ROGERS, Ark. – This week, the FLW Tour stop on Beaver Lake in northwest Arkansas proved that the fishery has come a long way over the past decade or so. Healthy stringers featured all three bass species present in Beaver throughout the event. Prespawn bass and the Alabama rig ultimately became the ticket for many anglers this week, including Rayovac pro Jason Christie who sealed the deal today to capture his second FLW Tour win.
Christie's first day of competition started out fairly slowly as he fished for smallmouths. As such, he knew something had to change on the second day.
“On the second day of the tournament I went to the river in the dirty water to fish where I was comfortable,” said Christie. “I went to a bank where I caught a good fish in practice and just kept fishing down it. I eventually came to a point with some rock on it next to the river channel and had a 6-pounder on my first cast there. I just kept catching fish straight for the next 30 minutes. After that, I knew from history some other areas that set up the same.”
Christie was concerned he put too much pressure on his fish during day two since he was trying to make up for lost ground from day one. He quickly put those worries to rest when he hauled in 20-4 on day three to jump into the lead.
“The second and third day I noticed that every fish I caught was pure white in the river. That told me those fish were fresh and had just come from deeper water. I was focusing on staging areas for those fish to stack up in before the spawn. A lot of the places I fished had a channel swing next to or nearby them and had little knobs that stuck out towards them. I usually fished these areas in about 4 to 7 feet of water.”
Today, Chrisite couldn’t get bit from the two main schools of fish he located earlier in the week. So he just kept running new water trying to locate the same staging areas that were holding fish. Every fish he caught today came from some place that he had not fished on any other day of the event.
A Booyah jig and Bomber 6A crankbait played a small role for Christie this week, but a Yum Yumbrella Flash Mob Jr. with willow blades was the heavy hitter. According to Christie, around 90 percent of his fish came on the Flash Mob Jr., however, he did catch a few fish on the non-bladed version. He tossed the rig on 20-pound Silver Thread fluorocarbon with a 7-foot, 6-inch Mike McClelland series Falcon rod. His rig featured 3/16-ounce Yum Money Head jigs with whatever swimbaits he could find. He said that the umbrella craze around Rogers had all of the bait shops sold out of swimbaits so he used whatever he could scrounge up. One key on his swimbaits was to have darker colors so they would stand out in the dirty water of the White River.
This victory gave the Rayovac pro a little redemption from the FLW Tour event on Beaver back in 2009 when he held the lead going into the final day, but couldn’t catch a limit and slipped to fourth place.
“I owed Beaver Lake one. Not catching a limit on that final day in 2009 stung. So this feels good. But if you would have asked me in practice if I would win, I would have said, 'No way.' It always seems like you win when you least expect it."
Though his weight slipped some on this final day, Christie’s 14-1 catch gave him a total weight for the event of 61-8 – surpassing Dudley’s winning weight from last year by over 7 pounds. It also turned out to be the heaviest winning weight on Beaver Lake in FLW Tour history. With numerous wins on Grand Lake in Oklahoma, a victory on Lake of the Ozarks and now Beaver, Christie boasts a hat trick of wins from Ozark lakes. Christie also cashed a check for $126,500 for his four days of work on Beaver Lake.
“My girls are the reason I go fishing. I go fishing so that I can support them. I enjoy it, and there is not a day that I go fishing that I take for granted.”
Murphy up to second
Shawn Murphy of Nicholasville, Ky., was able to make it through a good portion of the tournament before he switched over to an umbrella rig. Murphy threw a Wiggle Wart early in the week but noticed that bite died when some of his water dirtied up. As he promised yesterday, Murphy had two rods on the deck today – both with homemade Alabama rigs – using them to catch 14-1 and ending with a four-day total weight of 58 pounds, 3 ounces.
“I used a homemade A-rig the last two days and it’s a load to throw,” said the 2011 Walmart FLW Tour Rookie of the Year. “The rig has nine or 10 baits on it and my back is plum worn out from throwing that thing.
“I do think that the bigger school of bait the rig mimics entices a few more bites, but it sure is a mess when you catch a fish on it," Murphy continued. "It takes like 20 minutes to get it untangled from the dip net.”
Murphy focused his attention this week from about 3 miles around Prairie Creek to Indian Creek. He mentioned that he would often make stops along the way to fish main-lake bluff banks with wind blowing on them. Clear water and docks also made up a vital role in his pattern this week.
The homemade A-rig featured 3/32- or 1/16-ounce jigheads. It made no difference to Murphy as to which he used; it was more a matter of what he could get to quickest. He used 3.8-inch Keitech Fat Swing Impact swimbaits in Bluegill Flash and Silver Flash Minnow. Murphy also pre-rigged a lot of his swimbaits on the head so that they were glued and ready to go.
The Kentucky resident earned himself a check for $35,000 with his second-place finish.
