left and a 3-pound, 9-ounce lead.
The Birmingham, Ala., native fished river ledges with Mark Rose yesterday and flats with Mark Hardin today. The bite started slowly this morning but got better as it went on. With 20 minutes left, he caught a hefty 5-pounder, his biggest bass of the day. Jacobs said most of his fish are coming on big worms.
“I’m almost 73 years old, so you better believe I want to win one,” he said. “Not just for the money but for the prestige of it all. That being said, I’m just going to relax and fish. When you think about it too much you lose your focus and miss bites.”
Also in Jacobs’ favor is the fact that his partner tomorrow is Thrift, the hottest pro on the planet.
Rest of the best
Rising to second place for the co-anglers was Berea, Ky., native Mike Devere, brother of FLW Tour pro John Devere. Mike caught a limit today worth 20 pounds, 3 ounces, bringing his two-day total to 36 pounds even.
“I’m a jig fisherman and I caught all of them today on a 1/2-ounce Cumberland Pro football-head. For a trailer, I used a Zoom Big Salty Chunk.”
Devere had no fish at 11 a.m. He then changed areas and within an hour he had his limit. From noon to check-in, he culled and handful of times.
In third was Moo Bae of West Friendship, Md., with 34 pounds, 9 ounces. Bae registered 21-5 Thursday, the heaviest stringer of the tournament thus far among the co-anglers.
Bae employed jigs and worms and said the bigger they were, the better they worked.
Slipping one spot to fourth was Chad Hillis of McMinnville, Tenn. After catching 19-4 yesterday, Hillis managed 15 even today.
With a two-day total of 33 pounds, 14 ounces, Chuck Bellerby III finished the day in fifth place.
Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers on day two at Lake Guntersville:
6th: Keith Honeycutt of Temple, Texas, 33-2
7th: Van Roy Foster Jr. of Dalton, Ga., 32-0
8th: Adam Lock of Metropolis, Ill., 31-15
9th: Eric Schultz of Minnetonka, Minn., 31-9
10th: Billy Brindle of Calhoun, Ga., 31-9
Day three of the FLW Tour event on Lake Guntersville will begin Friday at 6 a.m. at the Lake Guntersville Resort State Park located at 7966 Alabama Hwy. 227 in Guntersville, Ala. The first flight checks in at 1:30 p.m., but because of the hot weather, anglers can weigh their fish as early as noon.