Springtime finally graces the Wal-Mart FLW Tour - Major League Fishing

Springtime finally graces the Wal-Mart FLW Tour

April 24, 2001 • Rob Newell • Archives

The fishing report for Beaver Lake

If there is one thing that Wal-Mart FLW Tour contestants are tired of, it is cold weather. For the first three frigid FLW Tour events anglers have had to bundle up like Everest mountaineers just to stay warm enough to turn a reel handle. But Beaver Lake is going to change that.

With dogwoods in full bloom all across the Ozark Mountains, the Wal-Mart Open at Beaver Lake near Rogers, Ark., promises to be the first real springtime tournament of the FLW Tour 2001 season.

As many well-versed bass anglers know, blooming dogwoods mean spawning bass, and Beaver Lake is no exception. The lake’s 28,200 acres are nearly to full pool and water temperatures are almost 60 degrees.

The lake conditions this year are similar to the 1999 Wal-Mart Open, which Clark Wendlandt won by sight-fishing for spawning bass. Sight-fishing is certain to be the game plan for many contestants, but high winds over the last several days have prevented anglers, including Wendlandt, from seeing bass on the nests. “What bass are on beds have been very hard to see because of the wind,” says Wendlandt of the continuous 20-mph winds.

Beaver Lake has a mixed population of Kentucky spotted bass and largemouth bass. Largemouth bass must be 15 inches to be considered a legal keeper, but the minimum legal size of a spotted bass is 12 inches.

According to Wendlandt, this rule makes sight-fishing a risky proposition because anglers must be very proficient at identifying the species and size of the fish before fishing for them. “You have to know what you are fishing for before you take the time to catch it,” says Wendlandt. “The real mistake is taking time to catch a 14-inch fish only to get it in the boat and find out it is a largemouth that you must release. You have to be able to identify the species and size of the fish in the water to make a sight-fishing game plan work,” he adds.

Takahiro Omori, the winner of the last FLW Tour event at Lake Martin, says he had planned to sight-fish at Beaver Lake but has been unable to locate fish big enough to even consider sight-fishing. “I have seen a lot of 12-inch spotted bass on beds but it makes no sense to sight-fish for a 12-inch fish when you could go Carolina-rig points and catch 12-inch spots,” reports Omori. “I am not going to spend the time trying to catch a sight fish unless he is bigger than 15 inches.”

Professional angler Randy Blaukat from nearby Lamar, Mo., believes a majority of the spawn has already taken place and that is why there is only small bass left on the bed. “Several weeks ago we had four or five days of 80-degree weather and I think most of the fish spawned then,” reports Blaukat.

Undoubtedly, some anglers have been in the War Eagle Creek and the White River regions of the lake trying to duplicate Rick Clunn’s crankbait pattern which allowed him to run away with this event last year. Blaukat predicts that the river bite will be tougher this year, “Last year the water up the river was low and stained. This year it is a bit higher and much clearer so the fish will not be as concentrated up there.”

In the past, it has taken about 20 to 21 pounds to make the top-10 cut here at Beaver Lake. Blaukat thinks this year will be no different. “It should take about the same weight to make the cut,” he says. “There will be some sight fishermen that make it, and maybe a couple fishermen from up the river, but as the tournament goes on, I think those anglers on deep water patterns will prevail.”

Beaver Lake also contains smallmouth and some anglers have reported catching some big “smallies” during the practice round. Though the smallmouth are the hardest to pattern consistently, their presence in Beaver gives anglers the rare opportunity to weigh in the “triple crown” of bass fishing: a five-fish limit that contains a mix of largemouths, spots and smallmouths. Like largemouth, smallmouth must also be 15 inches to keep.

The forecast for the tournament calls for sunny skies, calm winds and highs in the 70s. With stable weather and water conditions in store, five-fish limits are sure to be plentiful for the pro and co-angler entrants. Crowds at the Wal-Mart Open weigh-in should be treated to quite a display of what Beaver Lake can produce, especially in terms of numbers of fish.

And for the first time this year, contestants will not have to fish in 30 pounds of clothes!