Category Archives: FLW Tour

Top 5 Patterns for Champlain FLW Finale


Prior to practice for the Champlain FLW Tour, Tracy Adams didn’t know whether he’d focus on largemouths or smallmouths. Tournaments at the long lake on the New York/Vermont border can be won with either, so it often pays to keep an open mind in regard to species.

He eventually settled on the green fish, and the decision produced the first tour-level win of his career. He went into day 4 with a 2-ounce deficit to leader Dion Hibdon, but caught the biggest bag on the final day and won by 1-06.  Here’s how the Top 5 got their fish.

Adams, a 32-year-old from North Carolina, had practiced in the Ticonderoga area of the lake, about 70 miles south of the launch.  This time, the big largemouths that reside down there were in a biting mode. Dion Hibdon, who led the first 3 days, and Curt Lytle, another Top 10 finisher, were also onto them.

The thickest concentration he located was in a milfoil bed that was 7 to 9 feet deep and 150 yards off shore. He found two other similar beds, but those got muddied up by the wind and were of no use when the tournament started.   He also found some fish in willow bushes along the bank, and those would be crucial on day 4.

Adams milfoil bed was extremely productive on the first 2 days. His fish bit throughout the day, and he tried to manage them as best he could so the spot would continue to be fruitful.  The hefty largemouth were suckers for a Brush Hog (green-pumpkin).

His day 1 limit was nothing extraordinary, and it landed him in 33rd place. As always at Champlain though, a few ounces here and there lead to big moves in the standings, and he was the epitome of that phenomenon on day 2.  His second-day bag was just 1-03 bigger, but it moved him up 26 places. He made the cut in 7th.

The milfoil fish continued to bite on day 3 – but only until about 9:30. The wind had changed directions and began blowing from the north instead of the south, and that apparently triggered the shutdown.

Weights had been zeroed after day 2, and his 16-12 bag put him 2 ounces behind Hibdon, who’d also experienced a downturn with his own fish in a nearby grassbed. The Missourian’s stringer was more than 3 pounds lighter than the ones he’d brought in on the first 2 days.

The milfoil fish bit early again on day 4. But when they turned off again, Adams only had about 11 pounds in his well. He knew he needed a lot more, and it was time to make a move.  He went to the bank and began flipping a 3/8oz jig into the willow bushes that had harbored some fish in practice. They were still there, and they were of sufficient quality to win.

He ended up combining four willow fish with one he’d caught in the grass, and together they equaled his best bag of the tournament. He quit fishing at about 1:00 to take some of the stress out of the long ride back to the launch.  

Pattern Notes
> The milfoil fish were feasting on bluegill and yellow perch. “Like Dion said, just about every one of them had a tail sticking out of their mouth.
> He worked the Brush Hog a little slower than under normal conditions. “If you just threw it in there and hopped it right back, they wouldn’t bite. You had to shake it a little bit gently on the bottom.
> When he moved to the willows on day 4, he flipped the jig as far back into the shade as he could.

Winning Gear Notes
> Brush Hog gear: 7′ heavy-action G. Loomis 844IMX rod, Shimano Chronarch casting reel, 20# Gamma High Performance Copolymer Line, line (green), 3/8oz Tru-Tungsten Sinker, 5/0 Gamakatsu Worm Hook, Zoom Brush Hog  (green-pumpkin).
> Jig gear: Same rod and reel, 25# Gamma High Performance Copolymer Line, 3/8oz Hotshot Lures jig (black/blue), Zoom Super Chunk (blue sapphire).
> Main factor in his success
– “Definitely going to the grass bed, staying with it and beating the fish out of there, and then moving to the willows on the fourth day when it gave out on me.”  

2nd: Kevin Vida
is a threat to win at any venue that features big numbers of smallmouth, and he came up just 1-06 short of his first tour victory here.  His preferred pattern was sight-fishing for bedding bronzebacks, but that was difficult on the middle 2 days due to clouds and wind. But even when he couldn’t see the fish, he could still catch them because he had their locations pinpointed.

