Tackle Warehouse 2014 ICAST Video Coverage 2014 ICAST Award Winners

Matt Arey Wins FLW Beaver Lake

Matt Arey's Winning Pattern, Baits & Gear

By the time practice for the Beaver Lake FLW Tour concluded, Matt Arey knew he was onto something good. At the time, he didn't know just how good. "You pretty much have to have largemouths to win there, and I thought I could catch them consistently no matter what the weather did," he said. "I didn't know (the pattern's) full potential, though. "I felt I could catch five keepers every day, but I knew I'd need to get a big bite here and there to do something special. I started getting those on the second day (of competition)." He established himself as a contender on day2, took over the lead on day 3 and then closed out his first tour-level victory with a hefty sack on day 4. He became the second Shelby, N.C. resident to win a tour event in the past few weeks, following Bryan Thrift's triumph at Sam Rayburn Reservoir in March. His two weekend bags averaged nearly 16 pounds apiece - an extremely stout number for Beaver. His 59-03 total eclipsed runner-up Andy Morgan by about a pound and a half. Arey and travel partner Mike McDonald (who captured the co-angler crown at Beaver) missed a half-day of practice due to their participation in a BFL back home at Lake Wylie on the Saturday before the tournament. They drove most of the night and stopped for a few hours of sleep at Tour pro Mark Rose's house in West Memphis, Ark. One of the first things Arey noticed when he got on the lake that Sunday afternoon was that the water level was up. He was certain it wouldn't stay there, and that was a big factor in formulating his practice plan. "I wanted to look for something that would be consistent under any kind of conditions," he said. "We were going into a warming trend, but the weather was unstable. I knew the fish hadn't spawned at all because it'd been such a cold winter." From previous visits (he'd logged a pair of 5th-place finishes at Beaver), he knew of some areas that spawning largemouths favored. Nearby were some fairly steep, rocky banks that they used as a transition area. "I knew they could move up and down real easy along there, and that would be important when the water started dropping," he said. He caught a few fish on the Ozark lakes staple - a Storm Wiggle Wart - on the second day of practice. He's not a real cranking aficionado, however, primarily due to the relatively low hook-to-land ratio. "I wanted to fish the same type of rocky stuff, but I wanted to figure out a different way to do it. I knew (the bass) were on the crawfish hard, especially with the giant shad-kill they'd had. Last year every pocket had a bunch of birds and bait, but this year they were like ghost towns. You'd see a few shad, but not near as many." That line of thinking led to experimentation with a finesse jig, and it proved to be just the ticket. It enticed 19 of the 20 fish he brought to the scale during the event.

Competition:

Arey compiled a 13-pound bag - good for 18th place - by 10 o'clock on wind-blown day 1 and fished only a small portion of his best water. All five of his weigh-in fish were between 2 1/4 and 2 3/4 pounds, but bigger specimens would show up in the coming days. He got a 4 1/4-pound bite on day 2 en route to a 14 1/2-pound stringer that jumped him up to 3rd place on a calm day when overall weights fell off considerably. On day 3 he boxed two that were in the 3 3/4 to 4 class and had a 4 1/4 and a 3 on the final day. "The timing of how I fished my spots was pretty similar each day," he said. "I was scared to change anything, as good as I was catching them. "In the afternoons I'd try to duplicate it and I found some of the same type of rock transitions, but if you went too far down the lake, the water was a little too clear. They'd still bite a jig in the clear water, but not quite as strong. Up the (White) River it was too muddy and the fish on that flatter stuff were more susceptible to getting turned off by the falling water."

Winning Pattern:

Arey spent his time in four primary areas. One was the heavily fished Prairie Creek, and the other three were pockets no more than 6 miles above the Highway 12 bridge. "I did fish a few pockets down the lake, but they were within a few minutes of Prairie Creek," he said. Many of the fish he caught were holding on submerged shelves and the sound of his jig hopping along the hard substrate mimicked the "clicking" sound produced by crawfish. "I experimented with different cadences in practice to see what they wanted, and I was actually hopping it pretty violently. I had some grab it while I was winding it, but I tried swimming it a little bit and they wouldn't eat it." His bite-landing ratio with the jig wasn't perfect, but it was exceptionally high. "That single hook is the best way to put them in the boat every time. With the treble hooks on a crankbait, it's 50/50 depending on how the fish eats it and what it does afterward, and those pre-spawn fish were super wild."

