By BassFan Staff

A Top-35 finish in any FLW Tour Major would be considered a good result in the minds of most pros. It comes with a decent paycheck and a good share of points in the Angler of the Year standings. Heck, six Top-35s in one year will send a guy to the Forrest Wood Cup.

Mark Rose isn’t most pros, though, especially when it comes to tournaments held on the Tennessee River, a body of water he considers his fishing nirvana. So when he finished 34th at the Kentucky Lake Major this past June, the usually even-tempered Rose got mad – at the fish – and circled the Wheeler Lake FLW Tour Open as payback time.

Rose took out his frustrations on Wheeler’s bass and the rest of the field this week and today, he closed out a dominant wire-to-wire performance with a 16-14 stringer, by far the best catch of the day, to finish with 71-06 and pick up his second career FLW Tour victory.

He came into the final day with a 7-01 lead over 2nd-place Blake Nick and it was assumed everyone else was fishing for the runner-up spot. He never let up and wound up winning by 12-10.

“That was one where I feel like it slipped through my hands,” he said of his Kentucky Lake effort. “I’m not going to say that I feel like I’m going to win every tournament on the Tennessee River, but I certainly have a lot of confidence and I feel like I should’ve done a lot better than what I did there. I was mad at the fish in the Tennessee River and I felt like I needed some redemption and this one certainly helped get that.”

Even against a sparse field of 88 competitors this week, Rose showed why many consider him the best at picking apart the subtleties in offshore structure that always seem to hold the right kind of fish. With many of the finalists working Wheeler’s shallow water, Rose stuck to his strengths and plucked quality bass after quality bass off ledges, utilizing his electronics and executing to near perfection.

Luke Clausen, who’d been in 3rd place the first 3 days, closed with 11-13 today and was the runner-up with 58-12. He was able to move past Nick, who slipped from 2nd to 3rd after a 9-11 stringer gave him 57-02 for the week.

Shane Long held onto 4th, thanks to a 12-pound basket that pushed his total to 55-00. Brett Hite advanced three spots to finish 5th behind a 13-03 effort that gave him 51-06.

Here's how the final weights looked at the end:

1.Mark Rose: 71-06
2. Luke Clausen: 58-12
3. Blake Nick: 57-02
4. Shane Long: 55-00
5. Brett Hite: 51-06
6. Randall Tharp: 50-13
7. Michael Williamson: 49-09
8. Larry Nixon: 47-06
9. Scott Suggs: 45-10
10. Jerry Lawler: 36-04

The prevailing opinion among the pros entering the tournament was that the winning total would be somewhere in the 50- to 60-pound range. That would’ve been spot-on had Rose opted to stay home in Arkansas for the week. By comparison, when the Bassmaster Elite Series came to Wheeler last June, David Walker won with a 4-day total of 63-10.

Some pros said the water had come down up to 2 feet in some places overnight and that took some shallow areas out of play. And while the fish are on the cusp of beginning their fall feeding migration toward the bank and up the creeks, Rose proved that if you can find a willing school of offshore fish on the Tennessee River, he’ll take his chances fishing that way any day.

One more Open remains on the FLW Tour schedule this year – at Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Lufkin, Texas, from Oct. 11-14. After that event, 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 On A Roll

> Day 4: 5, 16-14 (20, 71-06)

Last week, Rose competed at the Arkansas River PAA Series in Muskogee, Okla. He finished 3rd in an event that was won by Tommy Biffle, who seems to dominate just about every tournament on that stretch of water. Sound familiar?

Rose carried that momentum to Wheeler, where he hadn’t necessarily dominated, but it is a Tennessee River impoundment and BassFans know full well he’s typically the man to beat in any derby staged on that stretch of water.

Carrying a 7-pound lead into the final day, he arrived at the area that had produced all of his fish this week and got a sense that things were going to go his way again.

He initially had three specific spots dialed in, but had only been able to fish two of them the previous 2 days as another competitor was camped on the third. Today, he had the run of the place.

“I knew I had all three areas open and I pulled back in there and I could see all three areas from one spot,” he said. “Everything was calm and there were no boats around and I just had a special feeling when I entered into that creek this morning. There was just something about the day – the Lord just seemed to give me a peace about it that I was going to make this thing happen.”

