By Todd Ceisner
Beaver Lake was a fishery in flux before the FLW Tour Major got underway. The water temperatures had plunged 10 degrees and the water level had dropped significantly in the weeks leading up to the event.
Fish were scattered like confetti in the breeze. There were staging fish, bed-fish and post-spawners. Very few expected the weights to come in as high as they did and many were surprised at the bounty of largemouths that came to the scales each day.
Among the other notable surprises was the role played by the umbrella rig in helping the Top-5 finishers fill their livewells. Tournament champion David Dudley weighed about two-thirds of his fish on it while the majority of the Top 5 utilized it as part of a junk pattern or relied upon it exclusively. Only Glenn Browne, who finished 5th by mostly flipping, didn’t throw it more than a few times.
Here’s how Dudley’s counterparts tackled Beaver.
2nd: Andy Morgan
> Day 1: 5, 11-03
> Day 2: 5, 13-09
> Day 3: 5, 11-11
> Day 4: 5, 17-08
> Total = 20, 53-15
If Andy Morgan has learned anything over the years from fishing Beaver Lake, it’s to simply listen to the lake and fish the conditions. He did just that, throwing the umbrella rig from start to finish to claim the runner-up position.
He went through at least 15 keepers a day and virtually all of them were largemouths.
“I never knew I could put together 4 solid days,” he said. “I’ve been here enough and been to the other Ozarks lakes enough to know that if you don’t fish the conditions, you will get beat.
“We had really good conditions for what I was doing. If we had had a bright, sunny and slick day, I might have gagged out, but a lot of other people would’ve, too.”
> Umbrella rig gear: 7’ medium-heavy homemade spinnerbait rod, Shimano Core casting reel (7:1 ratio), 20-pound Gamma Edge fluorocarbon line, unnamed 5-wire umbrella rig, 3/16-ounce War Eagle jigheads, Zoom Swimming Super Fluke Junior (albino).
> He weighed a couple of spawners on day 1 throwing a Zoom Finesse Worm (watermelon candy) in flooded bushes.
> Main factor in his success – “Not having anything set in my head. I didn’t really have any preconceived areas that I was just dying to get to. I fished by the seat of my pants. That seems to work out for me about as good as anything. If I can do that, I tend to do better. If I have areas I want to get to, I always seem to fish too fast or worry about somebody beating me to it.”
> Performance edge – “The Gamma Edge line. I have a lot of confidence in that. I don’t retie a lot in a day when I was doing what I was doing. I have so much confidence in that Gamma that I might retie four times a day, but I use that stuff like it’s braid. I get pretty gutsy with where I throw it.”
Luke Clausen's umbrella-rig bite tailed off on day 4.
3rd: Luke Clausen
> Day 1: 5, 13-09
> Day 2: 5, 13-11
> Day 3: 5, 14-05
> Day 4: 5, 12-00
> Total = 20, 53-09
Before the tournament, Luke Clausen talked about his desire for some weather to roll through the Beaver Lake area during the tournament because the fishing tends to toughen up on the deep, clear reservoir in slick, calm conditions.
He didn’t get his wish on day 1, but his 13-09 catch was enough to get him inside the Top 10 right away in 9th place. The wind howled on day 2 and he rode his 13-11 stringer to the lead at the halfway point. By day 3, he was all-in with the umbrella rig.
“After day 2, it was the only rod on the deck,” he said. “I had supreme confidence in it. What I know of the Alabama Rig, the likelihood of it outsmarting a bigger, more educated fish is greater now since it hasn’t been around too long.”
He was constantly reading the conditions and adjusting his retrieve to trigger bites.
“I kept trying different stuff,” he added. “Once I’d get it figured out, it would work for a couple hours.”
In the mornings, he’d tend to catch fish in deeper water (10 to 12 feet) before sliding up shallow (2 to 5 feet) in the afternoon.
“Some mornings were tough before I figured out the deep-water stuff,” he noted.
He only went through eight keepers on day 4 despite working in some areas that he’d laid off of mostly during the previous days.
“I went there and didn’t get bit,” he said. “It seemed the other days I’d figure something out during the day and catch deeper fish off a bank or catch them shallower. I’d be able to do a lot of work in an hour or 2. It just didn’t happen on day 4.”
> Umbrella rig gear: 7’7” Megabass Orochi X4 flipping rod, unnamed casting reel, 16- and 20-pound Gamma fluorocarbon line, unnamed 5-wire umbrella rig, homemade 3/16-ounce jigheads (4/0 hooks), 3” Z-Man SwimmerZ (blackback shad).
> He fished the 16-pound line in deeper water and threw the 20-pound on shallower stuff.
> Main factor in his success – “The biggest thing was the rig, but also the versatility and figuring it out during the day.”
> Performance edge – “Two things -- that Megabass rod. It has a really parabolic action, but it’s heavy enough to cast and load up to land those fish. Also, my Mercury engine. I ran around a lot and was on plane probably 50 to 60 times a day. I’m really impressed with that engine.”
