By BassFan Staff
All Jason Christie wanted to do Sunday was avoid a repeat of 2009. He was the day-3 leader at Beaver Lake then, but only brought in three fish on the final day and slipped to fourth in the final standings.
Today, he more than made up for it, as he popped a 14-01 limit to close out his second career FLW Tour victory, closing with a whopping 61-08. While it was nowhere near his 20-pound effort from day 3 that catapulted to the front, his stringer was more than enough to fend off Shawn Murphy, who also caught 14-01 today and settled for 2nd with 58-03.
Surely, Christie would love to head home to eastern Oklahoma to relax and enjoy his latest triumph with family and friends. Instead, he'll fish a charity event at Beaver on Monday before hitting the road heading east across Arkansas toward Bull Shoals Lake, where the next Bassmaster Elite Series event gets under way Thursday.
Anthony Gagliardi used a 15-08 stringer today to climb three positions and finish 3rd with 57-01, his best result since a runner-up showing at Lake Champlain in 2009.
Barry Wilson, coming off a 4th-place finish at last week's Seminole Lake EverStart, jumped four spots thanks to the day's heaviest bag, a 16-05 effort that gave him 56-04 and a 4th-place result. Scott Suggs held onto 5th with a 12-09 sack that ran his total to 55-05.
Here's how the Top 10 looked at the end:
1. Jason Christie: 61-08
2. Shawn Murphy: 58-03
3. Anthony Gagliardi: 57-01
4. Barry Wilson: 56-04
5. Scott Suggs: 55-05
6. Mark Rose: 53-05
7. Brandon Coulter: 52-14
8. Koby Kreiger: 52-13
9. Stacey King: 49-15
10. Jim Dillard: 46-04
By all accounts, this past week was the best Beaver Lake had ever been in terms of kicking out fat fish. BassFans saw a pair of 20-plus pound bags they had only been one in competition previously and another that was 2 ounces shy of 20. Of course, the timing was perfect as the tournament fell smack dab on top of when the fish were transitioning to their spawning areas. It made fishing all around the lake supreme, from the clear water by the dam to the stained shallows of the creek arms and up the White River. There was plenty of wind all week and a good bit of cloud cover, which brought several techniques into play, most notably the umbrella rig.
For the first time in a long time, all three species (largemouth, smallmouth, spotted) played a key role in the outcome as some anglers targeted only smallmouths and went after largemouths as kickers.
The fourth stop on the FLW Tour schedule will be at Lake Eufaula in Eufaula, Ala., on May 16-19.
Christie Charged Up
> Day 4: 5, 14-01 (20, 61-08)
Christie said he left the dock this morning feeling as confident as he had in quite some time and it all centered around two schools of bass he'd found Friday. He peppered them pretty hard Saturday to catch his 20-pound bag and he felt confident he could go catch 12 or 13 pounds early and lay a strong foundation for the final day.
When he got to the area, he found next to nothing.
"It was deserted," he said. "I think I caught two little spotted bass off of those places and it was actually set up better today with the wind blowing in. It just didn't happen and I had to go fishing."
And that's when he seems to be at his best.
He endured some lulls in between sporadic bites, but a little spurt around noon saw him catch two keepers within five casts that gave him what he needed.
"Luckily, that was enough," he said. "I was just relieved. I had the ghosts in my head all day long of having the lead 4 years ago and losing in on the last day. Things didn't go as planned this morning."
But when the day was over, he was the one holding the trophy. He said this victory rivals his other wins as a pro.
"It's up there," he said. "I don't know how people rank what's a Tour-level event and what's not because nowadays everybody's in all of them. The first one, everybody raised their eyebrows a little bit. On this one, they'll probably say, 'Okay, maybe he'll be around for a while.' It happens whenever you absolutely least expect it."
He caught fish on a spinnerbait today, but his all-largemouth stringer that wound up on stage was taken on a YUM Flash Mob Jr. umbrella rig.
He was among the many who were impressed by the health of the fishery this week.
"The lake's just getting better," he said. "I'll be the first to say I wouldn't have though that. Last year, we could tell it was getting a little better. We hit it right on the head as far as timing. We had some good fishing weather. The first day of the tournament, we had what you want in the Ozarks cloudy and windy. We had some good weather to fish."
Shawn Murphy made a steady climb through the standings all week.
2nd: Murphy Thrilled
> Day 4: 5, 14-01 (20, 58-03)
It was hard for Murphy to be disappointed with his 2nd-place finish. It was, by far, the best result of his young career and he's hoping it gets him out of the funk he was in to start the year.
"I'm tickled the death. I kept climbing the ladder every day," he said. "I just never got a big bite today. This is the biggest one, by far, for me as far as dollar amount. I've had a horrible year starting off and maybe this momentum will get me through the rest of the year."
He wasn't able to collide with any 4- to 5-pounders today and he senses that they may have started to push further back in some of the pockets where they'll eventually spawn.
"I fished the same areas that I'd been fishing all week and even late this afternoon, the fish seemed like they were starting move back to start spawning so I moved back farther into the pockets and caught a couple that I culled with, but never did a big bite," he said. "I fished around a lot of docks where I caught some big ones and it set up pretty good with the wind blowing and sun shining bright. I thought I was throwing where they were positioned at, but they just weren't there."
He totaled nine keepers today, but the bite was anything but fast and furious for the Kentucky native.
"It was pretty slow," he said. "It was so sporadic and even when you caught one, you'd probably only catch two or three in a 25-yard stretch. Then you'd go another 300 yards and not get another bite. I never find any big schools where you could just go catch six or seven every day. The places I fished would replenish, but very little.
"The only thing I would've done different was work the backs of the pockets sooner rather than just the last hour."
