Lucky Craft Tour Journal
Team Lucky Craft doubles up at Beaver Lake
Rogers, AR (May 17, 2009) - Thus far the 2009 season has been quite a year for the Lucky Craft National pro staff and the momentum continued for Lucky Craft's FLW Tour contingent last week at the Walmart Open on Beaver Lake.
|Gabe Bolivar, 7th|
Both Gabe Bolivar and Brent Ehrler posted top-10s at a flooded Beaver Lake while Ehrler extended his lead in the FLW Tour Angler of the Race by 30 points.
Just before the fourth FLW Tour event of the season got underway, Beaver Lake's waters rose some 7 to 8 feet over normal pool, flooding the shoreline and providing a lot of submerged cover.
Most team pros jumped at the opportunity to break out their Lucky Craft flipping sticks and go to work in the flooded bushes seeking spawning and post-spawn bass.
Bolivar led the Lucky Craft crew with a 7th place finish worth $26,000. He posted weights of 11-11 and 9-9 on days one and two to qualify 10th with 21-4, just barely slipping into the top 10.
On day three, Bolivar charged into third place with a limit weighing 9-15. But he slid backwards on the final day with three bass weighing 6-2 to finish the final round with a two-day total of 16-1.
"Beaver Lake was all about the flipping stick for me," Bolivar said. "I found one bank of flooded willows in practice that was holding some decent largemouths and I pretty much hunkered down and made a living off that one stretch all week. Each day it provided the bulk of my weight in largemouths. I did catch four bass during the week by sight-fishing, but that was more incidental; it was not my primary game plan."
When flipping and pitching, Bolivar relied on a Berkley Chigger Craw and a Sweet Beaver creature bait tied to 17-pound Trilene 100 percent fluorocarbon. His flipping rod was a Lucky Craft Flipping Stick (LCMG-761MHXXF-TLC Flip), medium-heavy in action and featuring an extra-fast tip.
His bonus sight-fish came on a 1/8-ounce shaky head fished on a Lucky Craft Reaction Tube rod.
"The biggest key in the flipping bite for me was not necessarily the super-flooded stuff, but rather the small clearings in behind the front row of flooded bushes," Bolivar explained. "If I could find a single buck bush or willow tree surrounded by clear open water, that was the deal. Those isolated bushes in a little clearing were definitely more reliable for a bite than all the cluttered stuff where I couldn't tell what was what. I think the fish were definitely spawning and they wanted a single tree or bush to spawn around rather than a lot of mixed up junk.
"My best bank kind of gave out on me that last day because I picked it over pretty well for three days," he added. "It produced 10 or 11 decent largemouths during the week to get me in the top-10, so I'm happy about that."
Bolivar's 7th place finish put him in 25th overall in the points race with two tournaments left.
|Brent Ehrler, 10th|
Ask anyone who follows professional bass fishing who the hottest pro is on the FLW Tour right now and chances are the name Brent Ehrler will come up.
So far in 2009, Ehrler has won an FLW Series Western on Lake Havasu, scored an 11th, 6th, 15th, and now a 10th (at Beaver) in FLW Tour competition and currently leads the FLW Tour Angler of the Year race.
In fact, Ehrler led the Walmart Open after day two with a two-day total of 24-6 making him - at least briefly - the Angler of the Year leader and the Walmart Open leader at the same time.
His day-two weight of 13-9 was one of the bigger limits in the tournament as Ehrler once again found his zone.
"I'm just fishing really well right now," Ehrler said. "I'm superseding my expectations on the water each day and it's been a pleasant surprise. For instance, day two at Beaver Lake, I just wanted to catch 10 pounds to protect my AOY lead. Well, I got to that pretty quickly in the morning. Pretty soon I caught another 2-1/2 and I was up to 11-1/2. Then I hooked another 3-pounder which culled me up to 13 pounds. Then another decent largemouth allowed me to gain a few more ounces. By the time I weighed in I was like, ‘Man, I just wanted protect my points lead and now I'm leading the tournament!' That's the way it's been all year and hopefully it will continue."
Ehrler began his Beaver Lake venture by splitting his first day between shaky-heading and heavy flipping. One of Ehrler's strengths seems to be that he does not mind switching back and forth between two extremely different styles within minutes of each other. While some pros might consider themselves a flipping specialist with a disdain for finesse, or vice-versa, Ehrler will use 8-pound test one second and 60-pound braid the next without hesitation.
His day-one catch of 10-13 came half from shaky-heading and half from heavy flipping.
