Last year, it seemed like Mark Davis went from a one-room country schoolhouse to an urban megaschool. Twice the students, half the water to fish, and a whole new program of study.

And just like a new kid, he didn't fall in step – he avoided the crowds and sort of wandered the halls by himself.

This season, though, he pledged to change – said he'd do things differently and run with the crowds. It worked at the Travis FLW Tour opener, when he scored a 16th-place finish on his first exam.

But he took the opposite approach at this week's Ft. Loudoun–Tellico FLW Tour. He shunned the jam-packed, bed-fish bonanza. He worked hard to develop a different pattern – something most of the field would overlook.

He brought the old school to his new school and served up a plateful of spank-you. And in the process, delivered one of the most memorable wins in recent memory.

Memorable because one, it was his first FLW Tour victory. But maybe more important, it was a study in what one of the all-time great anglers can do to battle the one-two punch of oddball conditions and intense fishing pressure.

He uncovered a wakebait bite with two lures – one brand new, the other a relic and nearly forgotten. The technique was actually pioneered in East Tennessee, right at the very lakes he fished this week.

Yes, wakebaiting has grown, especially through Japanese influence in the West. East of the Rockies, though, it's a seldom-seen approach, especially in late March.

Davis dropped the old-school hammer hardest yesterday, when he sacked 19-13. His bite imploded today under heavy winds, but the wind did lay down for a brief hour, which allowed him to catch just enough.

His three-fish, 7-13 total today brought his 2-day catch to 27-11, and he beat 2nd-place Dave Lefebre by 2-10.

Lefebre's strength was the bedding smallmouth bite. He caught key bedding smallmouths today, but couldn't overcome yesterday, when non-competitors beat him to his best fish.

Keith Williams worked the flipping bite in muddy water and caught 13-13 today. That bumped his total to 24-12 and he moved up a spot to finish 3rd.

Shinichi Fukae also improved. With help from topwater fish, he caught today's best bag (14-07) and moved up five spots to finish 4th.

Derek Jones, who led the cut but fell yesterday, rallied with 12-14 and improved three spots to finish 4th.

Jay Yelas, who was 2nd yesterday and on the same pattern as Davis, was also hurt by wind. He caught 10-04 today and fell four spots to finish 6th.

FLW Outdoors/Rob Newell
Photo: FLW Outdoors/Rob Newell

After a rocky transition from BASS to FLW, Davis said his win means 'everything's turned back around again.'

Here's a look at the final standings (for full standings, scroll to the end of the story):

1. Mark Davis: 27-11
2. Dave Lefebre: 25-01
3. Keith Williams: 24-12
4. Derek Jones: 22-06
5. Shinichi Fukae: 22-03
6. Jay Yelas: 22-03
7. Harmon Davis: 21-12
8. John Sappington: 21-06
9. Darrel Robertson: 20-05
10: Thanh Le: 12-01

Davis Just Happy

The transition from BASS to FLW Outdoors has been rocky for Davis, to say the least. On top of that switch, he's also been buried under heavy responsibility as president of the Professional Anglers Association.

His win here, he said, means he's finally turned the corner – he's back to fishing.

"I feel just great," he said. "I just couldn't feel better. To get back in the winner's circle, especially on the FLW side, after the year I had last year – everything's turned back around again. It's just wonderful."

His last win was at the 2005 Smith Lake Bassmaster Elite 50, and that was after he won back-to-back Elite 50s and the Eufaula Bassmaster in 2004.

On whether this win means more because it's his first on the FLW Tour, he said: "It means a little more being an FLW win. That's where I'm at right now, and I've never won one before. The last FLW I fished before I quit (1999, Lake Murray), I finished 2nd. Then I came back last year and never made a cut.

"To win one, it's great."

On which means more to him right now, the $100,000 payday, or the gratification of winning, he said: "I don't know anybody who doesn't need $100,000. But you know, these kinds of wins – they keep your career solid. I think once you reach a certain level in our sport, your fans and sponsors expect an occasional win. So that's important, and yes, there's a lot of self-gratification in it."

Today, he caught less than half the weight he caught yesterday, and described it as a "trainwreck."

"I've been at this 22 years, but I'm still a student of the sport. I learned something today. The way these fish were, a lot of them were suspended. I was on a lot of fish, but they were fickle and hard to catch. You could only catch them on a waking-type bait.

