By Todd Ceisner
BassFan Editor


Marcus Sykora thought he was on the Mexico-U.S. border for a while. That's how good the fishing was at Wilson Lake last week during the BFL All-American.

On day 1 of the tournament, he had two bass that he estimated to be over 7 pounds apiece jump off while his co-angler brought a similar specimen into the boat. The following day, he was fortunate to finally land one himself.

"Where else can you go and see four 7s," he wondered aloud, referencing Falcon Lake.

Big fish seemed to be the norm for Sykora, an insurance salesman from Missouri, as he racked up nearly 55 pounds of bass through the first 2 days and built a massive 14-plus pound leads entering the final day. A 12-05 stringer on day 3 was a fraction of what he'd caught earlier on, but it was plenty to put away the victory, which came with a $100,000 payday and a berth in this year's Forrest Wood Cup.

"It's unbelievable," he said. "It still hasn't settled in. People have been calling me non-stop. I guess I did pretty good."

Guess so.

Saying that fishing offshore structure is among his favorite ways to fish, Sykora called Wilson a sleeper lake since it doesn't get near the recognition as the other TVA lakes in Alabama.

"I've had some experience on the Tennessee River on different lakes and it just fit me so easily to be offshore structure fishing lake like that," he said. "I love to do it, especially on the Tennessee River system. It's just a special place. I was more than comfortable doing what I was doing."

Here's how he did it.

Practice

Sykora put in 5 solid days on the water at Wilson, preparing for the All-American. As it turns out, he could've stopped after his first day.

That's when he found a giant school that no one else had stationed along an underwater bar in about 10 feet of water. He said heavier rains in the area had lead to some stronger-than-normal current and that's what kept those fish there.

"There was all kinds of bait and fish in there," he said. "There was a little half-moon cut out of the bar and it had a really good shell bed.

He said the half-moon cut was about 50 yards wide and on each point there were a bunch of shells.

"On one side, there was a school of fresh post-spawners and on the other side were fish that had already been there," he added. "It was nice to have two schools in a short little area that were all just giants."

He had a couple 25- to 30-pound days on crankbaits in practice and that told him this was the place to be for the tournament.

"I had other places to go but whenever you see a school like that, I just felt like there was no way I could abandon that area," he said.

Competition

> Day 1: 5, 26-11
> Day 2: 5, 27-04
> Day 3: 5, 12-05
> Total = 15, 66-04

Sykora was surprised to have his key spot to himself on day 1 and he took full advantage of it.

"It was every cast for a while," he said.

At one point, he'd caught a 4-pounder that his co-angler netted for him. Before he could get it in the livewell, his co-angler caught a double on a crankbait.

"We had three fish in the net at one time," Sykora said. "That's how good it was. They were all big ones. We didn't catch many because we didn't need to. We probably had 30 keepers between us."

He caught 23 pounds in the first 15 minutes while his co-angler total 18 1/2 in the same span. They moved off the spot for a bit, then came back in an effort to get his co-angler to the 20-pound plateau. He made one cast and caught a 4-pounder to reach 20.

Sykora then went on to catch two more 5s and a 7-pounder on crankbatis to push his haul to 26-11.

"To me it was a very obvious spot," he said. "It was the first place I started on in practice. It was my first time seeing the lake. I didn't talk to anybody. The area to me was an obvious place, but I didn't realize where those fish were set up or what was holding them there until I moved over it and saw the very subtle half moon cut with busted rock in there, too."

Day 2 brought more of the same results – big fish on nearly every cast.

"The thing I struggled with on day 2 was I had about 23 pounds and I knew usually the second day gets tougher for everybody," he said. "I went and beached the boat where I could watch the area. I knew I still had a couple 4-pounders that I wanted to see if I could cull out."

Upon returning to the spot, he caught 5-pounders on consecutive casts with a crank and had his weight (27-04) by 11:30 a.m.

Sykora went out on day 3 wanting to catch 30 pounds because he wasn't going to hold back on his key area. The current generation, however, had picked up considerably on day 3 and it seemed to move the bigger fish off the bar.

"I made about six casts and finally caught one which I thought was funny because I'd usually had a limit by then," he said. "I made another 10 casts with nothing. At that point, I said, 'Uh oh, I'm gonna have to buckle down.'"

At that point, he put the down the crankbaits that had been so productive and started throwing a big worm and a dragging a jig around.

"There was just a handful in that sweet spot," he said. "They weren't stacked in there. We had to hunt and peck to catch our weight."

While he had other places to go to, he wasn't about to vacate that area since he continued to have it to himself.

