By BassFan Staff
The Mark Rose Show continued today at the Wheeler Lake FLW Tour Open and many are expecting an anti-climactic finale tomorrow.
The shallow-water maven-turned-offshore guru sacked 15-10, his lightest limit through 3 days, but it gave him an impressive 54-08 total heading into the final day on the water. He said he’s been fishing with more and more confidence lately and it’s showing this week.
While his weights have come down each day, his lead over the remaining competitors continues to swell and there’s a growing sense that the real mystery tomorrow is who’s going to finish 2nd as he pursues his second FLW Tour win on the Tennessee River in as many years.
“He’s catching what it usually takes (to win) in June here when it’s really happening,” fellow pro Greg Hackney remarked after day 2.
“By no means do I think I have this thing in the bag, but if they bite for me, I’m sitting in a good position,” Rose said.
Blake Nick and Luke Clausen continue to be Rose’s closest challengers, but time is running out to make up the significant deficits they each face. Nick caught 13-07 to stay in 2nd with 47-07, a gap of 7-01 behind Rose. Clausen boxed 15-02 and has 46-15 in 3rd, 8 ounces behind Nick. The rest of the finalists all trail Rose by almost 12 pounds.
Shane Long and Michael Williamson swapped spots from yesterday, with Long taking over 4th, thanks to a 13-03 stringer that gave him 42-09. Williamson caught 9-11 and has 39-15 in 5th.
The biggest mover of the day was Larry Nixon, who’s coming off a victory at the Detroit River FLW Tour Open last month. His 16-04 stringer was the heaviest of the day and catapulted him from 20th to 6th, where he sits with 39-09.
Only seven anglers caught more than 10 pounds today, including Scott Suggs (13th to 9th) and Randall Tharp (11th to 7th), who each moved inside the Top-10 cut.
Here's a look at the 10 anglers who qualified for the final day of competition, with deficit margin from Rose indicated by red numbers in parentheses:
1. Mark Rose: 54-08
2. Blake Nick: 47-07 (7-01)
3. Luke Clausen: 46-15 (7-09)
4. Shane Long: 42-09 (11-15)
5. Michael Williamson: 39-15 (14-09)
6. Larry Nixon: 39-09 (14-15)
7. Randall Tharp: 38-12 (15-12)
8. Brett Hite: 38-03 (16-05)
9. Scott Suggs: 37-03 (17-05)
10. Jerry Lawler: 36-04 (18-04)
The stiffest wind of the event followed a small overnight front and seemed to put a hurting on the bite for several of the Top 20 pros as it brought a little more stain to some shallow-water haunts. Judging by today’s weights, the big fish that seemed willing to bite the last couple days just weren’t interested today.
Another clear day is expected tomorrow with temperatures in the mid 70s and a north wind.
This marks the third of four Opens on the FLW Tour schedule this year. Following Wheeler, the scene will shift to Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Lufkin, Texas, from Oct. 11-14, after which the Top 5 anglers in Open points will be granted early entry into next year’s Forrest Wood Cup at the Red River in Shreveport/Bossier City, La.
Rose Likes His Chances
> Day 3: 5, 15-10 (15, 54-08)
As it turned out, Rose didn’t have to catch a fish today in order to qualify for the final day, but as those who’ve followed his career know, if there’s a fish on a ledge somewhere in the lake, he’s going to try to catch it.
Tomorrow, his gameplan is simple. He’s going to camp on the areas that have gotten him to this point and see what happens. He’s sensing the bite is starting to diminish, but there may be enough there to sew up the win, which would cap off what’s been an up-and-down season for the Marion, Ark., pro.
“I’m just excited. I’m doing what I like to do on the Tennessee River, where I like to do it on,” he said. “My stuff is starting to run out, but I think a lot of guys’ stuff is. We’ve beaten this place to death. My fish are just wearing out, but I’m going out to try to catch another 20 pounds tomorrow. I may not catch a bass, but I look forward to looking at my Lowrance electronics and putting the best Strike King lures on my rods and going out and doing what I really like to do.”
Ideally, he’d like to see the TVA pull more current than it has the last 2 days, but that’s unlikely to happen on a Sunday. If his offshore spot does in fact give out, he may resort to an area nearby where he caught some fish on a topwater back on day 1.
“The conditions haven’t really changed,” he noted. “I’m just not seeing the water pulling that I need to or that I thought I’d see during the tournament. We had a little bit of water movement the first day and I think that’s why the weights picked up. I need some kind of change and I think I’m going to get a change, but it’s going to be in the form of a 40-degree night, and I don’t really know how that’s going to affect them. It’s not going to affect the way I fish, though.
“I might come in tomorrow and tell you how the 40-degree night messed me up, but I’m going to ride this wave of confidence right to the end. It’s been extremely tough. I’ve got two itty-bitty schools of fish and there’s not a lot of fish in them. I’ve just been totally blessed that I’ve landed those two good fish every day. Today, I lost one real big one first thing this morning and that was the first one I’ve lost. I got two more big bites today and I caught them. I’m just riding it out and hope it lasts one more day.”