Winning Gear:

Jig gear: 7'3" medium-heavy Kissel Krafts micro-guide rod, unnamed casting reel (7:1 gear ratio), 12- or 15-pound P-Line 100% fluorocarbon line, 7/16-ounce Obsession Lures ball-head jig (green-pumpkin or green-pumpkin/brown), Zoom Super Chunk Jr. or Wackem Crazy Baits twin-tail trailer (green-pumpkin). He also used 3/8- and 1/2-ounce jigheads at times, depending upon the intensity of the wind. His lone weigh-in fish that didn't bite the finesse jig took a wobble-head jig tipped by a Strike King Menace.

Main factor: "Just getting on something different. Probably 90 percent of the field was throwing either a swimbait, a Wiggle Wart, a jerkbait or a shaky-head and finding that little jig deal gave me an edge. I don't know if anybody else was doing specifically what I was."

Performance edge: "I'd go with the Wackem twin-tail. The durability of the plastic is a big thing and the fact that my trailer wasn't getting torn up all day made a big difference in time. Time is money on the water."

Beaver Lake Winning Pattern Bassfan 4/15/14 (John Johnson)

Andy Morgan's Pattern, Baits & Gear

Phenomenal consistency has propelled Andy Morgan to the top of the BassFan World Rankings, and adjusting to real-time conditions has become his trademark. He loves to fish by instinct, and Beaver offered up yet another opportunity to go with whatever his gut told him to do. He didn't junk-fish quite as much as in his runner-up showing at Hartwell, but he was constantly on the move. "I probably had 20 or 30 different areas," he said. "I'd fish a lot of long sections, like I'd start on the windy side of a creek and fish it all the way back. "I was fishing a lot of gravel and any time of solid bottom. Most of the good ones came from places where there was a gravel and chunk-rock mixture. When I found that, it seemed like I got a bite every time." His fish came from depths of 7 feet or less and a Storm Wiggle Wart was his primary offering, although he mixed in a spinnerbait, a shaky-head and a jig.

Cranking gear: 7' medium-action unnamed composite rod, Lew's Tournament Pro casting reel (6.4:1 ratio), 12-pound Gamma fluorocarbon line, Storm Wiggle Wart (phantom brown).

Main factor: "Probably just moving a lot - fishing fast and covering a lot of water."

Performance edge: "I'd probably have to give it to my Motor Guide trolling motor and my Evinrude outboard. Both played a big role fishing in that wind."

Beaver 2-5 Patterns Bassfan 4/16/14 (John Johnson)

David Dudley's Pattern, Baits & Gear

David Dudley's program was pretty simple: He sought out rocky areas that were taking a beating from the wind. He caught most of his fish on a crankbait, but a shaky-head produced some that he took to the scale. "That's a no-brainer when you come up here," he said. "I moved around some from stained to clear water and I ended up staying more in the clear. The fish were all pre-spawn in 8 to 12 feet of water and medium-sized rock seemed to be the best." He made relatively few casts in practice. "I fished just enough to know what was going on, like what stage the fish they were in and what they were doing. Once I figured that out, I kind of backed off. My feelings on that are if you fish too hard in practice in a weather-dominated tournament, you might not catch them that day and you'll rule that place out. "Practicing that way let me do what my instincts told me to do in the tournament." The 16-09 sack he caught on the final day was the biggest of the event.

Cranking gear: 7'3" medium-heavy Lamiglass rod, unnamed casting reel (7.1:1 ratio), 8-pound Gamma fluorocarbon line, unnamed crawfish-imitation crankbait (various greenish or reddish colors).