His bags consisted of 18 smallmouths and two largemouths. He caught both largemouths on day 3 (they were fish on a flat that he’d seen earlier). Vida relied on two baits – a Mizmo Bad Boy Tube & a Berkley Power Jerk Shad .

> Tube gear: 6’6″ medium-heavy Fenwick Techna AV rod, Abu-Garcia Cardinal 503ALB spinning reel, 10-pound Berkley  Vanish fluorocarbon line, 1/4-ounce Bite-Me jighead, Mizmo Bad Boy Tube (green-pumpkin surprise).
> Jerkshad gear: 7′ medium-heavy Fenwick Techna AV rod, Abu Garcia Torno 3006 casting reel (6.3:1 gear ratio), 17-pound Berkley Vanish fluorocarbon, 3/0 Gamakatsu Hook , Berkley Power Jerk Shad (pearl).
> Main factor in his success – “My new Solar Bat Sunglasses – I have to give them credit. I got a new pair with high-contrast yellow lenses, and they opened up a whole new world for sight-fishing. Even on cloudy days, I could find fish. It’s an amazing lens.”

3rd: Dion Hibdon’s plan for this tournament has been well-chronicled: He came in 75h in the points and wanted to move into the Top 48, which would give him his first berth in the FLW Tour Championship (FLWTC) since 2003.

Along with his father Guido and Northeastern Stren roommate Ricky Doyle (Champlain local), he determined that his only chance to achieve that goal was to catch some big largemouths from the Ticonderoga area at the southern end of the lake.  He fished a jig in milfoil beds and whacked the biggest sacks of the first 2 days. His bite slowed when the north wind arrived on day 3, but he’d already accomplished what he set out to do.  The bucketmouths in the milfoil were eating bluegill, and he threw big jigs that mimicked that forage.  (Hibdon ended up 43rd in the points).

> Jig gear: 7’6″ heavy-action American Rodsmiths flipping stick, Shimano casting reel (6.3:1 gear ratio), 20-pound Seagaur Carbon Pro Flourocarbon line, 5/8oz Luck E Strike or 1-ounce Terry Odom jig (bluegill), Luck E Strike Guido Bug trailer (green-pumpkin).
> Main factor in his success – “I fished for big fish with a big bait and I never gave up on it.”

4th: Scott Martin has made three straight Top 10s here and won in 2004. He loves to catch Champlain’s smallmouths and tries to avoid largemouths entirely – unless he finds a spawner that might help him.

He sight-fished for bronzebacks the majority of the tournament and caught them on a Berkley Power Tube. His first 2 days went precisely according to plan, and he went into day 3 with considerable confidence that he’d gain his second straight victory here.

He stumbled a bit on day 3 though, and attributed it primarily to “bad note-taking.” He hadn’t accurately kept track of which bedding fish had been caught by himself or someone else, and wasted some time running to a few that were no longer there.

> Sight-fishing gear: 6’10” Kistler Magnesium tube rod, Abu Garcia Cardinal 803 spinning reel, 8-pound Berkley Vanish fluorocarbon line, 1/4- or 1/8oz Matzuo rattling jighead, 4″ Berkley Power Tube (watermelon seed).

> He switched to a 7’6″ medium-heavy Kistler Helium rod when the wind was at its worst. “It was made special for me 2 years ago, but now it’s a production rod.”

> Like Vida, he said his sunglasses made a big difference. His were made by Panoptx. “They have a lens that’s called copper, and it really enhances your sight-fishing ability. The clarity is that much better.”

> Main factor in his success – “A 55-gallon drum of confidence and a plan – a plan for fishing and a plan with God.”

5th: Shinichi Fukae of Texas made his third Top 10 on the strength of finesse worms. He spent a little bit of his practice time pursuing largemouths, but the bulk of it was devoted to bronzebacks.

He fished for smallmouths exclusively during the tournament and primarily targeted humps. He didn’t sight-fish.