"Going into the tournament I thought the flipping bite was going to just be a bonus deal for one, maybe two, quality fish per day while shaky heading was going to be the limit-filler," Ehrler said. "But by the end of day one I had gotten enough quality bites shallow to commit to it. One pattern that stood out to me was laydowns - any wood that was laying horizontal in all that flooded vertical cover was key. And once I got some confidence in that pattern, I decided to fish shallow all day on day two."
When flipping and pitching, Ehrler relied on a Sweet Beaver and a Berkley Mud critter tied to 16- and 20-pound line. His rod of choice was a Lucky Craft Flipping Stick (LCMG-761MHXXF-TLC Flip) in a medium-heavy with an extra-fast tip.
Day two, Ehrler bagged an early limit and then began covering new water, catching shallow largemouths almost at will. His 13-9 limit that day put him in the pole position going into the top-10.
But from that point on, his hot quality flipping bite kind of flamed out. He posted a limit on day three weighing 7-1, sliding back to 7th. And on day four, he caught three keepers for 5-2 to bottom out in 10th.
"I'm not real sure what happened," Ehrler said of the final two days. "I think I got a little too hung up on one spot in particular that produced a few of my best fish during the week. Plus, I kept seeing a fat 3-1/2 pounder sunning in that same area and I thought I could eventually catch it with a long-line pitch. I probably should have run some more new water on those last two days and not got so bogged down on that one spot.
|Joe Thomas, 39nd|
Joe Thomas started out at Beaver Lake with a bang, weighing in a limit on day one for 11-15 to start the event in 6th place. On day two, the wind hampered his quality bite and he weighed in a limit of squeakers for 5-9 to finish 39th.
Day one weather conditions of calm, cloudy weather favored Thomas' fishing techniques which included wacky rigging and then flipping point bushes on the tips of big flats.
"I got off to great start the first morning by catching a couple of decent largemouths on a wacky rig," Thomas said. "That really let me settle down and go flip the point bushes on flats and fish them thoroughly like I needed to. Flipping was definitely the way to a quality bite at Beaver Lake due to the high water, but it was hard to get five keeper bites doing it. So once I got a head start with the two wacky-worm fish, I relaxed and really soaked those point bushes to finish out my limit with some solid largemouths."
Thomas' wacky rig consisted of a Berkley Power worm (green pumpkin) fished weightless on a circle hook, tied to 10-pound test Trilene 100% fluorocarbon. His primary flipping bait was a 3/8-ounce Arkie jig with a Berkley Chigger Craw trailer (green pumpkin) pitched on a Lucky Craft Flipping Stick.
On day two, a stiff 20 mph wind blew right onto Thomas' best point bushes, hindering his ability to fish them correctly.
"Everything was right on day one," Thomas said. "I had a couple early keepers in the well, the conditions were slick so I could pitch that jig right where it needed to go in the bushes - everything was perfect. But on day two that hard wind killed me. I had to retreat to more protected areas and all I could catch in those places was small ones.
|Anthony Gagliardi, 71th|
Anthony Gagliardi logged a 71st-place finish at Beaver Lake weighing in 8-4 and 7-1 respectively for a two-day total of 15-6.
While other Lucky Craft pros found success in Beaver Lake's stained, flooded waters with flipping sticks, Gagliardi banked more on a clear-water combination of sight fishing, wacky worming and swim-baiting.
"It was a pretty frustrating tournament for me," Gagliardi said. "Mainly because had a pretty decent practice by throwing a little swimbait and a wacky worm while looking for spawners. And I found a right good many fish on bed, too. So going into it I felt pretty good. But similar to Norman, my sight-fish refused to bite. I did catch a couple of keepers that way, but for the most part they were either gone or simply would not bite. Then the bites I was getting on the swimbait vanished."
The wacky worm essentially bailed Gagliardi out on day one, giving him a 76th place start. On day two, Gagliardi shelved the finessey stuff and pulled out a flipping stick. Once he got to the bank with the long pole, he was rewarded with two nice largemouths. But by then he was a pound short and a day late.
"I didn't catch my first keeper, which was my best fish of the tournament, until 12:30 the second day and by then it was too late to get on that program," he explained. "I flipped the rest of the day and only ended up with four fish."
Gagliardi's frustration at the event is also rooted in digging himself a hole in his AOY chances.
"What really gets me is I came into Beaver Lake 6th in the points, finished 71st and remained in 6th for the points," Gagliardi lamented. "What that tells me is that I really missed an opportunity to move up in the points. Even a 30th place finish would have moved me up and put me in much better shape going to Kentucky Lake and Lake Champlain, which are two tournaments I'm really looking forward to.
Article & Photo by Rob Newell, Provided by Cox Group