Coming into the FLW Tour event presented by Lowrance at Lake Guntersville, Mark Rose had quite a laundry list of reasons why he wanted to win the tournament.
First of all, Lake Guntersville has a rich history in the sport of professional bass fishing. Fishing legends such as Zell Rowland, George Cochran, Rick Clunn and David Fritts have all won national events on the historic lake. Rose has always wanted to put his name alongside such icons as a professional tournament winner on Guntersville.
Second, Rose has been so close to victory in other events on Guntersville. He has finished runner-up in a Costa FLW Series event and a Tour event at the lake.
Rose is also well known for his deep-water prowess. He has earned his moniker as a “ledgemaster” through multiple offshore wins along the Tennessee River. With that, he felt like he had become almost pigeonholed as a deep-water specialist and was ready to prove to himself that he can win events in waist-deep water as well.
Finally, Rose was ready to erase a memory from Sam Rayburn Reservoir in 2014 when he lead an FLW Tour event going into the last day and faltered, letting none other than Bryan Thrift slip past him and grab the brass ring.
Ironically, it was Thrift who followed Rose out in second place on the final morning at Guntersville, once again intensely studying the target on Rose’s back.
As the morning began, everything went well for Rose. His first four bites came quickly, making another Rose victory look imminent.
Then he hit a wall.
For the better part of five hours, Rose never had a bite.
“That’s what’s so weird about fishing,” Rose says. “One minute you feel like everything is going your way, and then doubt starts creeping in from every direction. And with each empty cast, that doubt grows into giants. And the next thing I know I start to feel like I’m never going to catch a bass again for the rest of my life. I was at that point today.”
The turnaround came late in the day, when a small keeper completely slayed all the demons of doubt. That fish completed Rose’s limit and renewed his unwavering faith.
“With that one fish everything changed,” Rose recalls. “I felt like I could fish again. And with that, I kicked the giants of doubt in the teeth. Thanks to my faith, calmness came over me, and I was at ease again. Something inside me told me to just stay the course.”
What followed was a 3 1/2-pounder that culled him up. And then, with just minutes left in the fishing day, Rose returned to his primary area, and a willing 5-plus-pounder put him back on the straightaway to victory lane.
Rose spent the majority of his week fishing in Browns Creek. He devoted an entire day of practice to the creek, fishing a lot of its shallower banks and inside grass lines. Several quality bites led him to put all his eggs in the Browns Creek basket for the event.
He specifically zoned in on the Browns Creek causeway riprap and several inside grass lines that led back to spawning pockets. The inside grass lines faced rock and wood along the bank, and in between was a protected lane for fish to stage. During the first two days, the inside grass line played more of a role in Rose’s catch. On the final two days, the rock and wood along the bank were his primary targets.
“The first two days, that grass looked beautiful in there,” Rose says. “The water was that pretty, clear Guntersville green, and I could see dark clumps of hydrila along the inside. It was perfect. But that front hit, and that wind piled into the creek and really stained that area. That’s when I switched to fishing more of the rock and wood on the bank side of that inside lane.”
Two crankbaits were a critical part of Rose’s prespawn staging game. Both were older, out-of-production plugs. One was a flat-sided medium-running crankbait that he used on the riprap, and the other was a flat-sided square-bill bait that was once made by Strike King’s custom lure shop. Both lures were of a brown/chartreuse hue and were fished on 12-pound-test Seaguar Tatsu line. When “trapping” the inside grass line, he used a Strike King Red Eye Shad Tungsten 2 Tap lipless bait.
When he encountered laydown logs along his primary bank he needled them with a 3/8-ounce Strike King Denny Brauer Baby Structure Jig to collect a couple of key fish during the week. He also notes that several big fish fell victim to a white vibrating jig teamed with a Strike King Rage Craw trailer.
When Rose went to make his final stand in his primary area in the last 20 minutes of the day, he actually switched colors of the Strike King square-bill plug.
“All week I had been using that chartreuse and brown bait in there in my rotations,” Rose says. “And on my previous pass through there I remember thinking the water had cleared and my bait looked kind of bright. So right before I ran back there to make my last pass, I tied on a shad-colored version of that same flat-sided bait and spent my last few minutes fishing one of my primary spots that had not given up a fish all day. And that’s when that big one bit that put me over the top.”
We’ll never know whether that big fish had been there all day and bit only because of a color change in a lure, but it’s little gut feelings like that one that helped Rose push past Thrift by just 15 ounces to win. It’s those little adjustments that helped Rose chalk up another win in his ever-expanding career resume and put his name alongside some of the sport’s legends as a Lake Guntersville champion.
Top 10 Pros
1. Mark Rose – West Memphis, Ark. – 79-11 (20)
2. Bryan Thrift – Shelby, N.C. – 78-12 (20)
3. Alex Davis – Albertville, Ala. – 72-10 (20)
4. Scott Suggs – Alexander, Ark. – 68-9 (20)
5. Shinichi Fukae – Palestine, Texas – 68-4 (20)
6. Brandon Cobb – Greenwood, S.C. – 64-10 (20)
7. Andy Morgan – Dayton, Tenn. – 62-14 (20)
8. Christopher Brasher – Longview, Texas – 62-9 (19)
9. Justin Atkins – Florence, Ala. – 61-15 (19)
10. Chris McCall – Palmer, Texas – 55-12 (18)