Blake Nick has no plans to leave his primary spot tomorrow.
2nd: Nick Won’t Budge Tomorrow
> Day 3: 5, 13-07 (15, 47-07)
As he did the first 2 days, Nick abandoned his primary area toward the Wheeler Dam once he caught a decent limit so as to give it a break and maybe uncover a solid alternative pattern elsewhere.
Tomorrow, he’s putting the pedal to metal on that spot and won’t shift his focus at all.
“There’s a 20-pound bag sitting where I’m at,” he said. “Whether or not I’m smart enough to figure out how to catch them, I don’t know, but we’re going to give it a go tomorrow all day and beat it until it’s time to come in. Win, lose or draw, I’m not leaving that spot. It’s either going to happen or it’s not. If there was ever a possibility of me catching Mark, it’s going to be right there. I’ve left every day to try and find something different and it’s not happening because I’m going to sit there all day.”
He knows he’s going to need a massive stringer and have Rose stumble for him to notch his first Tour win, but he’s looking forward to having the freedom that comes with fishing the final day.
“I’d need to catch a 7- or 8-pounder and then have a sack full of 4s to go with it,” he said. “I’m stoked. I’m hoping it’s going to be a little bit calmer tomorrow and while I love having co-anglers, it’ll be nice to not have someone else there catching fish. There are only a few bites there and we did a good job catching what we caught – my co-angler today won. Just to have the front of the boat and be able to throw wherever I want is going to be different. I’m excited.”
He took another dead-fish penalty today, making it 2 days in a row his weight’s been cut by 8 ounces, and lost ground on Rose.
He’s hoping the wind lays down tomorrow as it made it challenging today to attack his spot the way he wanted to.
“It was a huge factor,” he said. “You can’t line up and get your angles to throw and fish it the way you want to. If I wasn’t chasing Mark Rose, 13-07 and the weights I’ve had would be good, but the guy’s going to catch them no matter what.”
3rd: Random Big Bites Have Helped Clausen
> Day 3: 5, 15-02 (15, 46-15)
The five fish Clausen brought to the scale today each came on a different bait. Some call that junk-fishing, but he’s not about to quit what he’s doing as he and Rose are the only two anglers to have caught at least 15 pounds each day.
“I’m tickled about it,” he said. “I’m pretty proud of myself just fishing shallow. It’s been a grind, but every day I’ve gotten two or three big bites and I got a couple more today. I’m hoping it can continue. I have a feeling the wheels would fall off if this went on too many days. I’m hoping I can get one more day out of it.”
When asked if the he and rest of the finalists are in a shootout for 2nd place tomorrow, he deadpanned, “Nope. I’m going to catch 32 pounds.”
He then added, “It’s pretty apparent that’s the case unless some catastrophic happens with Rose and he doesn’t catch anything, but I highly doubt that.”
His bigger bites have come in different spots each day and he’s found some areas that have kicked out quality bites on multiple days. He’s been focused mainly on the river portion of creek mouths where fish are staging to move back into the creeks for their fall feeding session.
“I have delusions of grandeur in my mind that maybe there’s a chance I can catch five big ones and have a 20-pound bag, but by the time the day wears on reality sets in and I’m happy to get the two or three good ones I’m catching,” he said.
Shane Long's around some big fish, evidenced by this 4-11 hawg from today.
4th: Long Had Company Today
> Day 3: 5, 13-03 (15, 42-09)
Long made the long run to what’s been his key big-fish area by the Guntersville Dam today. The only difference was, he couldn’t find the twin to the 7-04 giant he caught on day 3. He did catch a 4-11, though, and that anchored his bag that helped him clinch his first career Tour Top-10 cut.
“It feels awesome,” he said. “I struggled pretty much all through practice and to still be in it, it’s an accomplishment any time you can make a cut at a Tour event.”
He had no fish at 10:30 this morning and went through just seven keepers all day.
“I knew I needed one more good bite to have a good day up there. It can happen. It’s not out of the cards to catch five of those big fish. They’re there and I know they’re there. I’ve had at least one big bite each day.”
The spot he’s been starting on had a lot of locals on it this morning and he’s concerned if there’s another local tournament tomorrow, it could prevent him from capitalizing on what’s been a productive morning area.
“I have no idea if there are any local tournaments tomorrow,” he added, “but that’s definitely a factor because there were some boats on a place I was going to start on and I watched him catch what looked like a 4-pounder.”
5th: Williamson Sticking With Frog
> Day 3: 5, 9-11 (15, 39-15)
The frog bite that’s carried Williamson to his second Tour Top-10 cut was affected by the weather today, but he scraped together enough to only slip one spot in the standings.
“It got real, real tough,” he said. “The frog bite wasn’t near as good today as it has been.”
He said it’s been pretty much an all-day deal except for a dry spell in the middle of the day, but he’s fixing to head back there tomorrow and will try to fish it out. Today, he had just three blowups, but his co-angler had at least a dozen.
“There are still fish there,” he added. “I’ll probably have to adjust to a different color than I was throwing today. There was a whole lot of wind on the lily pads and that had a lot to do with it. They just weren’t as aggressive.