Shaky-head gear: 7'1" medium-heavy Lamiglass rod, unnamed spinning reel, 6-pound Gamma fluorocarbon, 1/8- or 3/16-ounce jighead, unnamed 4-inch finesse worm (watermelon red). He added one weigh-in fish on a jerkbait.

Main factor: "The way I practiced."

Performance edge: "Probably the Lowrance mapping and having confidence in my (Mercury) motor."

Beaver 2-5 Patterns Bassfan 4/16/14 (John Johnson)

Travis Fox's Pattern, Baits & Gear

Fox is a resident of nearby Lowell, Ark., and his knowledge of the lake paid off for the first time in seven Tour events at the venue. "I fished places where I knew they'd be looking to spawn," he said. "The water was so muddy that you couldn't see them, but I know where the cruise. It was an advantage to know what's there and know where they were going to be. "It was all about the pea gravel in the little pockets. I'd cover the whole bank and really slow down and fish whatever cover was there - a rock, a bush, a laydown log or a dock." He never made a practice cast in any of the places he fished during the tournament. "Strategically, I knew I wouldn't go back if I didn't catch them, but I also knew that the warming trend was going to put them there. He flipped most of the time and also threw a spinnerbait.

Flipping gear: 7'2" medium-heavy Team Lew's rod, Lew's Tournament Pro casting reel (7.1:1 ratio), 20-pound Sufix fluorocarbon line, 1/2-ounce VMC tungsten weight, 4/0 VMC flipping hook, Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver (various colors, all dark).

Spinnerbait gear: Same rod and reel, Sufix 832 braided line, 1/2-ounce War Eagle spinnerbait (white with tandem Colorado blades).

Main factor: "Having the confidence to stick with what I was doing was definitely the main thing."

Performance edge: "I'd have to say the Power-Poles. Sometimes when I was catching them on windy points, I could pole down and flip everything that was there. I could meticulously fish what I knew was a good area rather than blow through there and muddy up the water."

Beaver 2-5 Patterns Bassfan 4/16/14 (John Johnson)

Casey Ashley's Pattern, Baits & Gear

This was Casey Ashley's maiden visit to Beaver, so he had no history jamming up his thought process. "I never even looked at a map of the lake before I put my boat in (for the first day of practice)," he said. "I treated every day like it was a practice day because the fish were changing so much. "All of my key fish came from a different area each day - I never caught them from the same place twice." He focused primarily on scattered rock. "I didn't fish super-steep stuff, but it wasn't real flat, either. I'd have my boat in 20 to 25 feet of water and I'd cast to the bank. "One thing I learned real quick was you had to have a bank with a lot of wind to catch them. If there was no wind, I would not get a bite." A shaky-head produced some of his biggest specimens and he also caught a fair number of keepers on a crankbait. On day 4, his entire bag came courtesy of a small swimbait.

Shaky-head gear: 7' medium-action Quantum Smoke PT spinning rod, Quantum Smoke spinning reel, 10-pound Hi-Seas braided line, 8-pound Hi-Seas fluorocarbon leader, 1/8- or 3/16-ounce Mountain Man Lures jighead, Zoom Trick Worm (green-pumpkin/purple).

Cranking gear: 7' medium-action Quantum Tour Tactical rod, Quantum EXO PT casting reel (5.3:1 ratio), 10-pound Hi-Seas fluorocarbon, Storm Wiggle Wart (custom-painted green-pumpkin).

Swimbait gear: 7' medium-action Quantum Tour Tactical rod, Quantum EXO PT casting reel (6.6:1 ratio), 10-pound Hi-Seas fluorocarbon, 1/4- or 5/16-ounce jighead, 3.8" Keitech swimbait (Tennessee shad).

Main factor: "I think it being my first time there really helped."

Performance edge: "I'd have to give it to that silly shaky-head. I weighed a (4-pounder) and two 3s on it the first day and two 3-pounders on the second day."

Beaver 2-5 Patterns Bassfan 4/16/14 (John Johnson)