"I really thought when the wind blew I could catch them on a spinnerbait or jerkbait. I couldn't. It didn't work. But that's hindsight. I made a decision in the tournament today, and I was swinging for the fences. I wasn't going to lay up. I know it probably looks like I did, but I was trying to get another 20-pound stringer."

His two primary baits were a Strike King King Shad and a vintage Bomber Long A. He made special modifications to each, in order to make them wake.

Details of his winning pattern, as well as full pattern information for the other top finishers, will be posted soon.

FLW Outdoors/Rob Newell
Photo: FLW Outdoors/Rob Newell

Dave Lefebre noted how honored he felt to be in the Top 10 with both Davis and Jay Yelas.

2nd: Lefebre a Little Bummed

Here's the inside slant on Dave Lefebre. If there's a Tennessee River event, he's almost guaranteed to be in the Top 10. He's been Top 10 in four Tennessee River Stren Championships, and three FLW Tour events. One of those FLW Tours was a win – Old Hickory in 2004.

About his finish this time, he said: "Obviously, Mark opened the door a little, which he typically doesn't do, so I'm a little bit bummed. But 2nd is good. I'll take it.

"I saw the fish today to get it done. I had a 5-pounder follow the bait to the boat, then I tried to swing a 3 1/2 that would have culled out a largemouth. I wouldn't have had enough to do it with that fish, but I should have had a limit of smallies. I had five beds, caught one off four of them, and couldn't get the fifth in the boat.

"It's just awesome to be in the Top 10 with Mark – it's our first together – and Jay (Yelas) too," he added. "It's an honor."

3rd: Williams Fished Well

Williams, a 7-year FLW Tour vet, has made the Top 10 once each of the last 3 years, but his 3rd place finish today was his best since another 3rd at the 2003 Wheeler FLW Tour (also a Tennessee River lake).

"I feel good about it – I really do," he said. "I didn't really make any mistakes. I didn't lose a lot of fish, or make any bad moves. I pretty much fished a perfect tournament for me.

"I didn't get a big bite today, but I got my limit early this morning and went fishing for big ones, knowing what I needed to win," he added. "I went up to Loudoun, to windy banks, and threw a spinnerbait and topwater trying for a big smallmouth. I just couldn't catch one."

Yesterday was the only day when he weighed less than 13 pounds, and that was likely the stumble that cost him.

"I couldn't pull it off yesterday," he said. "I caught way more fish yesterday – like 30 keepers – but I wasn't getting any good ones. Today I spent less time catching and more time searching for big ones. I moved around a lot.

"But I don't think I had the opportunity to win. Mark just caught too many big ones yesterday. I don't think I had a way to win it."

4th: Jones Glad To 'Break Ice"

Jones, in his sophomore season, finally cracked the Top 10.

"I feel great," he said. "It was a fun deal. I was around some good fish. I wish I could have figured them out a little better, but I'm glad to finally break the ice. This is my first Top 10.

"Last year, my rookie season, was really tough. I was pretty relaxed this week, though."

FLW Outdoors/Rob Newell
Photo: FLW Outdoors/Rob Newell

Although he finished only 3 pounds in back of Davis, Keith Williams doesn't think he truly had the opportunity to win.

He caught the tournament's heaviest bag on day 2, which was a lot more than he needed. He led that day with 37-04, which was 11 pounds in front of the cut.

On whether he might have hurt himself with too much weight that day, he said: "I asked myself that. I really thought more fish would be moving in with the full moon. It's one of those deals. The last fish I caught (that day) was a 5-01 smallmouth. I had four fish, and I just wanted to make sure I made (the cut). It happened to be a big one.

"My co-angler lost a 5 and two 4s in the same area, and the fish were spawning, so I figured I could go back and catch them. I never quite figured them out again."

6th: Yelas Happy With Finish

Jay Yelas was closest to Davis after day 3, despite the fact he weighed only four fish, but he floundered today with 10-04. Still, he's positive about his finish.

"I feel good about it," he said. "Anytime you finish in the Top 10, you have a good tournament.

"I went to my best spot today and I thought I could catch a better stringer. I actually caught 10 keepers today. I don't know how I only got four out of there yesterday."

He noted he just never got the big bite today. He did spend time on two well-known bed-fish, but they wouldn't go.

