DECATUR, Ala. – "Oh, Tennessee River and a mountain man, we get together every time we can." The only difference between the chorus from Alabama's first hit single and the FLW Tour Open on Lake Wheeler is that the leading angler, Mark Rose does not live in the mountains. Otherwise, it's pretty accurate.
Entering the final round with 54 pounds, 8 ounces, the National pro from West Memphis, Ark. has dominated the event from day one, with successive leads of 3-7, 4-6 and 7-1. Although he's spent more time on other TVA lakes than he has on Wheeler, his vast experience on the Tennessee River system has allowed him to fish with comfort and confidence.
Rose is a deep water structure specialist and that's the game he's played for the past three days. Staring at his Lowrance HDS-10 screen and mentally calculating the various contour and depth data, he has put together a productive program involving reaction baits and slower presentations. Location is essential, and Rose said he intends to squeeze a final round of weight out of the same spots he's fished since the start.
"There's just a couple little key spots and I think I had one more free up on me," he said. "I'm going to go back out there and do what I've been doing. I've twisted on them pretty good so I don't know what's left out there, but we're sure going to find out."
Sunny skies will continue today, but winds should be lighter than yesterday's blustery conditions. Overnight temperatures were several degrees cooler than they've been all week, so anglers were bundled a little heavier this morning.
"I'm not sure what this really cool night is going to do to them, but there's only one way to find out. We're going to ride the one that got us here and milk it for all it's worth and hopefully get another five."
Alabama pro Blake Nick has trailed Rose in second place for three days. Starting today with 47-7, he'll return to the Wheeler Dam are, where he's finding a mix of conditions – baitfish, current and structure – that create a scenario of high potential. He'll throw a football head and work in a couple of other baits as needed.
"I'm just going to go and try to stay around some fish. Every day, I've come up the river about 10 a.m. and left the place where I've been catching fish. But today, I'm just going to sit there and try to stay around those 4-pounders and Lord willing, I'll put five in the boat."
Of the gap between second and first, Nick said: "Maybe Mark has a more difficult day, but he can catch 12 pounds and that's still a pretty decent day on this lake. It's not out of reach (for me), but it's like chasing down a tiger so it's going to be a little tough."
Chevy pro Luke Clausen sits just 8 ounces behind Nick in third place. He has turned in a string of consistent productivity with weights of 15-15, 15-14 and 15-2, but the former Forrest Wood Cup pro said he has yet to actually dial in a replicable pattern.
"It's like a day of practice every day for me," Clausen said. "I caught five fish on five different baits yesterday. I keep rigging up new rods every night. Hopefully, I'll figure something out that's a little more solid than what I've got going. I always have visions of grandeur that I'm going to get on something really strong and catch a 20-pound bag. Maybe today's the day, or maybe I'll catch 10 pounds.
"There is a chance (to catch Rose), but everybody knows it's pretty unlikely. He's the man here and he's probably going to catch at least 15 pounds. But there's a chance I can catch 22 pounds. I've caught four over 5 pounds since I've been here. If I get three of those in a day, with a couple of 4's to go with it, and Mark has 15, things get pretty tight."
Another player who could make things interesting is Missouri pro Shane Long, who improved from 17th to fifth on day two after catching a 17-pound, 4-ounce bag that included the tournament's heaviest bass – a 7-4. Yesterday, he bagged one nearly 5. Long starts the day in fourth place with 42-9, but if finds more of these quality fish today, he could move up in the final standings.
During FLW Tour competition, pros supply the boats, fish from the front deck against other pros and control boat movement. Co-anglers fish from the back deck and compete against other co-anglers. Anglers are permitted to weigh in their best five bass each day. Every angler who receives weight credit in a tournament earns points that determine angler standings. The full field competes on days one and two. After Friday’s day-two weigh-in, both the co-angler and pro fields will be cut to the top 20. On day three, the co-angler champion will be crowned based on the field’s three-day accumulated weight. Also on Saturday, the pro field will be cut down to the top 10 pros. The remaining pro field will then compete during Sunday’s final round of tournament action. The pro winner ultimately will be determined by the heaviest accumulated weight from all four days.
The tournament will feature a full field with top awards of up to $125,000 in the Pro Division and up to $25,000 in the Co-angler Division.
Tourney Expo and Logistics
In FLW Tour Open competition, anglers are also vying for valuable points in hopes of qualifying for the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup, the world championship of bass fishing. The 2013 Forrest Wood Cup will be in Shreveport, La., Aug. 15-18 on the Red River.
Sunday’s final weigh-ins will be held at the Walmart located at 2800 Spring Ave. SW in Decatur beginning at 4 p.m.
Fans will be treated to the FLW Outdoors Expo at the Walmart on Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. prior to the final weigh-ins. The Expo includes Ranger boat simulators, the opportunity to interact with professional anglers, enjoy interactive games, activities and giveaways provided by sponsors, and fans can learn more about the sport of fishing and other outdoor activities. All activities are free and open to the public.
Coverage of the Wheeler Lake tournament will be broadcast in high-definition (HD) on NBC Sports Network when “FLW” airs Oct. 28 from 1 to 2 p.m. ET. "FLW" is hosted by Jason Harper and is broadcast to more than 559 million households worldwide, making it the most widely distributed weekly outdoors-sports television show in the world.
For complete details and updated information visit FLWOutdoors.com. For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/FLWFishing and on Twitter atTwitter.com/FLWFishing.
Bass-fishing fans take note
Want to watch the weigh in live but can’t make it in person? Then tune into FLW Live on FLWOutdoors.com shortly before 2:30 p.m. Central Time to watch live streaming video and audio of today’s opening-round weigh in.
Daily on-the-water coverage will also be available online at FLWOutdoors.com.
Sunrise: 5:11 a.m.
Temperature at takeoff: 46 degrees
Expected high temperature: 74 degrees
Water temperature: 76-78 degrees
Wind: S-SW 1-3 mph
Humidity: 60 percent
Day’s outlook: Sunny