> Worm gear: 6’6″ medium-light St. Croix Legend Elite Spinning Rod, Shimano Stella C3000 spinning reel, 6-pound Duel (Yo-Zuri) fluorocarbon line, 3/32- or 1/8oz unnamed jighead, 5″ Gary Yamamoto Cut Tail or Shad-Shaped Worm (both green-pumpkin).
> Main factor in his success – “It’s a lake I like a lot and I was able to use my finesse skills.”

It will be interesting to see how the weights compare when the Bassmaters Elite Series visits Champlain in a few weeks.


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Kennedy at Kentucky & Top 5 Patterns

Thanks to Terry Bolton’s 8oz of dead fish penalties, Steve Kennedy walked away with the $100,000 pay day.  This FLW tour stopped proved to be more fruitful than the previous stop at Lake Cumberland.

1st- Steve Kennedy with limited practice quickly eliminated thoughts of a shallow pattern and focused dragging a PJ’s Finesse football jig paired with a Kinami Double Tailed Grub on deep river ledges.   When the jig slowed he Carolina-figged 10.5″ Zoom Ole Monster Worm.  He also weighed on Nories Bugs , Baby Brush Hogs & a Bomber Fat Free Shad.  He attributes his success to fishing the football jig, which is a technique learned from a co-angler on Kentucky lake a few years ago.

2nd – Terry Bolton really had the winning fish has he been able to keep his fish alive.  He also probed deep ledges with 4 baits that he fished erratically.  The 4 main baits were the following: 3/4oz Terry Oldhan Chart/White Spinnerbait, 5/8oz custom football jig (black/brown or gourd green) made by David Crass tipped with a green-pumpkin Zoom Chunk , Zoom Ole Monster Worm (plum) paired with 3/8oz Tru-Tungsten Tungsten Sinker, and finally a Chart/Blue Luhr Jensen Hot Lips.  He attributes his success to local knowledge and fishing deeper than most.

3rd – Gary Yamamoto split his time deep & shallow.  Once he made the Top 10 cut, he decided to chase fish in less pressured fish, by fishing what he called ugly water.  He junk fished with his new “swimming senko” that does not have a real name and is not out yet.  His deeper spot was in a marina and he used a Kut-Tail worm (green-pumpkin/chart tail) on a Shakey-head .  He attributes success to versatility and previous knowledge from other tournaments.

4th – David Fritts fished ledges with crankbaits, what else would you expect.  He only used two bait, Rapala DT 14 & DT 16 in Pearl/Blue Back & Pearl/Brown Back colors.  Fished them both on 10lb Rapala cranking line and changed the hooks out for #4 VMC Sure Set Treble Hooks.

5th – Curt Lytle fished shallow on Lake Barkley all 4 days.  He rotated between a Berkley Power Hawg & a Power Jig .  He targeted post spawn fish in heavy laydowns & logs outside of coves.  All his fish came between 3-6ft of water.  His success came from a solid seasonal pattern and sticking with it.

This tournament had several patterns going, but it seemed the deep ledge fish dominated.  On a side note, Jim Moynagh, Carver, MN Pro has continued his success this year with a strong 8th place finish and lead after two days.  His day-2 bag was the biggest of the tournament (23-04) which he caught on his All-Terrain Rock Jigs.


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Top Patterns @ FLW Series – Lake Cumberland

Mike Hawke is really the only guy to consistently get them on this lake that had many top FLW Pros puzzled.  Lake Cumberland hosts all 3 major species of black bass, but Smallmouth usually figuring into winning bags, the trick is catching them over the 18″ min. slot limit.  Here is how the Top 5 caught their fish.

1st: Mike Hawke used primarily finesse tactics to win this event.  His tools included 6lb fluorocarbon line with a spinning rod.  The first two days when there was sun, he relied primarily a Reaction Innovations Flirt Worm (Juicy or magic craw swirl colors) on a 1/8oz homemade jig head.  On days 3 & 4 when clouds rolled in, his finesse worm failed, so he switched to a Zoom Super Fluke (Albino Shad).  He also picked up one nice sight smallie on a Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver .

