A lengthy fog delay and clear, post-frontal conditions scrambled the standings and the fishing on day two of the 2016 Costa FLW Series Championship, but Walmart FLW Tour pro Zack Birge of Blanchard, Okla., came through with flying colors. Catching 13 pounds, 13 ounces of Table Rock bass, Birge moved from 13th to first with a total of 26 pounds, 5 ounces. In second place, Cody Bird of Granbury, Texas, is a few ounces back with 25-15.
Birge has a penchant for going way up rivers, and he’s proved that he can be successful in skinny water time and time again. From his win in the FLW Series Championship on Wheeler Lake in 2014 to top 10s at Lewis Smith Lake and the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita, the man excels when he’s going farther than anyone else.
“Today I went somewhere different than yesterday,” says Birge. “Way, way, way up one of the rivers. I didn’t fish more than about a 100-yard stretch all day, and I caught about three limits of smallmouths on a crankbait.”
With the fog-shortened day, only 12 pros brought limits to the scale, so for Birge to catch anything past five fish was remarkable in its own right.
“I was catching them all the same size. It might have been ounces if I could cull,” says Birge. “I finally caught one that culled about a half a pound, and I decided it was time to leave. I didn’t know what I had. I thought I had about 11 or 12 pounds.”
Other than a half-day or so of pre-practice, this is Birge’s first time on Table Rock. As such, he doesn’t have a whole ton of backup in case his fish don’t hold up for the final day of competition on Saturday.
“I’m going to probably start there and try and see if I can catch five,” says Birge. “And I might run from there to where I fished yesterday and try that. But, I think those fish are getting exhausted. I know Travis Fox, Chris Jones and Cody Bird are all over there, and it seems like they didn’t do real, real good today on them. It might have just been the time we had to fish, but I was catching them fast today, so that’s where I’m going to start at least.”
Top 10 pros (including division)
1. Zack Birge – Blanchard, Okla. – 26-5 (10) – Southwestern
2. Cody Bird – Granbury, Texas – 25-15 (10) – Southwestern
3. Pat Fisher – Colbert, Ga. – 25-4 (10) – Southeastern
4. Brad Cook – Afton, Okla. – 24-12 (9) – Southwestern
5. Bradford Beavers – Ridgeville, S.C. – 22-8 (8) – Southeastern
6. Christopher Jones – Bokoshe, Okla. – 22-4 (9) – Central
7. Travis Fox – Rogers, Ark. – 21-11 (9) – Central
8. Greg Bohannan – Bentonville, Ark. – 21-11 (10) – Central
9. Jeremy Lawyer – Sarcoxie, Mo. – 21-6 (10) – Central
10. Brent Algeo – Ozark, Mo. – 20-15 (8) – Central
Three Cup slots have been filled
There were 11 pro entries in the 2017 Forrest Wood Cup at stake at the 2016 Costa FLW Series Championship at Table Rock Lake, but three have already been filled by the highest-finishing Northern, Western and International division pros.
The spots are awarded in the following order: (1) The top angler from each of the five U.S. Costa FLW Series divisions and the top finisher from the International Division earn the first six qualifications. (2) The next five highest-finishing anglers regardless of division in the overall results.
The current division leaders and winners are as follows (numbers indicate current place in the overall standings):
1. Zack Birge – Blanchard, Okla.
3. Pat Fisher – Colbert, Ga.
6. Christopher Jones – Bokoshe, Okla.
Northern – FINAL
11. Joel Richardson – Kernersville, N.C.
Western – FINAL
29. Roy Hawk – Lake Havasu City, Ariz.
International – FINAL
51. Hyochul Kim – Korea
Sheppard continues with co-angler lead
Though Tyler Sheppard of Hermitage, Pa., only managed two keepers for 3 pounds, 9 ounces on day two, his total of 16-13 still stands head and shoulders above the rest of the co-angler field.
“I still caught a fair amount of fish, but it’s still tough to catch a keeper,” says Sheppard, who was buoyed on day one by a limit and a big kicker. “I didn’t miss any today. I got my two best bites in the boat. It was just tough all around.”
Sheppard led the Northern Division finale at Oneida going into the final day before finishing second, so a win at the championship would likely be a pretty sweet redemption and cap to his season.
Top 10 co-anglers
1. Tyler Sheppard – Hermitage, Pa. – 16-3 (7)
2. Michael Black – Toledo, Ill. – 12-11 (5)
3. Richard Jordan – Muncy Valley, Pa. – 11-11 (6)
4. Raymond Tak – Los Angeles, Calif. – 10-14 (5)
5. David Hudson – Jasper, Ala. – 9-4 (4)
6. Robert Myers – Broken Arrow, Okla. – 9-1 (5)
7. Jonathan Shockey – Fort Smith, Ark. – 8-7 (3)
8. Rob Bueltmann – Osage Beach, Mo. – 8-6 (4)
9. Benjamin Tawney – Slippery Rock, Pa. – 7-12 (4)
10. Joe Lane – Republic, Mo. – 7-11 (4)