As bass-fishing fans know, the pros on the Walmart FLW Tour are some of the most accomplished anglers in the world. For the most part, they literally can be dropped from a helicopter onto a lake they’ve never even seen before and find a tremendous amount of success. However, that doesn’t mean that these pros are impervious to the occasional stumble on certain, select bodies of water. In fact, FLWOutdoors.com contacted many of the top pros in an attempt to ascertain which lakes, reservoirs and rivers gave them the most trouble over the years. What follows is an excerpt from interviews on this very topic. While some of the responses were not entirely unexpected, others were downright surprising. And for recreational anglers everywhere, it’s also nice to know that sometimes, even the best pros in the industry can still leave the marina scratching their heads – wondering just what went wrong.
Pros take center stage, come clean on struggles
Larry Nixon: One lake that always frustrates me to no end is Beaver Lake in Arkansas. I have no idea why I struggle there because I love the lake and it suits my style of fishing. I just really don’t know why I don’t do well there – it baffles me. That lake has been a thorn in my side every year no matter how much I pre-fish. For whatever reason, I just don’t do well in tournaments on that lake.
Scott Martin: For me, it used to be Beaver Lake. It was the toughest lake for me to get dialed in on mostly because of the choices you have to make regarding which species to target. There are just so many options to fish with that lake and, in the past, I had a difficult time staying focused. But recently, I’ve been getting better there and have gotten checks in the last few events so I can’t say that lake it my Achilles Heel anymore.
Now, my all-time nemesis is my namesake lake, Lake Martin in Alabama. When I see that lake on the schedule I get a crazy, sick feeling. I’ve fished a bunch of tournaments there over the years but it doesn’t seem to matter. Lake Martin is a strange one because I’ll absolutely kill it in practice. But once the tournament starts, I can’t seem to figure it out. And I think it has to do with the pressure. I do well in practice but once the tournament starts and pressure is applied to that lake, I start having a hard time managing my decisions. I have a hard time making the adjustments you need to make. And that’s really what I need to work on. It all goes back to confidence. When you have it, things happen. But yeah, please don’t put Lake Martin back on the schedule.
Clark Wendlandt: Yeah, I’ve got one – Lake Hartwell. We fished it the last two years and both times I pretty well struggled on that lake. The problem for me is that that the primary (forage) on that lake is (blueback) herring and not shad. And people who fish around herring a lot more than I do have a much better understanding of how to fish Hartwell. Herring lakes fish just a little bit differently. In my opinion, herring make the bass react more like saltwater fish; and there’s nothing good about that. Now, I’ve had some success on herring lakes in the past, but for whatever reason, the combination of herring and Lake Hartwell has really got my number. I try not to be too negative about it because that’s the kiss of death. But whenever I see a herring lake on the schedule, I get a little bit leery.
Brent Ehrler: For sure it’s Lake Okeechobee. In fact, it can even be broadened out to the entire state of Florida. I’ve now been to Florida five or six times and have never cashed a check. As far as the reason, I kind of think that I fish too fast there. Also, I don’t seem to be able to figure out which areas are really good and which ones aren’t. I keep fishing spots that I think are good but they don’t turn out that way during the tournament. I’ll go to an area during the tournament and think this is going to be a really good area, the place where everything is going to go down, but it doesn’t pan out that way. So I think I need to do a better job deciphering the good areas from the bad ones. I’m also going to try and slow down even more than I have been. It’s frustrating because I’ll be fishing areas where guys are catching them, but I never seem to have much success there myself.
David Dudley: I used to have lakes like that but now I just say, “Bring it on.” I guess for me, my toughest lake used to be Lake Martin, or any lake with Martin in it. But I’ve learned so much over the years and I’m definitely a more well-rounded fisherman now so I don’t care where I go. Put it this way, I don’t have any lake I hate going to anymore. I feel comfortable wherever I go. A few years ago, I wasn’t as good of a finesse fisherman as I am now. I also used to hate going to jerkbait lakes, but that’s not the case anymore. But if I have to say one thing, it’s that Lake Sinclair is probably the stupidest lake to fish on. And the reason is that you have to go fishing to find them. It’s a hard lake to graph. It’s hard to practice on and to catch them. It’s tough to narrow down areas quickly because you really can’t graph the fish – it’s kind of like Okeechobee that way. So it’s a tough lake. But honestly, I don’t have one lake that really has my number.
Randall Tharp: Of all the lakes we go to on Tour, I’d have to say Lake Champlain. The funny thing is that it really suits my fishing style but I’ve never had a good tournament there. I just continue to have a hard time there and I don’t know why. I’ve been to three (major) events on Lake Champlain and the only time I cashed a check was when I went fishing for smallmouth – which is something I usually don’t do. But every time I fish for largemouth, I don’t do well. In fact, the last time we went to Champlain I had one of the best practices of the entire year. And I didn’t even get a check – which was one of only two checks I missed all year – so it was really frustrating. It’s just funny how things happen out there for me.
As for the reasons, a guess part of it is that Lake Champlain is a lot different from anything I grew up fishing. Also, Champlain is a vast body of water and I like to run down to the Ticonderoga River to fish for largemouth. It’s really my style of fishing and everything just looks right down there. But the problem is that you have to make a long run to get there. And because of that, you wind up with only about four hours of actual fishing time instead of the usual eight hours you get on most tournament lakes. So if you make a mistake and make the wrong decisions, it really gets magnified. I’m just glad we’re not going there next year. But when we go back there, I’m honestly not sure I’d do anything differently.
Bryan Thrift: I’m going to say any river. If it’s got a river in its name, I hate it. For me, river fishing is stupid. On rivers, everyone is fishing the same stuff, the obvious stuff and it winds up being a merry-go-round. You really can’t separate yourself when you’re river fishing because everyone is doing the exact same thing. It doesn’t matter where you go; you just pull up to a place and start fishing and you have just as good of a chance as anyone else. That’s why I hate it.
Jay Yelas: My Achilles Heel has always been Lake Wheeler in Alabama. And I really don’t know why that is. But it’s been that way for 20 years for me. I try different approaches every time I go there, but it never seems to work. I’ve never quite gotten in a groove there and I’ve never even had a good practice on it.
I guess I just don’t like the lake or the way it lays out. It really doesn’t suit my style of fishing. It’s like I have a mental block and I never seem to have the right angle on how to approach it. The lake fishes kind of small. But for the most part, it’s a simple lake to fish. And when I hear what the (winning strategies) are each time, I’m like, “duh.” I’ve done well on all of the other lakes on the Tennessee River system – everything except that darn Lake Wheeler. It’s kind of my old nemesis.