Gagliardi rallies to third
One of the few anglers who played the smallmouth game this week was Anthony Gagliardi. He stayed true to that pattern this week without throwing much of the A-rig at all. The Chevy pro did catch two key fish on the rig today in the last 10 minutes, upgrading him to a 15-pound, 8-ounce total for the day and moving his cumulative weight up to 57-1.
“I bounced back and forth between my smallmouth places and pockets with largemouth where I could cast an Alabama rig today,” said Gagliardi, a Prosperity, S.C., resident. “I only caught seven keepers today. Two of those came at the very end of the day when I ran back near Prairie Creek to some dirtier water and caught my 5-pounder.”
Gagliardi noticed that the further towards the dam he went, the smaller the smallmouth got for him. As a result, he elected to fish between the Starkey Marine area and Rambo Creek to find the larger smallies.
“I was pretty surprised today when I found a largemouth on bed. I went up shallow just to look around a bit and there was one sitting on bed. That was the only fish I caught off bed, but it was just so windy I couldn’t stick with it today.”
The main key for the Chevy pro this week was using 5- to 6-pound test Gamma fluorocarbon line. His smallmouth areas received a ton of pressure, yet he still was able to get quality bites. When it was calm enough to fish finesse, Gagliardi would throw a Buckeye Spot Remover jig with a finesse worm to coax his fish into biting. Another tactic he employed was using a 3-inch paddle-tail grub on a jig. He said that was very vital to his catch ratio by having that open hook on the jig.
A hefty $30,000 check was awarded to Gagliardi for his efforts this week.
Barry Wilson of Birmingham, Ala., initially started his week off with the plan to crank deep and fish shallow. But when both of those didn’t take off on the first day, he started to throw the Alabama rig. The rig helped produce 16-11 for him on the first day and a nearly identical catch of 16-5 today. With 56 pounds, 4 ounces for a four-day total weight, Wilson locked in the fourth-place spot and landed $25,000 in tournament winnings.
Wilson stuck to the dirty water in the river this week. He relied on a Strike King KVD 1.5 crankbait, a Strike King 6XD and a Strike King Hack Attack jig tipped with a Tightlines UV Chunk – green pumpkin in color – to produce some fish for him in this tournament.
“I really think that one of the biggest keys for me was when I threw that Hack Attack jig this week,” said Wilson. “I tipped it with that UV Chunk and died the claws chartreuse. That trailer was something these fish weren’t used to seeing and I know it helped me get bit.”
The Tightlines UV pro took an interesting approach to fishing his umbrella rig this week.
“Sometimes I would pitch my rig up to the bank, let it sink and then slowly reel it back in popping it occasionally. Other times when I came across blow-downs I would cast at them and reel the rig all the way to the end of the blow-down and kill the bait. Usually when the bait would sink I’d get bit. Otherwise, I would pop it up and they would eat it. It was pretty fun and kind of like flipping.”
To help make the bait visible in the dirty water Wilson used 3 ½-inch Strike King Shadalicious swimbaits – Ayu in color – with a 3-inch chartreuse grub in the middle of the rig.
Another angler who got in on the smallmouth pattern in practice was Folgers pro Scott Suggs. He went with more classic methods of catching his fish this week. Suggs brought 17-9 to the arena on day three which included some chunky smallmouth, but couldn’t quite find that same size today. He ended his week with a four-day total weight of 55-5 and a check for $20,000.
“I caught some spots today where I had been catching my smallies today,” said the Bryant, Ark., native. “I think the high pressure hurt my smallmouth fishing. I had three places I could run every morning with a jerkbait and if I got bit I knew they would eat it other places. I tried that today but it was calm in the morning so I threw a drop-shot. On about my eighth cast, I caught my big largemouth for the day.”
Suggs had a plethora of baits at his disposal this week. From Vision 110’s to Wiggle Warts to football jigs tipped with a Berkley Havoc Rocket Craw, Suggs was ready to fish any situation he came across. No matter what presentation he used, Suggs threw everything on Berkley 100-percent fluorocarbon in the entire event.
After watching his co-angler miss three big smallies on a drop-shot yesterday Suggs decided to tie one on for the final day.
“I made my mind up pretty quickly last night that I would try a drop-shot today. The lake right now has an algae deal going on so I would be constantly be picking slim off of my football jig or shaky head. With that drop-shot it saved me time and kept the bait in the strike zone.”
His drop-shot produced three of the five bass that he weighed in on day four.
Suggs kept a lot of his attention to the Rocky Branch and Indian Creek portions of the lake in this derby.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros at the FLW Tour event on Beaver Lake:
6th: Mark Rose of West Memphis, Ark., 53-5, $17,000
7th: Brandon Coulter of Knoxville, Tenn., 52-14, $16,000
8th: Koby Kreiger of Okeechobee, Fla., 52-13, $15,000
9th: Stacey King of Reeds Spring, Mo., 49-15, $14,000
10th: Jim Dillard of West Monroe, La., 46-6, $13,000
The next FLW Tour event is set for Lake Eufaula in Eufaula, Ala., May 16-19, the fourth of six qualifiers.