DECATUR, Ala. – Experience can certainly build confidence, but it's not an absolute requirement. Case in point: National Guard pro Mark Rose admits to having little of the former on Wheeler Lake, but he had plenty of the latter as he maintained his lead on day two of the FLW Tour Open event.
The pro from West Memphis, Ark. caught 21 pounds, 6 ounces on day one and took the top spot by a margin of 3-7 over Alabama pro Blake Nick. Today, Rose added 17-8 and widened his lead to 4-6 with a total weight of 38-14, as Nick also held his position.
"I'm fishing with a lot of confidence right now and I'm comfortable fishing on the Tennessee River, although I don't know as much about Wheeler as the ponds above and below it," Rose said. "I don't have the time on Wheeler, but it's on the Tennessee River and I'm very comfortable at it. I'm fishing my style and I like it."
"I like reading my Lowrance StructureScan and finding deep fish," he said. "I like cranking, I like throwing a big worm, I like throwing a big spoon, I like throwing a big swimbait and that’s the kind of stuff that I'm doing here.
"I am mixing it up a little bit and throwing a topwater bait and catching a couple of nice ones doing that. I've got a mixture going now and that gives you a lot of confidence knowing that you have a couple of things working."
Rose said he's mostly fishing deeper water, but whenever he encounters an appealing section of bank, he'll pull in and work his topwater. Shoreline cover is a key element he looks for, along with abundant forage.
"It's just random," Rose said. "I'll see a bank that I really like with some shade on it and I'll go throw a topwater bait on it. If I don't see many shad there, I won't stay long, but if I see a bunch of shad and the spot has a little shade, a lot of times, it has a big one there."
Rose said he's fishing about 15 miles from the launch site. He got about 8 keeper bites today with a small flurry coming mid-day.
"I never did get a couple of those big topwater bites I got yesterday," he said. "I was just scrounging around and it was just a good average day. I didn't catch a whole lot of fish. I just capitalized on the ones that did bite. I just have to thank the Lord."
Rose said he's not certain that his spots will hold up for two more days, so he's prepared to go looking for similar scenarios. He will, however, try to go the distance where he's fished the first two days.
"I'm going to try to milk these spots for all their worth," he said. "The locals have been very respectful and there are not a lot of fishermen in my areas so I look to continue having these areas all to myself."
Nick leans on his fish to hold at second
Alabama pro Blake Nick got off to a blazing start on day one, with a big limit of 17-5 in the first hour of fishing. Day two proved to be a tougher going, but he persevered and sacked up 16-6 to remain in second place with 34-8.
"I caught them in the same area, but it was a lot slower and you just had to grind it out," he said. "I went down yesterday and got my fish in about 30 minutes, but today it took me until about 10:30 to do it. The fish are still there, but this place is day-to-day."
Nick said he left his fish alone after getting his day-one limit, but today he made sure he had a good sack before running back up the lake. "I knew Mark was going to catch 'em so I figured I'd be cutting myself short if I caught 13 pounds and got out of three."
On day one, Nick caught fish deep and shallow, but today the shoreline bite went away for him. He didn't divulge details on what he's throwing, but Nick did say that the fish are receptive to a diverse assortment of baits.
"I'm doing a little bit of everything and just mixing it up," he said. "You can catch them on whatever (you want)."
Nick is catching his fish down around the Guntersville Dam. He said he believes he can depend on this area at least for limits the next two days.
Consistent Clausen remains at third
Chevy pro Luke Clausen had a trio of chunky largemouths, but he couldn't cull out a pair of smaller fish on day two. Still, the pro from Spokane, Wash. nearly mirrored his day-one weight of 15-15 with today's limit catch of 15-14 and held steady at the third-place spot with 31-13.
"I got three of the right bites, but I still weighed in two little ones," Clausen said. "It's frustrating to see that happen when you have such a good start. If I could have caught a couple of 3-pounders to replace those little ones, I'd have 19 pounds. Hopefully, if I can get those bites tomorrow, along with a few others we'll see how it goes."
Clausen caught his bigger fish cranking, flipping and on a topwater. Yesterday, he reported having 20 rods on his deck. Today he joked about paring that pile down to a slimmer 15.