After a strong practice, Scott Canterbury knew Beaver Lake held big-bag potential.
4th: Scott Canterbury
> Day 1: 5, 14-05
> Day 2: 5, 8-05
> Day 3: 5, 19-11
> Day 4: 5, 10-08
> Total = 20, 52-13
For several years now, Beaver has ranked as Scott Canterbury’s least favorite lake in the country. That perception is slowly changing after he notched another Top-10 finish, the seventh FLW Tour Top-10 of his career.
“It’s come a long way,” he said. “To catch that 19-pound bag (on day 3) and I’ve caught a 20-pound bag in practice before just shows that they’re in there and the thing that helps is there are a lot more keepers. It’s not near as hard to catch a limit of keeper largemouths as it used to be. There are a lot of fish in the lake.”
He marked some fish late in practice around Prairie Creek and intended on fishing there and in a couple other creeks on the lower end of the lake. He anticipated being able to catch 10 to 13 pounds per day in those areas.
He boxed 11 pounds pretty quickly on day 1, but didn’t have anywhere to run to for upgrades. He eventually bolted the lower end and ran up War Eagle Creek where he’d caught a good stringer last year.
“That was really my best practice – the first day of the tournament,” he said, “and then I expanded on it every day.”
He caught 80 percent of his weigh fish on an umbrella rig, but wishes he would’ve gotten on the topwater bite that seemed to develop on the weekend.
“They were just changing so fast and I didn’t keep up with them quite enough,” he said. “If I would’ve changed up and found them running out on those shallower points with the water warming up, I might’ve done a little better.
“I did all I could do and put everything I had into it. You can get close, but it’ll come. If I put myself in contention enough times, it’ll happen.”
> Umbrella rig gear: 7’3” heavy TigeRodz casting rod or 7’3” heavy Abu Garcia Veritas casting rod, Abu Garcia Revo MGX casting reel (7.9:1 ratio), 50-pound Berkley Big Game Braid line, 1/2-ounce 4-wire Swim N’ Frenzy Mini Frenzy umbrella rig, 1/16- and 3/16-ounce unnamed jigheads, 4” Berkley Powerbait Split Belly swimbaits (gizzard shad).
> The rig he used was similar to the one used by Spencer Shuffield to finish 2nd at Table Rock in early April. “The smaller rig, with the smaller swimbaits on it, I was fishing it like a spinnerbait. I could actually pitch in dock slips and brush and work it out pretty easily. With the smaller bait, it helps the casting and accuracy.”
> He also used 3/8-ounce jigs from the Mann’s Alabama Rig on the bottom wires to allow his bait to track straight.
> Main factor in his success – “Just staying confident and positive about everything. That was the biggest thing. I caught a good bag out there one day during practice and I knew there were big ones in there.”
> Performance edge – “Everything that I use -- my Ranger boat, Evinrude motor, my line, reels and rods all the way down to my Typhoon sunglasses.”
Flipping wood along river banks was Glenn Browne's main tactic.
5th: Glenn Browne
> Day 1: 5, 14-08
> Day 2: 5, 11-09
> Day 3: 5, 12-15
> Day 4: 5, 12-14
> Total = 20, 51-14
Glenn Browne fished his strength all week – power-fishing banks and wood in the river. He checked on some old holes and banks in the clearer water down the lake, but chose to fish river stuff after seeing a shad spawn was underway. He got some quality bites flipping wood and throwing spinnerbaits in practice.
“I just expanded on it from there,” he said. “When I saw that going on and I’d had some good largemouth bites, I knew that’s where I was going to spend my time.”
Browne did throw an umbrella rig on day 1, but only caught dinks.
“I guess I didn’t throw it long enough and didn’t dedicate myself to it” he said. “I got a few bites flipping and off I went.
“The first couple days you had to fish the flatter banks,” he added. “The water’s been dropping a little bit every day and you could catch them around the flat, mud banks flipping. That stuff was shallow and with the water down another 6 inches since we’ve been here. I got most of my bites the last 2 days off more 45-degree banks and bluff-type banks. In that kind of cover, the fish can move up and down and still be in the cover.”
> Flipping gear: 8’ double-extra heavy Carrot Stix Wild Black casting rod, Lew’s Tournament Pro Speed Spool casting reel (6.4:1 ratio), 20-pound Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon line, 5/16-ounce Gambler tungsten flipping weight, 5/0 Gamakatsu Super Line EWG hook, Gambler Flipp'n Tube (black neon chartreuse), Warrior Baits Quiver Bug (summer craw).
> He also caught some fish on day 4 throwing the Heddon Super Spook Junior (bone).
> Main factor in his success – “Just sticking to it. You couldn’t get frustrated or flustered too much. You just had to keep your head down and keep going. Every day, I’d probably catch 30 fish and catch five to eight keepers. If you got impatient, you weren’t going to stay with it. You had to have confidence you were going to get bites.”
> Performance edge – “My boat. You need to have a good boat and good engine and a good rod and reel. They’re great.”