A lot of looking - Major League Fishing

A lot of looking

Cross Lake’s abundance challenges BFL All-American field
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Cloudy conditions greeted the day one take-off for the BFL All-American. Photo by David A. Brown.
May 19, 2011 • David A. Brown • Archives

SHREVEPORT, La. – The good news is there are plenty of fishing spots. The bad news is there are plenty of fishing spots. That’s the dilemma facing 49 pros and co-anglers vying for their respective titles at the BFL All-American on Cross Lake.

With numerous coves and pockets sprouting countless cypress trees, stumps docks and boat houses – along with the Interstate 220 Bridge spanning its east end – the lake offers abundant habitat for bass seeking shelter from those seeking them. At first blush, it’s kind of like that kid-in-a-candy store feeling – there’s so much to fish. But in the time-restricted scenario that is tournament fishing, exuberance quickly turns to exasperation when the fish demonstrate their hide-and-seek prowess.

“If you find fish, chances are they’ll hold, but there is a place for fish to hide in almost every piece of this lake from deep to shallow,” said Wisconsin boater Mike Brueggen. “That makes it hard because they could be anywhere. I side-imaged a lot of water in practice and there were sticks and stumps and little things everywhere. It made it like finding a needle in a haystack.Cross Lake offers abundant natural habitat and several anglers took advantage of the many cypress trees shortly after take-off.

“It’s tough to pick out a pattern. It’s a tough lake and it’s going to be a grind for eight hours.”

Although his practice was difficult, Brueggen enjoyed the comfort of family company, as his younger brother Travis also qualified for the All-American. “It was nice to have somebody to convoy down with two trucks and have someone to stay with the whole time – it was a gift.”

Mike Brueggen said he and Travis usually see eye-to-eye on bass fishing, so it’s likely that they’ll both follow a similar game plan: topwaters early and then subsurface reaction baits like Rat-L-Traps or a white Lethal Weapon Swim jig with a twin tail grub trailer.

Lloyd Picket, of Mississippi said that today’s forecast for mostly cloudy skies, plus the week’s lunar phase will increase the Cross Lake challenge level – at least for the morning hours.

This year“The cloudy skies keeps the fish moving around in the (flooded) trees and it won’t pinpoint them to the shade of certain trees, so that bite is going to die a little bit,” he said. “And then we’re fishing on a full moon phase and you get about an hour’s worth of bites at daylight and then the bite will die until about noon. But they’re calling for clear skies by noon, so that will help the tree bite.

“I expect it’s going to be slow this morning, but if you just bear down and stay on your best stuff and keep grinding away on it, the bite will get better from about noon on.”

Pickett said a big, noisy topwater bait will be a good bet early. Later, he’ll look for crankbait and spinnerbait action, particularly where the wind pushes shad against shorelines.

Cowboy Division qualifier, Rusty Edwards will start his day with an up-tempo strategy and then settle into a more methodical approach. He’ll throw topwaters and crankbaits early and switch to plastics later in the day.

“I’m going to cover a lot of water real fast and try to get some (big) fish and then I’m going to slow down and pick apart some docks, flipping and skipping and stuff like that.

One of the biggest considerations anglers will face is the Cross Lake protected slot limit of 14-17Mike Brueggen will fish a Lethal Weapon swim jig to try and stimulate bites in the trees. inches. Tournament rules allow anglers to weigh up to five bass with a minimum size of 12 inches, but with the lake’s additional regulations, anglers can only keep fish that measure at least 12, but under 14 inches, and those over 17 inches. Only four of the five-fish limit may be over 17 and all bass between 14 and 17 inches must be immediately released.

That presents a strategic question: Do you play it safe and try to catch the best bag of “unders” you can, or do you swing for the fence and try to catch those four “overs”? Cross Lake has plenty of quality fish and with only a 49-boat field, anglers will have less competition for spots than in a tournament with more boats.¬

It’s a safe assumption that competitive bags must have at least some “overs,” and even consecutive days with limit sacks of “unders” likely will not compensate for the lack of these quality fish. Picket said that targeting big fish will play an integral role in a winning strategy.

“I think if you’re going to win it, you’re going to have to swing for the fence,” he said. “If you can put together two to three `overs’ a day and then finish your limit with `unders’ then you’re probably going to win the tournament. So you almost have to swing for the fence. If you play conservative and go for the Mississippi boater Lloyd Picket said catching at least a couple of (smaller) keepers, you’ll be in the mid-range, from 11th back.

“The whole key here is to make that last day so you have a chance to win. You’re going to have to have at least one `over’ and four keepers a day to make that top 10.”

Pickett said that his practice revealed that he needed to switch to bigger baits for the bigger `over’ fish. Today, he’ll employ a soft body swimbait to score his big bites.


Hosted by the Shreveport-Bossier City Regional Sports Authority, the tournament features the top 49 boaters and top 49 co-anglers from across the country casting for top awards of up to $130,000 in the Boater Division and $60,000 in the Co-angler Division plus the opportunity to compete in the 2011 Forrest Wood Cup presented by Walmart on Lake Ouachita, Aug. 11-14.

Anglers will take off from the American Legion Hall located at 5315 South Lakeshore Drive in Shreveport at 7 a.m. each morning. Weigh-ins all three days will be at the Shreveport Convention Center located at 400 Caddo Street in Shreveport. Thursday and Friday’s weigh-ins will be at 4 p.m. and Saturday’s final weigh-in will be at 3 p.m. prior to the day three weigh-in of the Walmart FLW Tour.Large offerings like a swimbait may be necessary for catchng Cross Lake

Fans will be treated to the FLW Outdoors Expo at the Shreveport Convention Center on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. The first 300 kids 14 and under on Sunday will receive a free rod and reel combo compliments of KTBS 3. Fans can also register to win a Can-Am ATV courtesy of Kiss Country 93.7 and 99X which will be given away on Sunday following the final weigh-in of the FLW Tour event. The Expo includes Ranger boat simulators, the opportunity to interact with professional anglers, enjoy interactive games, activities and giveaways provided by sponsors, and fans can learn more about the sport of fishing and other outdoor activities. All activities are free and open to the public.

Coverage of the BFL All-American tournament will be broadcast in high-definition (HD) on VERSUS. “FLW Outdoors,” will air Sept. 4 from 1 to 2 p.m. ET. “FLW Outdoors,” hosted by Jason Harper, is broadcast to more than 500 million households worldwide.

The BFL is a 24-division circuit devoted to weekend anglers, offering bigger prizes to those who qualify for regional championships and those who make it to the BFL All-American. Top winners in the BFL A good selection of plastics will be important for picking apart the lakecan move up to the EverStart Series or even the FLW Tour.

Thursday’s conditions:

Sunrise: 6:14 a.m.

Temperature at takeoff: 65 degrees

Expected high temperature: 85 degrees

Wind: SSE 15-20 mph

Humidity: 40 percent

Day’s outlook: Mostly cloudy