3rd: Gagliardi Pleased
> Day 4: 5, 15-08 (20, 57-01)
Gagliardi was pleased with his outcome this week and now has back-to-back Top-10s after a 165th to open the year at Lake Okeechobee.
"I couldn't have asked for anything more really," he said. "It was a good tournament. I fished really clean today. Looking back, there's nothing I could've done differently. As a whole, I feel really good."
His started better than the previous 2 as he boxed a decent limit of smallmouths before 9 a.m. That gave him the freedom to poke around and try to pick off a couple upgrades through the rest of the day.
"I was ecstatic because the last 2 days they'd been real slow for me up until about 11," he said. "I had all day to catch a couple big largemouth or do whatever I want to try to do to upgrade. I probably had 12 pounds at the time and felt like I was in super shape.
"I was doing some things to try to catch some largemouth down in the clear end and that never materialized for me down there. I abandoned that part of the lake and came back toward this end and pulled out the umbrella rig and caught two good ones in the last hour."
The first was a 5 1/2-pounder and the other was another solid upgrade.
"That (big fish) was the key to my day and key to my tournament really," he said.
4th: Wilson Laments Lost Ones
> Day 4: 5, 16-05 (20, 56-04)
If not for a few lost fish this week, Wilson could've been taking the trophy back to Birmingham, Ala. Instead, he'll take the 4th-place result and the points that come with it toward making the Forrest Wood Cup.
"I lost another big one today that was around 5 or 5 1/2 pounds," he said. "With the big ones, what was happening was either I was hitting them or they were just swiping at the bait. If I could've caught that one today, it would've helped a little bit. I lost one yesterday and 2 days ago, I lost two. I could've blown this wide open, but that's fishing. You're going to lose some. I had them figured out."
Barry Wilson worked an umbrella rig around wood today to trigger bites.
He had his key area to himself again today, but a mid-day move to a spot he'd located in pre-practice allowed him to upgrade three times.
"The bite was a lot different today," he said. "Yesterday, I had my limit by 9 and today, I didn't catch my first fish until 10. I concentrated on staying around wood and doing something a little bit different because I knew that was my best chance to catch the bigger fish and I knew I needed to have some weight to move myself up."
"The key for me today was I ran another 10 minutes up north to an area I'd found in pre-practice and practice," he said. "I'd left it alone thinking that if I'd made it to the final day, there wouldn't have been any pressure on it in the tournament. At about noon, I decided to go there and spend about an hour there and I ended up spending the rest of the day there."
The fishing was too good to leave. He got there with three fish in his livewell and promptly caught a 5-pounder, a 3 1/2 and another 3-pounder to upgrade.
His different approach was pitching an umbrella rig to blowdowns and brushpiles and fishing it like a squarebill crankbait, halting his retrieve when it would get over the piece of cover. The fish would hit it almost immediately after that.
5th: Suggs Satisfied
> Day 4: 5, 12-09 (20, 55-05)
A veteran of many Beaver Lake battles, Suggs was blown away by the weights this week and despite his struggles today his 12-09 stringer would've still been considered a stout effort in past years.
"How often are you at Beaver Lake in the Top 10, in 5th place, and you catch 12-09 to maintain your position instead of gaining three spots," he said. "That is some wild stuff."
His smallmouth bite in the clear water toward the dam didn't fire like it had been, but he still managed a couple brown fish on a jerkbait. His others came on a dropshot.
"I knew if the smallmouth showed back up again, I had a chance to give them a run for their money," he said. "If they didn't, I had to fish for what I could catch. It was a really tough day and I felt fortunate.
"To turn around and have a tournament like this and move up, I felt the momentum swing. You have to have another look at it, though, because these last two events have been on my favorite types of water. Hopefully, I can put something together at Eufaula and keep the momentum going. It sure does feel good."
> Day 4 stats 10 anglers, 10 limits.
1. Jason Christie -- Park Hill, Ok -- 10-05 (5) -- 16-14 (5) -- 20-04 (5) -- 14-01 (5) -- 61-08 (20) -- $126,500
2. Shawn Murphy -- Nicholasville, Ky -- 14-06 (5) -- 13-01 (5) -- 16-11 (5) -- 14-01 (5) -- 58-03 (20) -- $35,000
3. Anthony Gagliardi -- Prosperity, SC -- 15-05 (5) -- 14-05 (5) -- 11-15 (5) -- 15-08 (5) -- 57-01 (20) -- $30,000
4. Barry Wilson -- Birmingham, Al -- 16-11 (5) -- 10-09 (5) -- 12-11 (5) -- 16-05 (5) -- 56-04 (20) -- $25,000
5. Scott Suggs -- Bryant, Ar -- 11-10 (5) -- 13-09 (5) -- 17-09 (5) -- 12-09 (5) -- 55-05 (20) -- $20,000
6. Mark Rose -- West Memphis, Ar -- 14-05 (5) -- 13-10 (5) -- 12-15 (5) -- 12-07 (5) -- 53-05 (20) -- $17,000
7. Brandon Coulter -- Knoxville, Tn -- 17-03 (5) -- 14-12 (5) -- 13-00 (5) -- 7-15 (5) -- 52-14 (20) -- $16,000
8. Koby Kreiger -- Okeechobee, Fl -- 13-15 (5) -- 14-15 (5) -- 13-15 (5) -- 5, 10-00 (5) -- 52-13 (20) -- $15,000
9. Stacey King -- Reeds Spring, Mo -- 12-02 (5) -- 13-09 (5) -- 13-14 (5) -- 10-06 (5) -- 49-15 (20) -- $14,000
10. Jim Dillard -- West Monroe, La -- 13-00 (5) -- 12-04 (5) -- 12-12 (5) -- 8-04 (5) -- 46-04 (20) -- $13,000