The first spot he fished was where he’d caught his best fish this week, but he didn’t generate anything there. He then moved to the spot he’d been unable to fish and immediately put three 3-pounders in the boat.

“It allowed me to breathe a little bit and slowed me down and relaxed me,” he said.

FLW/David Brown
Photo: FLW/David Brown

Luke Clausen had his smallest stringer of the week today, but was able to rise to 2nd in the standings.

He moved on to third spot and finished his limit, and culled up through the day to sack up nearly 17 pounds.

“It feels real good (to win),” he said. “I got off to a rough start this year and missed the Cup by a point. It just seems like that ignited something in me, I don’t know. It just feels really good to be on a winning streak and not just winning, but reading the water good and making good decisions.”

Details of his winning pattern, plus those of the other top finishers, will be published soon.

2nd: Clausen Thrilled

> Day 4: 5, 11-13 (20, 58-12)

Of the 20 fish he weighed this week, Clausen figures he used 10 different baits to get them in his boat. It was that kind of week for the Spokane, Wash., pro, where the fish would fall for just about anything depending on where he was.

“I’m happy with my week,” he said. “I had nothing star-studded in practice and I knew my odds of winning by fishing the bank on the Tennessee River in September were extremely low ,so I’m tickled to get 2nd. I feel like that’s about as good as I could do with what situation I put myself in by fishing shallow.

“I’m surprised I got 2nd, to be honest. I thought more guys would’ve caught them deep, but obviously it wasn’t that easy and that just shows how good Mark Rose is out there.”

He went back to some areas that had produced keepers earlier in the tournament, but couldn’t find any takers today. He called those spots, “one-day wonders.”

So off he went, in search of new areas in the mouths of creeks as he looked to intercept fish as they began to chase bait into the creeks. He used four different baits to catch his five today and had a 4-pounder and a 3 1/2 anchoring what amounted to be his lightest bag of the event.

“It was like every other day. It was such a grind,” he added. “I had one area that I’d caught three big ones out of so I went through it this morning really optimistic that I’d at least get a bite or two. The other days I’d been able to get two or three between my co-anglers and myself. I caught one on about my fourth cast and I didn’t catch another one for like an hour and a half. It just turned into a grind and I went and fished some new water again and was able to weigh three or four fish out of new water.”

3rd: Nick Struggled Today

> Day 4: 5, 9-11 (20, 57-02)

The final day got off to a rousing start for Nick, who swung a 4-pounder into the boat right away. From there, though, it was a grind as he had his lightest day of the event, but still managed to match his career-best 3rd-place finish from Lake Champlain in July.

FLW/David Brown
Photo: FLW/David Brown

Blake Nick slipped a spot in the standings, but still matched his career-best finish.

“I thought I fished a pretty good tournament,” he said. “I lost a couple of fish that would’ve definitely put me in 2nd, but I’m sure Luke lost fish, too, so that’s the way it goes. I’m pleased with the way I fished. I never had anything that would’ve caught Mark. I feel like I left some fish in the water.”

He’s kicking himself for leaving his primary spot on day 1 after having a magnificent flurry of bites that gave him nearly 18 pounds right away, but he was thinking big picture at the time.

“I was pretty surprised Mark had 21 on the first day and I feel like I should’ve stayed in there and caught a better bag than I had, but I left, not thinking I would need any more than 18,” he said. “I was trying to saving of them. I’d heard Kevin VanDam say once that when he’s got a chance to catch them, he’s going to sit there and catch all he can. I don’t know if leaving was the right decision because they didn’t bite but for a couple hours anyway.”

While he stayed on his best spot longer than he had all tournament, he did move around some trying to find other quality fish, but eventually migrated back to his primary area.

“Everything considered, it was a good tournament,” he added. “This is a tough lake right now and today was my worst day and I had right around 10 pounds and that got a check for the guys who caught that the first 2 days.”

4th: Long Adjusted Today

> Day 4: 5, 12-07 (20, 55-00)

All week, from practice through 3 days of competition, water had been pouring out of the Guntersville Dam and Shane Long had had success catching his fish on a dropshot rig.

