For the third tournament in row, FLW Tour pros have been battered by brutal weather, and day three of the FLW Tour presented by Evinrude on the Mississippi River was no different, rivaling the raw, wet conditions recently experienced at Lake Cumberland and Beaver Lake.
Non-stop rain and a soggy high of 48 degrees tested the mettle of the top-20 pros. But come weigh-in time, a healthy crowd of spectators busted out umbrellas to watch the pros slosh up to the weigh-in line with big smiles and bags of bass, undeterred by the wet Wisconsin weather.
Around the weigh-in tanks, conversation revolved around high, muddy water and one of the more interesting developments within the tournament: the number of smallmouth being caught from shallow woody cover in the backwaters of the pools. Stories of smallmouths being whacked in a foot of water where largemouths usually live seemed to be the riddle of the day.
In addition, a few more patterns were being shared. Here’s a look at the top five performers from day three
2. Andy Morgan – Dayton, Tenn. – 46-0
After fishing fans watched Andy Morgan catch smallmouths from “the woods” on FLW Live Friday, they showed up at weigh-in to quiz the amiable pro about his technique.
Morgan checked in another limit weighing 14 pounds, 12 ounces, which slipped him to second. He now sits just 12 ounces away from his second FLW Tour win.
“I have no idea what to make of these crazy smallmouths up here,” laughs Morgan as he tried to reason what the heck smallmouths were doing in acres of flooded cover. “I can distinctly remember the only smallmouth I have ever caught from a shallow bush – it was on Dale Hollow years ago. This is a whole new experience for me. But man, it’s fun.”
“I think a lot of it has to do with bottom composition,” Morgan says. “Some of those flooded places have hard, gravely bottoms and smallmouth love bedding on those kinds of places. Just because those hard spots are up in the woods doesn’t bother them a bit”
Morgan did note that his bites fell off substantially Friday, as he caught only eight or nine bass when he was getting two to three times that number of bites earlier in the week.
“I do think it’s going away, which bothers me a little bit,” he says. “The conditions have not been conducive to bringing new ones in. But I’ll probably go do it again tomorrow because it really is a blast.”
3. Austin Felix – Eden Prairie, Minn. – 44-10
Austin Felix moved up a couple of clicks to third place with a 13-pound, 15-ounce catch, giving him a total of 44 pounds, 10 ounces.
Felix has been making a living this week off a couple of smallmouth spawning banks while saving some largemouth areas for the weekend. Friday he played that largemouth card and it paid off with a nice cull.
“I started on the same bank I fished yesterday and milked a 150-yard stretch for two hours to get my limit,” Felix says. “Once I did that, I figured I’d roll the dice a little bit and run farther down into Pool 9 to get into some backwaters that had been holding some good largemouths. I caught a 3-pound largemouth out of there, which helped me cull up.”
4. Matt Stefan – Junction City, Wis. – 44-3
Matt Stefan slipped a spot to fourth but held inside the top five with 13-pound, 5-ounce catch.
Stefan continued to work his pattern of fishing current breaks and voids for smallmouths still on beds.
“I’m still working a one-two punch,” Stefan says. “I’ll throw a topwater along some of those banks, just to get a fish to flash on it and show itself. Then I’ll follow up with a soft plastic, pitching it in that general area until I can get it to bite.”
5. Joshua Weaver – Macon, Ga. – 44-3
Joshua Weaver moved into the top five thanks to a 14-pound, 3-ounce limit.
All week Weaver has made a living off one wing dam on the river. Each day, that wing dam has produced a 4- to 5-pound fish, which has helped make up a lot of ground in the culling department.
“I fished a lot of wing dams in practice, but this one is a little different,” Weaver says. “For some reason the water color on it has not changed on it from practice. Even though everything on the river has gotten muddier each day, the water flowing around this one wing dam has stayed the exact same and each day it’s had a bunch of fish on it.”