"I threw a little bit of everything," he said. "I'm just chunking and winding and hoping. I just tried to cover a lot of water, but what was disappointing was that a lot of areas I caught fish out of yesterday, I didn't catch any today. It was a good deal to catch those big ones to make up for it and make me realize that I have to keep moving."
Williamson switches up, improves to fourth
Michael Williamson, of Fort Smith, Ark. found a decent flipping bite on day one, but when that action fizzled on day two, he adjusted his tactics, sacked up a big limit and moved up from 14th place to fourth. Today's weight of 17-10 added to 12-10 from day one gave him a total weight of 30-4.
"The fish had moved away from the bank, out to deeper water in the lily pads," Williamson said. "They went from about 10 inches to two feet. I caught everything against the bank yesterday and today, it looked like (the TVA) dropped the water about four inches."
Williamson, whose catch included a largemouth that went 5-11, caught his fish on a black/yellow Spro popping frog and a watermelon/blue flake Senko on a Buckeye shaky head. The latter produced his big fish.
Lunker lifts Long to fifth
Missouri pro Shane Long caught a sure enough day-maker that weighed 7 pounds, 4 ounces and filled out a limit catch of 17-4. His day-two effort boosted his total to 29-6 and lifted him 12 spots from 17th to fifth.
A jig specialist, Long found no success with the heavy bait, so he lightened up and caught all of his fish on a dropshot. A 6-inch Lucky Strike finesse worm in green pumpkin and pink colors tempted all of his day-two fish.
"I did well here once before and it was all structure fishing with a jig, but I can't get these fish to each a jig (this week)," Long said. "I just put that dropshot down there and went to catching some fish and stuck with it all day."
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top-10 pro leaders at the FLW Tour Open event on Wheeler Lake:
6th: Brett Hite, of Phoenix, Ariz., 28-7
7th: Corey Saint, of Lexington, Ala., 28-1
8th: Russell Lane, of Prattville, Ala., 27-2
9th: Chad Grigsby, of Maple Grove, Minn., 27-1
10th: Jerry Lawler, of Athens, Ala., 26-14
Morning flurry puts Todd atop co-angler field
With the most consistent performance in the co-angler division, Ben Todd gained two spots and took over the lead on day two. In the opening round, the Pierson, Fla. co-angler caught 10-14 and today's weight of 10-15 gave him 21-13 and a slim 4-ounce lead over second-place Nick Loeffleman Jr., of Valles Mines, Mo., who has 21-9.
Todd caught a couple of his day-one fish on a crankbait and a shaky head, but all of his day-two catch came on a Carolina rig. With a 3/8-ounce weight and a two-foot leader, he baited his rig with a green pumpkin Zoom Brush Hog.
"That's my confidence bait," Todd said of the C-rig. "I spent a lot of time yesterday and I wasn't catching any fish. I was going through lots of baits and I finally got to that Brush Hog and I started catching fish. I never put it down."
Todd caught his day-two fish in about six feet of water. He caught a total of six keepers, with five of them coming during a hot period between 9 and 10:30 a.m.
Jonathan Henry, of Grant, Ala. took third with 20-13. Hiroyuki Watanabe, of Shizuoka, Japan raced up the board from 37th place to fourth with a limit of 15-4, which included the co-angler division's Big Bass – 4-pound, 2-ounce largemouth – and gave him a total weight of 18-8. Day-one leader Casey Martin, of New Markett, Ala. was fifth at 16-1.
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top-10 co-angler leaders at the FLW Tour Open event on Wheeler Lake:
6th: Alan Hults, of Gauthier, Ms., 15-15
7th: Theo Corcoran, of Kansas City, Mo., 15-10
8th: George Yund, of Albany, N.Y., 15-1
9th: Mark Horton, of Nicholasville, Ky., 14-11
10th: Kevin Brumfield, of Madison, Miss., 14-10
Day three of the FLW Tour Open event on Wheeler Lake continues at Saturday’s takeoff, scheduled to take place at 6:30 a.m. (Central) at Ingalls Harbor located at 802 Wilson St. in Decatur.