After day three at the Walmart FLW Tour event presented by Quaker State and hosted by Florence/Lauderdale Tourism on Pickwick Lake, it looks like day four could only be a formality for tournament leader Buddy Gross. Of course, anything can happen in tournament fishing, but given Gross’ generous leading margin of 14 pounds, 11 ounces and a pattern that appears bulletproof, he will basically have to do a face plant tomorrow to let this one slip away.
While Gross is making it look easy, those behind him continue to search for the elusive motherlode that only Gross has seemed to tap.
2. Michael Neal – Dayton, Tenn. – 54-12 (15)
After weighing in 16 pounds, 14 ounces on day three to hang on in second place, even TVA expert Michael Neal has conceded that his chances of catching Gross are pretty slim at this point.
“This morning I still had high hopes of running him down,” Neal says of Gross, who is also his traveling roommate. “All along I kept thinking more fish were moving out to the places I’m fishing, but after today, I just don’t know what to make of it. They’re just not grouping up out there like they normally do and I honestly don’t know why.”
“Even on the best spot I found this week, I don’t really know why they are there,” Neal continues. “I’m making really long casts and sometimes I get bit 60 yards out and sometimes I get bit 15 yards from the boat and that’s unusual to me. Usually there’s one sweet spot where they are ganged up and it’s just not like that this time. It’s like they are roaming all over those places instead of being tight in one spot. Instead of making one specific cast on a spot, I’m having to fan cast around to get bit and that’s kind of weird to me here this time of year.”
3. Jamie Horton – Centerville, Ala. – 51-5 (15)
Jamie Horton checked in 17 pounds, 3 ounces on day three to move into third place, his highest spot of the week.
Horton has climbed up through the standings with a one-two combination of fishing a shad spawn in the morning for a starter limit and then moving out in the afternoons to catch a kicker out deep.
“I’ve got one place on a bluff wall in a creek where the shad are spawning in the shade of the bluff in the morning,” Horton says. “Each morning I’ve been able to catch a few fish off that shad spawn, including a good fish. I’m slow rolling a spinnerbait down to about 7 feet along the bluff wall and I can feel those shad bumping my blades. So I know that’s what happening down there.”
4. Scott Suggs – Alexander, Ark. – 47-1 (14)
Scott Suggs weighed in 10 pounds, 10 ounces on day three, slipping from third to fourth.
“I’ve been getting a couple of big bites deep each day, but today I just could not get any deep bites,” Suggs says. “Everything I caught came from the shad spawn today. It’s one of the biggest shad spawns I’ve ever seen on this lake – they’re spawning up in grass in about 6 to 8 feet of water and there are 30 shad following my bait back to the boat every time. It’s crazy. I caught some good ones that way the first day, but today they were all just cookie-cutter keepers.”
Suggs adds that his primary lures on the shad spawn have been a spinnerbait and a swimbait.
5. Barry Wilson – Birmingham, Ala. – 44-9 (5)
Barry Wilson climbed up to his best spot of the week in the standings with a 13-pound, 1-ounce catch today.
“The bites come in flurries that usually coincide with lock activity,” Wilson says. “When they let the water out of the lock, the water rises a little as the lock flushes out and the fish seem to feed on those pushes of water.”