Like Davis, he caught most of his fish by waking a Bomber Long A. He also caught some fish on various swimbaits, including a California SwimBabes Tiny "E" and a weighted Storm swimbait. Also like Davis, his fish were suspended.

"I was by the lock and dam on Ft. Loudoun, fishing around the edges of concrete walls and stuff like that. They were suspended over 40 to 70 feet of water, chasing shad. There were a few good ones in that area, but apparently it doesn't hold as many good ones as I thought it would."

7th: Davis Happy Too

Harmon Davis hunted around the Top 10, but never emerged as an all-out threat. He caught 11-09 today to finish with 21-12.

"Everybody always wants to do better, but I'm happy," he said. "I had a really good tournament. I caught a limit every day but day 2, and I didn't need to that day.

"I had my opportunities. It was a good tournament."

He lost a 5-pound smallmouth today that would have maybe moved him to 3rd.

He's especially happy because this finish helps average out his 85th at Travis, and puts him back in the Forrest Wood Cup hunt. A Cup berth is his primary goal this season, and he hasn't fished the FLW championship since he finished 2nd at the James River in 2003.

8th: Sappington and '8'

John Sappington started the day in 8th, and stayed there with a 12-07 limit.

"I feel like I was pretty consistent, although I would have liked to have been better than 8th place every single day," he said. "I made the cut in 8th, yesterday I was 8th, and I ended up 8th today.

"I feel good about it," he said of his finish. "I had a good day today. I lost a bunch of big fish – one that would have put me up in 2nd place – but I pretty much made the right decisions."

9th: Robertson not Satisfied

This was Darrel Robertson's second consecutive Top 10 cut, but he's not happy with his final position.

"I wasn't satisfied today," he said. "I fished the whole tournament and hadn't lost a fish for 3 days – I caught everything that bit.

"Today, I lost three fish in a row. One was a 5-pounder, another was a 2 1/2. Those two fish cost me seven places. And that 5-pounder alone cost me $34,000. But you can't catch all of them.

"It wouldn't have bothered me if it wasn't my fault," he added. "I was in a hurry, and I was throwing a bait on a rod I shouldn't have been throwing it on."

He was swimming a jig, due to the wind, and said he needed a heavy rod, but instead threw it on a medium.

10th: Le Thrilled

Thanh Le was running out of sight-fish when he made the Top 10 cut, so he's pretty much happy to have fished all 4 days.

"I'm thrilled – just making the Top 10 cut is exciting enough," he said. "I wish I'd done a little better, but it didn't work out that way."

He did make a change today. Instead of sight-fishing first, he went fishing. He had several smallmouths swirl on his bait, but never hooked up.

"I was in dead last and had nothing to lose."


> Day 4 stats – 10 anglers, 6 limits (1 fewer than yesterday), 2 fours, 2 threes.

> Dave Lefebre now leads the FLW Tour points. To view the current standings, click here.

> Yelas on the fans: "East Tennessee's great. It was one of the most receptive, gracious host communities we've ever been to."

Day 4 (Final) Standings

1. Mark Davis -- Mount Ida, Ar -- 5, 19-13 -- 3, 7-14 -- 8, 27-11 -- $100,000

2. Dave Lefebre -- Union City, Pa -- 5, 11-06 -- 5, 13-11 -- 10, 25-01 -- $50,000

3. Keith Williams -- Conway, Ar -- 5, 10-15 -- 5, 13-13 -- 10, 24-12 -- $40,000

4. Derek Jones -- Chicago, Il -- 3, 9-08 -- 3, 12-14 -- 6, 22-06 -- $30,000

5. Shinichi Fukae -- Mineola, Tx -- 5, 7-12 -- 5, 14-07 -- 10, 22-03 -- $20,000

6. Jay Yelas -- Tyler, Tx -- 4, 11-15 -- 5, 10-04 -- 9, 22-03 -- $19,000

7. Harmon Davis -- Marlow, Ok -- 5, 10-03 -- 5, 11-09 -- 10, 21-12 -- $18,000

8. John Sappington -- Willard, Mo -- 5, 8-15 -- 5, 12-07 -- 10, 21-06 -- $17,000

9. Darrel Robertson -- Jay, Ok -- 5, 9-15 -- 4, 10-06 -- 9, 20-05 -- $16,000

10. Thanh Le -- Las Vegas, Nv -- 4, 6-02 -- 4, 5-15 -- 8, 12-01 -- $15,000