DECATUR, Ala. – Things were looking pretty shaky this week for Nick Loeffelman Jr. but that's just what the Missouri co-angler wanted and his plan paid off with a victory in the FLW Tour Open event on Wheeler Lake.
Every fish that Loeffelman weighed this week came on a 3/16-ounce Croc-O-Gator shaky head with a Zoom Magnum Trick Worm. Coming into day three in second place, he was admittedly nervous about his fellow top-5 competitors, but when all were weighed, Loeffelman had amassed a three-day total of 33 pounds, 7 ounces, with a winning margin of 5-5.
"I brought 12 rods, but I ended up using one rod all three days," he said. "I kept trying other things when it got tough, but the Croc-O-Gator is a good jig head. It has long hook shank and I think it helped me get some good hooksets.
"I worked the bait pretty fast this week and I think that could have helped. I worked it fast, but I kept it in the same place. I really didn't move it that much. I think I just aggravated the fish so much they thought 'If you aren't going to get out of here, I might as well eat you.'"
Loeffelman thanked his three pros Steve Kennedy, Jerry Lawler and Blake Nick. "They all gave me water to fish. I knew that if I just did my thing and catch the fish, I'd (finish well). I thought I needed at least a 5-fish limit," he said. "I got my limit by about 9:30 and it was a tough day. I don't think I caught another fish after that."
Loeffelman caught his fish on 12-pound Seaguar Fluorocarbon. He typically spools with 10-pound, but he figured he might need more strength in the depths he was fishing.
"I'm not much of a deep fisherman," he said. "Most of the fish were caught in 15-20 feet of water. I'm from Lake of the Ozarks and I fish a lot of docks on my home lake. I still use that same bait; it was just about 10 feet deeper (here).
Richard Peek, of Centre, Ala. placed fourth with 25-15. Peek posted his best score of the tournament, 12-2, in the final round and moved up 9 spots from 13th. Mark Horton, of Nicholasville, Ky. took fifth with 23-10.
Best of the rest
6th: Ben Todd, of Pierson, Fla., 23-0
7th: George Yund, of Albany, N.Y., 21-14
8th: Casey Martin, of New Market, Ala., 21-6
9th: Kevin Brumfield, of Madison, Miss., 20-6
10th: Philip Jarabeck, of Lynchburg, Va., 20-6