With the Walmart FLW Tour season just a week away, FLWOutdoors.com takes a closer look at the venues that will play host to the top bass anglers in the world. The 2013 schedule features six qualifying events - including two in Alabama and one each in Florida, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee. Part II of this two-part series features the last three events of the year.
Stop No. 4
Nestled between both Alabama and Georgia is one of the more popular bass-fishing destinations in the south and the venue that kicks off the start of the second half of the FLW Tour season – Lake Eufaula. Offering plenty of diverse habitats, Eufaula may show a side of it that anglers haven’t seen before on previous visits.
“This event is going to be different than the other tournaments we have had here,” said the 2012 EverStart Series champion Koby Kreiger. “The last few times the tour stopped on Eufaula it has been early in the year. This time it is later in the year which means that the offshore stuff is going to come into play more.”
Summer patterns will begin to take shape by the time the tour stops at Eufaula, which opens up the potential for anglers to sample a little bit of everything the lake has to offer.
"The lake has been off the past few years,” the Okeechobee, Fla., pro stated. “The water has been down so a lot of the grass and bushes have grown up. Guys will be able to catch fish up shallow but it will be hard to win off that. Mixing it up between deep and shallow could be the way to go.”
Slowly climbing back to the highly productive fishery it was known for back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Eufaula is seeing its fish populations become more and more healthy with each passing year. A growing threadfin and gizzard shad population has aided in the rebound of the bass population not only in numbers, but size as well. There is also a growing spotted bass population, though the largemouths will remain the key players.
If there was a lake on this year’s docket of tournaments for a topwater to come into play, this would be the place. Eufaula is known for having a tremendous buzzbait bite and could certainly show that during this event.
“Eufaula is just a good lake,” Kreiger added. “You can really fish anywhere you want, you can stay in the lake or run the river, whatever fits your style. Everyone should be happy when they leave the dock in the morning with the ways they could fish this place.
“Now, depending on the spring we have, that will really determine what it will take weight wise to do well in this tournament. Fishing is still a little bit off, so as of now I’d say if you could bring in 14 pounds per day you can make the (top-20) cut and be in good shape.”
Making its first appearance on the Walmart FLW Tour is Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees – more commonly known as Grand Lake. At 46,500 surface acres and 1,300 miles shoreline, Grand will offer just about everything an angler could ask for.
“There is going to be a lot of good things about this event,” said Rayovac pro Jason Christie. “Early June is a special time of year when you could win the event up shallow or out deep. There are tons of docks and lay-downs for the shallow guys, plus plenty of offshore stuff – like ledges for the deep guys.”
With endless options and plenty of water to fish it seems as though the anglers will have more than enough water to fish their strengths.
“Grand is absolutely full of fish,” the Park Hill, Okla., resident went on to say. “Guys will be able to fish the way they want to – the other nice thing is that Grand is big enough so everyone should be pretty spread out.
“I really feel like a lot of guys will want to come back (to Grand) after the event is over just because of how fun this place is to fish.”
With this tournament potentially setting up for the anglers to pick and choose how they fish, Christie couldn’t pinpoint exactly what types of baits will be the best producers. He did, however, mention that big jigs, topwaters, Carolina rigs and normal ledge fishing techniques will be some likely suspects.
Christie also laid out just how he thinks the weights may play out for this event.
“For four days of fishing I think it may take 75 to 80 pounds to win it,” Christie said. “To just get a check I think 28 pounds should do it. And to make it in the top 20 I could see around 33 pounds making it.”
Stop No. 6
The final qualifier of the season takes place in east Tennessee on Lake Chickamauga, a fishery the FLW Tour last visited in 2011. While Chickamauga will serve as the circuit’s standard TVA ledge-fishing venue, its overall diversity will surprise some anglers.
“There are three distinct ways to fish Chickamauga that time of year,” said pro Brandon Coulter, who lives in nearby Knoxville, Tenn. “The obvious one is to fish the offshore ledges. But you can also fish the main-lake grass or run up the river and target the mouths of the sloughs and backwaters. Each one is viable and on any given day one can be better than the other.”
Coulter expects the tournament to be won on deep ledges, but it isn’t a slam dunk.
“In one sense it will be classic Tennessee River fishing,” Coulter explained. “But Chick is a little different; it fishes a little more like Guntersville than Kentucky Lake. Not every fish will be out on the ledges. If we have a good grass year it should really spread the field out. Guys that want to fish ledges can fish ledges and guys that want to punch grass can punch grass. And there’s a credible flipping bite up the river – you don’t even need grass. There’s a good population of fish up there that relate to the wood.
“I will say that the offshore fish receive a lot of local pressure. A lot of the bigger schools will be broken up by the end of June. There are always off-the-radar spots, but the main places could be beaten up pretty good.”
In terms of presentations, Coulter doesn’t expect anything out of the ordinary.
“Right now, the A-rig is just stupid it’s so good. But in the summer, the more traditional TVA stuff tends to work like single swimbaits, spoons and crankbaits. The guys working the grass will primarily be flipping, but there could be a little bit of a frog bite.”
Overall, Coulter sees Chickamauga as the perfect venue for determining the 2013 FLW Tour Angler of the Year race as well as the 35 automatic Forrest Wood Cup berths.
“I think it’s going to be phenomenal. I honestly believe Chick is the most underrated lake right now in the U.S. We’re catching double-digit fish just about every day this winter. The lake is just chock full of bass.
“It could easily take 20-pounds plus per day to win. I would think you’ll need 15-pounds plus per day to make the (top-20) cut. If it’s like most TVA tournaments, they’ll be pulling water on Thursday and Friday so they should be biting good. But who wins this thing might come down to who can catch them on Saturday and Sunday without any current.”