"It had got me to where I was at and I wasn't going to abort and search for greener pastures," he said. "I knew that any cast could be another 4- to 6-pounder. It was just an unbelievable school that held up for me. They obviously left on day 3, but it held up so good on days 1-2 I didn't need them as much that final day."

Winning Gear Notes

> Cranking gear: 8' heavy-action Dobyns Champion 806 cranking rod, unnamed casting reel, 15-pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon line, 6th Sense Crush 300DD and 500DD crankbaits (threadfin shad and chartreuse pearl).

> Worm gear: 7'4" heavy-action Dobyns Champion Extreme casting rod, unnamed casting reel, same line, 3/8-oz. unnamed tungsten worm weight, 4/0 Gamakatsu EWG worm hook, Zoom Ol' Monster worm (plum).

> He also caught a few keepers on a 5/8-oz. Chompers jig (PB&J).

The Bottom Line

> Main factor in his success – "Without a doubt discovering the mother lode. I'd love to tell you how great a fisherman I am, but if any of those guys had found those schools, you'd be talking to one of them. I was in the right place at the right time and it was the most unbelievable school I'd ever found."

> Performance edge – "In practice I think a key was my Humminbird Side Imaging and Down Imaging. They helped me locate those schools of fish and were key factors in being able to find them and stay on them."

Notable

> The Cup at Lake Murray will be Sykora's first go-around on a lake where blueback herring are a main part of the forage base. Still, he's hoping the open mind he took to Wilson will help him in South Carolina. "It's going to be exciting and I'm looking forward to it. I don't know anything about herring lakes, but I believe that success breeds success so I hope to carry this momentum forward and make BFL nation proud."

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Final Standings

1. Marcus Sykora -- Osage Beach, Mo -- 26-11 (5) -- 27-04 (5) -- 53-15 (10) -- 12-05 (5) -- 66-04 (15) -- $101,000

2. Jayme Rampey -- Liberty, SC -- 15-10 (5) -- 20-04 (5) -- 35-14 (10) -- 25-14 (5) -- 61-12 (15) -- $29,000

3. Dino Moutogiannis -- Newington, Ct -- 17-15 (5) -- 21-10 (5) -- 39-09 (10) -- 21-15 (5) -- 61-08 (15) -- $15,000

4. Todd Castledine -- Nacogdoches, Tx -- 20-08 (5) -- 16-03 (5) -- 36-11 (10) -- 18-04 (5) -- 54-15 (15) -- $14,000

5. Kevin Edwards -- Knoxville, Tn -- 18-02 (5) -- 20-10 (5) -- 38-12 (10) -- 15-05 (5) -- 54-01 (15) -- $19,000

6. Lloyd Pickett Jr -- Bartlett, Tn -- 17-06 (5) -- 18-12 (5) -- 36-02 (10) -- 17-03 (5) -- 53-05 (15) -- $17,000

7. David Nichol -- Gainesville, Ga -- 19-12 (5) -- 18-11 (5) -- 38-07 (10) -- 14-07 (5) -- 52-14 (15) -- $15,500

8. Bobby D. Padgett -- Lagrange, Ga -- 15-09 (5) -- 19-15 (5) -- 35-08 (10) -- 17-03 (5) -- 52-11 (15) -- $14,000

9. Mark Richardson -- Eastanollee, Ga -- 17-14 (5) -- 18-04 (5) -- 36-02 (10) -- 13-14 (5) -- 50-00 (15) -- $9,000

10. John J. Talton -- Georgetown, Tn -- 16-09 (5) -- 17-14 (5) -- 34-07 (10) -- 14-13 (5) -- 49-04 (15) -- $8,000

The following anglers did not make the cut and did not fish on day 3.