2nd: Rusty Salewske just fished his way around in depths 8-20 feet with a Zoom Finesse Worm (green pumpkin) on a 3/16oz Spot Remover jighead.  He sights his success was just a lack of finding anything else productive….

3rd: Luke Clausen scrambled around fishing subtle points in 20ft of water with a Mann’s HardNose Worm for the first 3 days, the final day he drop shot a 6-inch Roboworm (red crawler) around released fish to make a move.  He used Tru-Tungsten Jigheads & dropshot weights.

4th: Sean Hoernke alternated between watermelon candy and green pumpkin hand poured worms teamed with homemade jigheads.  He used these baits on second day points off of small cover in the lower-third section of Lake Cumberland.

5th: Steve Wright differed his approach in that he targeted smallmouth in the mornings and largemouth in the afternoon.  He probed river ledges with Zoom Finesse Worms (green-pumpkin) on a spot remover jig head for smallies.  Then he would flip flooded trees in a river bend with a Reaction Innovations Smallie Beaver on the same spot remover jig head.

Most anglers had solid patterns and game plans until the final day, where Mike Hawke was the only one to make the correct adjustments and catch a 5 bass limit.


Busy Weekend for Major Tournaments

This past weekend both the Bassmasters Elite Series and FLW Series were in action.  Bassmasters at Clarks Hills Reservoir near Augusta, GA and FLW visited Lake Cumberland near Somerset, KY.   The tournaments were much different, while Clarks Hill provided lot of nice limits, Cumberland was stingy for the FLW series anglers, the only mustered 16 keepers for 10 anglers while all 12 BASS anglers managed a 5 bass limit.

Davy Hite outdistanced his nearest competition, Kenyon Hill, by over 8lbs.  This is  the last tournament before the inaugural Major event, Bassmaster Memorial, at Eagle Mountain lake near Dallas, TX.  This is Davy Hite’s 7th major victory in his  career.  Notable Finishes: Byron Velvick finished 13th and just missed the final day cut and KVD finishes 50th because of a late penalty, the day before he just made the Top 50 because Mark Menendez had a 2lb fish jump out of his weigh bag on the dock, that cost Mark $10,000.

Mike Hawke’s win was his first major win, and this his second go at being a professional angler, his first attempt at a pro career forced him to bankruptcy.  Mike Hawke brought in the only limit on Saturday to give himself a comfortable victory of 10lbs.

More to come on the details of the top patterns this week.


Top 5 Patterns & Baits at Beaver Lake

Unlike years past, sight fishing was never a role in this tournament.  It was more of pre-spawn bite and it was finesse vs. power patterns.  In the end finesse won out.

1st – Shinichi Fukae – Fished a 4″ Gary Yamamoto Shad-Shaped Worm & a 5″ Gary Yamamoto Kut Tail Worm (green-pumpkin or cinnamon) in standing timber. He spent all 4 days in the same area on the lower end of the lake, maneuvering his boat among the timber and working his worm through water that was 10 to 15 feet deep over a pea-gravel bottom. He caught no fewer than 13 keepers a day. He weighed in a mixed bag each day – two largemouths, two smallmouths and a spotted bass on day 1, and a largemouth, a smallmouth and three spots on days 2, 3 and 4.

2nd – Mark Rose – Focused on large smallmouths as he fished a 4″ Strike King finesse Worm, (green pumpkin) primarily on points. “They seemed to be on both sides of the points, right where the flat part dropped off into steeper walls,” he said. “Just being persistent was the key. The smallmouth and the spots would hit in little feeding frenzies, and sometimes you’d make a pass and they weren’t biting. But they were still there.”

3rd – Craig Powers – Fished staging fish that were on the brink of moving up to spawn by “waking” a bone colored Bomber Long A.  He fished this lure all tournament & his pattern dwindled with the wind and bad weather on days 3 & 4.

