FLORENCE, Ala. – As the FLW Tour pro finalists departed McFarland Park marina shortly after 6 a.m. amidst a backdrop of overcast skies, slight winds and decidedly humid conditions, most of the field had one eye on the conditions and another on day-three leader Mark Rose of Marion, Ark.
With the National Weather Service calling for late-morning thunderstorms, anglers could be forced to battle some less-than-stellar fishing conditions throughout the day. However, that almost assuredly will pale in comparison to their daunting task of trying to dethrone Rose – who currently holds a commanding 7-pound lead over his next closest rival.
However, on Pickwick Lake, anything is possible.
“There are nine guys fishing this tournament and any one of us can win,” said third-place competitor Randall Tharp, referencing the fact that the full field has been reduced by one angler as a result of Brent Ehrler’s decision to rush home to California after day three to witness the birth of his first child. “Mark Rose has a nice lead but he’s going to have to catch them today. The way I look at it, I’m five bites away and there is definitely a 25-pound bag out there.
“It’s going to be exciting for sure,” Tharp continued.
“It’s been so surreal fishing against guys like Mark Rose,” said fourth-place pro qualifier Kenneth “Boo” Woods. “But you just have to go out there and do your best. I’m just going to have to try and find those big bites.”
With the majority of the leaderboard targeting deeper ledges, it’s not entirely surprising that Rose – an expert at structure fishing who calls Pickwick his home lake – finds himself at the top of the heap.
“I’m really excited about today,” he said. “I went to a restaurant last night and actually left before my food got there because I wanted to get a good night’s sleep.”
Although Rose said he appreciates his lead, he also knows that there are no guarantees on Pickwick Lake.
“Even though I have a 7-pound, anything can happen,” said Rose. “But I have a few spots where I know I can catch fish if the conditions aren’t right. I’ve also found some spots that nobody else is fishing so I’m not too worried about local traffic. And I also plan on changing things up a little bit today as well. I have a couple more areas in my back pocket that I haven’t hit all tournament.”
Sunday’s final weigh-ins will be held at Walmart, located at 3100 Hough Road in Florence, Ala., beginning at 4 p.m.
Pros will fish for a top award of $125,000 if Ranger Cup guidelines are met.
Bass-fishing fans take note
Want to watch the weigh in live but can’t make it in person? Then tune into FLW Live on FLWOutdoors.com shortly before 3:30 p.m. Central Time to watch live streaming video and audio of today’s opening-round weigh in.
Daily on-the-water coverage will also be available online at FLWOutdoors.com. To see up-to-the-minute tournament updates, click here.
Fans will be treated to the FLW Outdoors Expo at Walmart on Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. prior to the final weigh-ins. The first 300 kids 14 and under on Sunday will receive a free rod and reel combo compliments of KIX 96 FM. 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 Pickwick Lake tournament will be broadcast in high-definition (HD) on VERSUS. “FLW Outdoors” will air Sept. 11 from 1 to 2 p.m. ET. “FLW Outdoors,” hosted by Jason Harper, is broadcast to more than 500 million households worldwide.
Sunrise: 5:55 a.m.
Temperature at takeoff: 75 degrees
Expected high temperature: 88 degrees
Water temperature: 86-90 degrees
Wind: From the southwest at 6 mph
Humidity: 75 percent
Day’s outlook: Cloudy with chance of scattered thunderstorms and showers