Today, the current diminished by half, he estimated, and that changed how the fish were positioned. In turn, he was able to fish an area that previously had too much current for him to fish it effectively. The result was he caught four of his five weigh fish today from that area and it helped earn him a career-best 4th-place finish.

“For not really being on much in practice, the way it all worked out, I just went to one area and stayed there the whole time. I just ground it out,” he said. “I fished as flawless of a tournament as I could. I jumped off a 4-pounder today that might’ve moved me up into 3rd, but it happens.”

Boat positioning around the eddy he fished was critical today and helped him target the fish better.

“I could put my boat in it and with the back current combined with the other current, I could just sit in it and I wouldn’t even have to touch the trolling motor,” he said. “I’d just fancast my jig all around there and probably caught about 10 keepers out of there.”

FLW/David Brown
Photo: FLW/David Brown

Brett Hite overcame a slow early-morning period to rack up his best finish of the year.

5th: Hite Finishes Strong

> Day 4: 5, 13-03 (20, 51-06)

Hite finished his steady rise in the standings with the second-heaviest stringer of the final day that catapulted him to his best finish of 2012 and gave him his fourth career Tour Top-10 result.

“It was a good tournament,” he said. “After practice, it was a tough place for most people in the tournament, but I had confidence that I’d found a bit of a pattern and an area. It worked out. I didn’t lose any fish. I fished a super-clean tournament and things just came together right.”

His dock pattern continued to produce today, but not until he weathered an early-morning dry spell. He’d noticed the water in the creek he was fishing had fallen a good 8 inches overnight and that had him scratching his head. He didn’t have a bite until 9:30 as he tried to locate where the fish had moved to, but his first one was a 3 1/2-pounder.

After that, he got dialed in and finished his limit by 11:30 and upgraded through the day.

“As the day progressed, every day the bites would get better and that’s pretty typical for the fall,” he said. “The bait get around the docks or up in the water column and those fish start feeding on them.”


> Day 4 stats – 10 anglers, 9 limits, 1 zero.

> Jerry Lawler, who came into the final day in 10th, had his weight for the day disqualified after putting a sixth fish in his livewell.

Final Standings

1. Mark Rose -- West Memphis, Ar -- 21-06 (5) -- 17-08 (5) -- 15-10 (5) -- 16-14 (5) -- 71-06 (20) -- $125,000

2. Luke Clausen -- Spokane, Wa -- 15-15 (5) -- 15-14 (5) -- 15-02 (5) -- 11-13 (5) -- 58-12 (20) -- $20,070

3. Blake Nick -- Adger, Al -- 17-15 (5) -- 16-09 (5) -- 12-15 (5) -- 9-11 (5) -- 57-02 (20) -- $17,104

4. Shane Long -- Willard, Mo -- 12-02 (5) -- 17-04 (5) -- 13-03 (5) -- 12-07 (5) -- 55-00 (20) -- $14,137

5. Brett Hite -- Phoenix, Az -- 13-08 (5) -- 14-15 (5) -- 9-12 (5) -- 13-03 (5) -- 51-06 (20) -- $11,170

6. Randall Tharp -- Gardendale, Al -- 11-11 (5) -- 14-15 (5) -- 12-02 (5) -- 12-01 (5) -- 50-13 (20) -- $9,390

7. Michael Williamson -- Fort Smith, Ar -- 12-10 (5) -- 17-10 (5) -- 9-11 (5) -- 9-10 (5) -- 49-09 (20) -- $8,797

8. Larry Nixon -- Bee Branch, Ar -- 11-14 (5) -- 11-07 (5) -- 16-04 (5) -- 7-13 (5) -- 47-06 (20) -- $8,204

9. Scott Suggs -- Bryant, Ar -- 13-10 (5) -- 12-02 (5) -- 11-07 (5) -- 8-07 (5) -- 45-10 (20) -- $7,610

10. Jerry Lawler -- Athens, Al -- 11-03 (5) -- 15-11 (5) -- 9-06 (5) -- 0-00 (0) -- 36-04 (15) -- $7,017