4th – Jeffrey Thomas – Target Largemouths by focusing on ditches that adjoined spawning flats, and ambushed some good-sized females en route to the reproduction grounds. He had good success flipping a Rattleback Jig & Power Craw (green pumpkin) around docks and large brushpiles the first 2 days, but that bite went away on day 3.  He caught all six of his weigh-in fish over the final 2 days on crankbaits. He used two different shad colored lipless models (Cordell Spot & Custom Lures Unlimited) and a phantom red Storm Wiggle Wart.

5th – Darrel Robertson – Achieved his third Top 10 in eight tries at Beaver by catching a mix of largemouths and spots.  “My philosophy at Beaver is to fish for 10 pounds, and that means you’re not fishing for Kentuckys,” he said. “Except for very seldom, you have to have a combination to get that weight.”  He caught the vast majority of his fish on a Zoom Fluke (white & watermelon). He also threw a spinnerbait, a jerkbait and a Storm Wiggle Wart.

It was obvious that were many different things working on Beaver.  The power techniques dominated the first two days, but it was the finesse pattern that outlasted everyone for the win.


Shinichi Fukae cashes in again…

Another win for Shin!  Fukae joins an elite group when it comes to the FLW Tour.  He is only the 3rd angler in this tour’s short history to win mulitple events in a single season.  Rick Clunn won two events in 2000 and David Fritts won an amazing three events in 1997.

Shin won the season opener on the “Big O”, so that is a whopping $300,000 in those two wins and a total of $303,000 in the season’s first 4 events.  Shinichi changed nothing about his bait presentation most of the week, saying he elected to stay with a 4-inch, green-pumpkin Gary Yamamoto worm with a light, 3/32-ounce jig head on 8-pound-test line.


I thought this day would never come….

Sure its important to note that Craig Powers is leading the FLW Tour at Beaver Lake, but the real news in my world is that Lake Marion, my home lake, is completely ice free as of 8:33am this morning!

Craig seems to have made his way to the top of the leaderboard by fishing his jerkbait around anything that looked bassy to him.  See rest of the Top 10.  Way to go Cliff Pirch, who vaulted into the 9th position from 105th.

Day 2 Standings

1. Craig Powers — Rockwood, Tn — 5, 15-09 — 5, 15-11 — 10, 31-04
2. Jeffrey Thomas — Broadway, Nc — 5, 16-10 — 5, 13-00 — 10, 29-10
3. Takahiro Omori — Emory, Tx — 5, 15-11 — 5, 11-14 — 10, 27-09
4. Darrel Robertson — Jay, Ok — 5, 11-10 — 5, 12-10 — 10, 24-04
5. Mike Wurm — Hot Springs, Ar — 5, 10-06 — 5, 13-02 — 10, 23-08
6. Toby Hartsell — Livingston, Tx — 5, 13-12 — 5, 9-02 — 10, 22-14
7. Shinichi Fukae — Mineola, Tx — 5, 10-12 — 5, 12-00 — 10, 22-12
8. Mark Rose — Marion, Ar — 5, 14-08 — 5, 8-00 — 10, 22-08
9. Clifford Pirch — Payson, Az — 5, 6-11 — 5, 15-10 — 10, 22-05
10. Koby Kreiger — Okeechobee, Fl — 5, 15-13 — 5, 6-02 — 10, 21-15


Who’s Eager for Beaver?

You know all the major bass fishing tours are in full swing when the FLW visits Beaver Lake.  It has become a tradition for the FLW Tour to visit this White River reservoir near Wal-Mart’s home in Bentonville, AR.

I have been blogging a ton about BASS, so I thought it was time to give the FLW some love.  They had a great tournament at Lake Murray.  So lets preview Beaver Lake.

For a preview of patterns, check out  If you were like me and had Andre Moore pegged as your fantasy anchor, you may be in trouble.  It does not sound like it will be a sight fishing pattern this weekend.  This is an interesting tournament, usually everyone catches 6-8 lbs of spotted bass and its the guys who can add a few nice largemouth or bronzebacks to their bags and get into the 10lb range, will end up making the cut.

This tournament will probably be about schooling fish and Shakey Heads .

ICE REPORT: Lake Marion in Lakeville, MN is about 15% open water as of this morning,