11. George Kapiton -- Inverness, Fl -- 19-05 (5) -- 14-08 (5) -- 33-13 (10) -- $5,000

12. Brad Fowler -- Pendleton, SC -- 15-13 (5) -- 17-13 (5) -- 33-10 (10) -- $5,000

13. Timothy Feller -- Coral Springs, Fl -- 21-05 (5) -- 11-12 (5) -- 33-01 (10) -- $5,000

14. Mike Brueggen -- La Crosse, Wi -- 15-02 (5) -- 16-05 (5) -- 31-07 (10) -- $5,000

15. Steve Coleman -- Clayton, Ga -- 14-01 (5) -- 17-05 (5) -- 31-06 (10) -- $3,000

16. Toby Corn -- West Frankfort, Il -- 11-14 (5) -- 18-10 (5) -- 30-08 (10) -- $5,000

17. Joe Hunt -- Lincoln University, Pa -- 10-12 (5) -- 19-11 (5) -- 30-07 (10) -- $3,000

18. Greg Rikard -- Leesville, SC -- 14-04 (5) -- 16-03 (5) -- 30-07 (10) -- $5,000

19. James Biggs -- Richland Hills, Tx -- 16-09 (5) -- 13-13 (5) -- 30-06 (10) -- $5,000

20. Brandon Cobb -- Greenwood, SC -- 17-03 (5) -- 12-14 (5) -- 30-01 (10) -- $5,000

21. Robert Crosnoe -- Inverness, Fl -- 15-09 (5) -- 13-13 (5) -- 29-06 (10) -- $3,500

22. Trent Gober -- Pendergrass, Ga -- 14-15 (5) -- 13-12 (5) -- 28-11 (10) -- $3,500

23. Chris Mccall -- Brookeland, Tx -- 18-14 (5) -- 9-10 (5) -- 28-08 (10) -- $2,000

24. Steve Dinkler -- Daniels, WV -- 12-00 (5) -- 15-14 (5) -- 27-14 (10) -- $2,000

25. Grant Galloway -- Houlka, Ms -- 12-10 (5) -- 14-11 (5) -- 27-05 (10) -- $2,000

26. John Bitter -- Maitland, Fl -- 13-06 (5) -- 13-15 (5) -- 27-05 (10) -- $3,500

27. Rick Steckelberg -- Eastanollee, Ga -- 16-09 (5) -- 9-05 (5) -- 25-14 (10) -- $3,500

28. Jon Griffith -- Mesa, Az -- 11-11 (5) -- 12-11 (5) -- 24-06 (10) -- $2,000

29. Justin Phillips -- Checotah, Ok -- 15-06 (5) -- 8-15 (5) -- 24-05 (10) -- $3,500

30. Don Mcfarlin -- Gordonville, Tx -- 12-05 (5) -- 11-15 (5) -- 24-04 (10) -- $3,500

31. Gene Robertson -- Ardmore, Ok -- 16-10 (5) -- 7-05 (5) -- 23-15 (10) -- $2,500

32. Scott Hayes -- Newnan, Ga -- 12-13 (5) -- 11-02 (5) -- 23-15 (10) -- $1,500

33. John Vanore -- Mullica Hill, NJ -- 7-09 (5) -- 16-05 (5) -- 23-14 (10) -- $2,500

34. Conrad Bolt -- Seneca, SC -- 14-12 (5) -- 8-06 (5) -- 23-02 (10) -- $2,500

35. Marion Cordes -- Sullivan, Il -- 9-00 (5) -- 14-02 (5) -- 23-02 (10) -- $2,500

36. Brian Sayre -- Charleston, WV -- 13-15 (5) -- 7-15 (5) -- 21-14 (10) -- $2,500

37. Don Tully -- Acworth, Ga -- 10-08 (4) -- 10-09 (4) -- 21-01 (8) -- $2,500

38. Bryan Schmitt -- Deale, Md -- 16-00 (5) -- 4-09 (2) -- 20-09 (7) -- $2,500

39. Dave Cermak -- Hebron, In -- 9-13 (5) -- 9-11 (5) -- 19-08 (10) -- $2,500

40. Jeff Reynolds -- Calera, Ok -- 15-03 (5) -- 4-04 (2) -- 19-07 (7) -- $2,500

41. Thomas Helton -- Charleston, Tn -- 13-12 (5) -- 5-09 (3) -- 19-05 (8) -- $2,500

42. Thomas Coomer -- Albany, Ky -- 14-04 (5) -- 5-00 (2) -- 19-04 (7) -- $1,500

43. Ronnie Baker -- Providence Forge, Va -- 11-15 (4) -- 6-03 (4) -- 18-02 (8) -- $1,500

44. Kyle Walters -- Grant Valkaria, Fl -- 16-07 (5) -- 1-04 (1) -- 17-11 (6) -- $2,500

45. Frank Ippoliti -- Mercersburg, Pa -- 8-04 (5) -- 7-03 (4) -- 15-07 (9) -- $1,500

46. William Barlow -- West Grove, Pa -- 7-13 (5) -- 5-02 (5) -- 12-15 (10) -- $2,500

47. Nicholas Fitzsimmons -- Lyle, Wa -- 8-08 (4) -- 4-04 (1) -- 12-12 (5) -- $2,500

48. Dan Treadaway -- Rocky Mount, NC -- 5-01 (4) -- 6-06 (4) -- 11-07 (8) -- $2,500

49. Jared Kutil -- Nashville, Tn -- 6-10 (5) -- 4-07 (2) -- 11-01 (7) -- $1,500