“That’s where I’ll spend all of my day tomorrow and go for broke.”
Today, he managed just five keepers, including a couple 12-inchers that came on a dropshot near a bridge later in the day.
6th: Nixon Thrilled
> Day 3: 5, 16-04 (15, 39-09)
It hasn’t been easy for Nixon this week, but he’s thrilled to have a shot to fish one more day knowing he’s going to leave Wheeler with the lead in the Open points standings.
“That was pretty unexpected, to be honest,” he said of today’s result. “I’ve been having to work my tail off. I don’t have any holes. I just have some banks that I’m fishing and I’m just flipping a big black and red flake Berkley tube all day long and it’s caught me enough fish to get me this far.
“I never would’ve dreamed I’d catch what I caught. I was expecting to catch around 20 to 22 pounds for 3 days and be happy with it, but I caught a little bigger fish and made the Top 10.”
He brought seven keepers into the boat today and he’s a bit concerned what today’s wind will have done to his main spot tomorrow as he has nothing else to go to.
“There’s nothing I can do but go fishing and do the best I can do and hope the wind hasn’t torn everything up,” he said. “If it has, I’ll just start over.
“I just got on this one pattern in practice. I looked for the deep fish one complete day and I decided that would be a good way for me to not do good in the points this week so I went shallow and figured out a couple of patterns. One of them has totally went away, but I picked the fish back up where they moved to and I’m just hoping I find enough to stay in there.”
> Day 3 stats – 20 anglers, 17 limits, 2 fours, 1 two.
> Jay Yelas was “embarrassed” by his 63rd-place finish this week. To read his full competition recap, click here to Go On Tour With BassFan Big Sticks.
> Sun., Sept. 23 – Mostly Sunny - 75°/46°
- Wind: From the NNW at 6 to 11 mph
Day 3 Standings
1. Mark Rose -- West Memphis, Ar -- 21-06 (5) -- 17-08 (5) -- 15-10 (5) -- 54-08 (15)
2. Blake Nick -- Adger, Al -- 17-15 (5) -- 16-09 (5) -- 12-15 (5) -- 47-07 (15)
3. Luke Clausen -- Spokane, Wa -- 15-15 (5) -- 15-14 (5) -- 15-02 (5) -- 46-15 (15)
4. Shane Long -- Willard, Mo -- 12-02 (5) -- 17-04 (5) -- 13-03 (5) -- 42-09 (15)
5. Michael Williamson -- Fort Smith, Ar -- 12-10 (5) -- 17-10 (5) -- 9-11 (5) -- 39-15 (15)
6. Larry Nixon -- Bee Branch, Ar -- 11-14 (5) -- 11-07 (5) -- 16-04 (5) -- 39-09 (15)
7. Randall Tharp -- Gardendale, Al -- 11-11 (5) -- 14-15 (5) -- 12-02 (5) -- 38-12 (15)
8. Brett Hite -- Phoenix, Az -- 13-08 (5) -- 14-15 (5) -- 9-12 (5) -- 38-03 (15)
9. Scott Suggs -- Bryant, Ar -- 13-10 (5) -- 12-02 (5) -- 11-07 (5) -- 37-03 (15)
10. Jerry Lawler -- Athens, Al -- 11-03 (5) -- 15-11 (5) -- 9-06 (5) -- 36-04 (15)
The following anglers did not make the cut and will not fish on day 4.
11. Russell Lane -- Prattville, Al -- 15-14 (5) -- 11-04 (5) -- 8-01 (5) -- 35-03 (15) -- $6,720
12. Brent Ehrler -- Redlands, Ca -- 11-08 (5) -- 14-14 (5) -- 7-14 (5) -- 34-04 (15) -- $6,720
13. Art Ferguson III -- St. Clair Shores, Mi -- 13-08 (5) -- 11-15 (5) -- 8-11 (5) -- 34-02 (15) -- $6,720
14. Chad Grigsby -- Maple Grove, Mn -- 13-11 (5) -- 13-06 (5) -- 6-14 (4) -- 33-15 (14) -- $6,720
15. Greg Hackney -- Gonzales, La -- 14-13 (5) -- 11-06 (5) -- 7-11 (5) -- 33-14 (15) -- $6,720
16. Tommy Martin -- Hemphill, Tx -- 10-13 (5) -- 14-00 (5) -- 8-13 (5) -- 33-10 (15) -- $6,424
17. Jonathan Newton -- Rogersville, Al -- 11-10 (5) -- 12-13 (5) -- 8-09 (5) -- 33-00 (15) -- $6,424
18. Corey Saint -- Lexington, Al -- 12-05 (5) -- 15-12 (5) -- 3-13 (2) -- 31-14 (12) -- $6,424
19. David Dudley -- Lynchburg, Va -- 11-11 (5) -- 12-14 (5) -- 6-13 (5) -- 31-06 (15) -- $6,424
20. Mike Surman -- Boca Raton, Fl -- 10-00 (5) -- 13-11 (5) -- 5-14 (4) -- 29-09 (14) -- $6,424