1. Matt Arey Employed a Swimbait-Finesse Combo
No matter what the conditions are at Beaver Lake, Matt Arey has an uncanny ability to dial up the right baits to match the appetite of the lake’s fickle bass.
This year the Quaker State pro relied primarily on two baits for his win. The first was a 5-inch hand-poured swimbait teamed with a 7/0 Gamakatsu EWG Monster Worm Hook tied to 20-pound-test P-Line fluorocarbon. The second was a wacky-rigged Lunkerhunt Lunker Stick impaled on a Gamakatsu 1/0 split-shot/drop-shot hook.
The power/finesse combination provided Arey with a search-and-destroy program. He would use the swimbait as a “search bait” to find fish and then follow up with the finesse of the wacky rig for bedders that would not commit to the swimbait.
His primary targets were laydowns, logjams, docks and bushes in the river portion of the lake.
Arey says the swimbait is like a “line-through” swimbait featuring a very thick body with flat top.
“Last year when I won, it was more of a prespawn-to-spawn deal with a jig,” Arey says. “This year was more of a spawn-to-postspawn program with the swimbait and wacky rig.”
2. Tracy Adams Sight-Fished and Targeted Brush
Tracy Adams spent his first day sight-fishing. His primary weapon when bed-fishing was a white Zoom Speed Craw.
Adams’ bedding fish ran out on the second day, and he started running a point-and-pocket combination in the mid-lake area. In the pockets he pitched a Zoom Centipede (watermelon) with a 5/16-ounce weight on 14-pound-test fluorocarbon to pieces of wood and bushes for largemouths. As he rounded the points between the pockets he fired a Reaction Innovations Flirt Worm on a 3/16-ounce shaky head tied to 6-pound-test line for bonus smallmouths.
3. Andy Morgan Started with Bed Fish, Finished with Spinnerbait
Andy Morgan spent the first two days of the tournament catching spawning fish he could not see. He located the fish in the river section of the lake simply by pitching and flipping laydowns, bushes and logjams in pockets. He shook off every bite he got in practice and promptly marked each one on his GPS. When he returned in the tournament he would persistently pitch to the place where he had a bite until he caught the fish. His primary lure for that job was a Zoom Z-Craw in green pumpkin with a 5/16-ounce weight tied to 16-pound-test Gamma fluorocarbon.
With his bed fish used up, Morgan had to improvise on days three and four by throwing a 1/2-ounce chartreuse War Eagle spinnerbait (double-willow with gold and silver blades) on 14-pound-test Gamma to bushes on flat points and mudlines.
4. Bed Fish and Retreads Worked for Cody Meyer
Rayovac pro Cody Meyer spent the first two days of the tournament down in the clear waters of Indian Creek on Beaver’s lower end. He was sight-fishing and casting a drop-shot for spawning smallmouths.
On the final two days he played the Prairie Creek retread game by casting a 4-inch Strike King Swim-N-Shiner on a 1/4-ounce head on 8-pound-test Seaguar Tatsu fluorocarbon.
“We had a lot of wind those final days, and when the wind blows on this lake, the fish are prone to really suspend,” Meyer says. “A drop-shot is great when it is calm, but if it’s windy I like something swimming through the water column.”
5. Bryan Thrift Fished Points and Pockets
Bryan Thrift ran a combination of points and pockets in Prairie Creek and up into the river during the week. When fishing back into the pockets, he skipped a 5-inch Damiki Stinger stick worm pinned to a 2/0 Gamakatsu Finesse Wide Gap Hook tied to 8-pound-test P-Line fluorocarbon.
When fishing around flat points between the pockets he cast swimbaits – a Damiki Anchovy Shad and a Keitech Swing Impact – both rigged on 3/16-ounce jigheads and 8-pound-test P-Line.
6. John Cox Ran Way Upriver
On days one and two, John Cox fished for spawners that he knew were there but could not see well.
“A lot of times all I would see was just the tail,” Cox says. “The water was too dirty to really see the beds. But I would just keep pitching over there where I would see glimpses of the fish until it bit.”
Cox found his spawning largemouths around laydown wood and bushes in the White River. When pitching to the spawners he used a Zoom Trick Worm rigged with a 1/8-ounce weight with 15-pound-test fluorocarbon on an MB873-MHX rod.
On the final two days, Cox switched up to a Z-Man ChatterBait fished on flats far up the river. His rod choice for the ChatterBait was a MB843-MHX.
7. All Three Species Targeted by Peter Thliveros
Peter T found his comfort zone in the Rocky Branch area of the lake where he felt he had the best shot at all three species of bass. For three of the four days, he weighed in Beaver Lake slams – smallmouth, largemouth and spotted bass – but on day two he weighed in all smallmouths.
Thliveros focused on points breaking of into about 10 feet of water with three different baits: a 4-inch swimbait, a Zoom Swamp Crawler (green pumpkin) on a 1/8-ounce shaky head and a jig (brown/purple) with a Zoom Fat Albert twin-tail grub trailer. He fished the lures on 8-pound-test Lew’s APT Speed Line fluorocarbon and 10-pound-test APT braid.
He favored the jig on bluffs, the shaky head on steep banks and the swimbait on windblown points.
8. Yamamoto Senko Carried Stetson Blaylock
All week Stetson Blaylock relied mostly on one bait: a 5-inch Yamamoto Senko. He demonstrated just how versatile the Senko is by rigging it three different ways: on a 3/16-ounce shaky head, Texas-rigged with a 1/4-ounce weight and on a weightless wacky rig.
Blaylock focused on spawning bass in the river portion of the lake, and he used each rig according to what he was fishing. If he was just covering water while looking, the shaky head was the choice. If he was fishing around logs and bushes where he suspected a bass to be, but wasn’t sure exactly where they were bedding, he skipped a wacky rig. And if he found one locked on bed, the Texas-rigged Senko got the nod.
For his wacky and shaky rigs, Blaylock used spinning gear spooled with 20-pound-test Seaguar Smackdown braid tied to an 8-pound-test InvisX fluorocarbon leader.
9. Vic Vatalaro Milked a Community Hole
Vic Vatalaro haunted a community hole schooling hot spot with a variety of baits to catch a majority of his weight during the week. His primary lures for fooling the schoolers were a Smithwick Elite 8 Rogue, a Reaction Innovations Vixen topwater, a Keitech Swing Impact swimbait on a 1/4-ounce Picasso tungsten jighead featuring a titanium weedguard for working through brush and occasionally a shaky head.
The Vixen played a big role in his day three catch. Interestingly, Vatalaro opted to throw the Vixen on a 7-foot, 4-inch G. Loomis Inshore spinning rod teamed with a Daiwa Steez reel spooled with 40-pound-test braid tied to a 20-pound-test monofilament leader. The reason for the setup was so he could make extraordinarily long casts.
“They would come up schooling a long way away – beyond the reach of ordinary casting tackle,” Vatalaro says. “I could pick up that saltwater rod and Steez and bomb that thing way out there where the fish were popping the surface. Those long casts were key to several of my better fish the third day.”
10. Mike Surman Stayed in the Lower End
Mike Surman fished the lower end of Beaver Lake in the clear water all week. His primary lures included a Gambler Gigi Head teamed with either a Gambler Sweebo or Webo worm fished on Yo-Zuri 6-pound-test fluorocarbon and a Yo-Zuri Duel Hardcore suspending jerkbait.