Mark Rose Wins FLW Lake Guntersville
Mark Rose's Winning Pattern, Baits & Gear
Rather than hunt around the lake for a variety of spots to fish under different conditions, Rose opted to set up shop in Browns. "That was a big key to my week," he said. "I spent a day and a half in there learning every nuance about it. I wasn't scrounging around upriver. I just got in a creek and learned everything I could about it." With the water temperatures hovering around 50 degrees, he started cranking some rock transitions with an out-of-production Strike King flat-sided plug. "It started making sense, so then I went looking for more of that," he said. It also helped that his roommate, Greg Bohannan, had caught a couple good fish on a crankbait on day 1 of practice. "I put 2 and 2 together and figured out that was the big deal," Rose added.
Key elements to Rose's tactics last week were slow presentations and adjusting to the wind, which became a nuisance at times, blowing dirty water into some of his best areas. He fished inside grass lines with a vibrating jig early on, then added a small finesse jig and crankbait to his repertoire before catching a couple key fish on the final day with a swimjig. He threw an assortment of baits on day 1, but had his best success with a crankbait and jig along rip-rap as he totaled 22-04 to begin the event in 2nd place. He figured the water temperature was a few degrees shy of what would trigger a big migration of fish toward their pre-spawn areas. Some of his spots in Browns Creek began to get dirty on day 2, but he was able to adjust accordingly and pull out 20-04 to take the lead. "Most of the spots reloaded, but I had to change each day due to the wind changing," he said. "On day 2 and 3, it started to get real muddy and that put them real tight to the rocks. They seemed to spread out when the water was clearer. "It always seemed to be better with a slight stain instead of being clear or muddy."
The wind was persistent on day 3 when the sun made a prolonged appearance. He relied heavily on the crankbait and managed 19-00, which gave him a 4-12 lead entering the final day. He was somewhat surprised that he had all of the spots he'd found in Browns to himself for the duration of the tournament. He noticed other competitors in the general area, but he didn't encounter any during the event. The water in Browns Creek started to clear up on Sunday, but he was still able to get bit on a chartreuse/brown crankbait and a Strike King swimjig, which accounted for two of his better bites. Most of the fish he caught were in 3 feet of water. After making two passes down his best stretch with the chartreuse/brown crankbait, he left it - only to come back 30 minutes later. As he left it, though, he pulled out a shad-colored version of the same bait, the first time he'd thrown something other than the chartreuse/brown all week. When he returned with less than 20 minutes to go in the day, he made one cast with the shad pattern and connected with a 5 1/2-pounder that essentially sealed the win for him. Here's how it looked and sounded:
While those fishing the main river had a good amount of consistent current to help position fish along the grass edges, Rose wasn't so much concerned about how much water was moving through Browns Creek. "There was current in the area, but where I was at those fish were going to be staging where they were at regardless of current," he noted.
Cranking gear: 7'6" medium-action Lew's Custom ProLedge Series casting rod, Team Lew's Magnesium casting reel (6.8:1 gear ratio), 12-pound Seaguar Tatsu fluorocarbon line, out-of-production Strike King Custom Pro Shop flat-side crankbait (chartreuse/brown and special shad). Rose replaced the hooks on the crankbait with Mustad KVD Elite #4 trebles. Rose says he has about a dozen of the old crankbaits, but keeps them "under lock and key."
Jig gear: 7' medium-heavy Lew's Custom Speed Stick Mag Bass 1 casting rod, same reel (7.5:1 gear ratio), same line (15-pound), 1/4-oz. Strike King Finesse Football jig (green-pumpkin), Strike Rage Rage Tail Chunk Jr. (green-pumpkin). Chunk rock banks were the best for the small jig presentation. On day 4, he added a swimjig to his arsenal - a 1/4-oz. Strike King Tour Grade swimjig (green-pumpkin) with a 4" Strike King KVD Perfect Plastic Swim'n Caffeine Shad (green-pumpkin). He threw that around grass. He also mixed in a 3/8-oz. vibrating jig with a Strike King Rage Bug (green-pumpkin) rigged sideways as the trailer.
Main factor: "Making the decision with 15 minutes to go to go back and fish that spot. A lot of times you can get complacent, but I made a long run with 20 minutes left to be able to fish 2 minutes on my most productive place."
Performance edge: "My Power-Poles were a big factor this week because we had a lot of wind to deal with. Those Garmin LakeVu maps were so good in helping me find those staging spots in the shallower water. The little channel swings and transition areas really stood out."
Bryan Thrift's Pattern, Baits & Gear
Lipless crankbait gear: 7'2" Fitzgerald Rods Bryan Thrift Signature Series frog rod, unnamed casting reel, 20-pound P-Line fluorocarbon line, Damiki Tremor 80 (softshell)
Crankbait gear: 7' medium-action Fitzgerald Rods Bryan Thrift Signature Series crankbait/topwater rod, same reel, same line (15-pound), unnamed square-bill crankbait (undisclosed color) He also mixed in a 1/2-oz. Damiki Mamba jig.
Main factor: "Sticking around that one area and catching what I could."
Performance edge: "That P-Line is some strong stuff. Snatching and snapping on those baits all day, I never re-tied and never worried about it breaking."
Alex Davis' Pattern, Baits & Gear
He concentrated on the lower end of the lake to start practice, targeting rip-rap and steeper banks - "stupid places," he called them because the fish were unlikely to replenish on those stretches. He moved to deeper water on day 2 amid windy conditions and caught 18 keepers in two hours. "I knew people wouldn't be out there and basically I wouldn't get caught doing it," he added. "I knew then that I didn't have to keep practicing spots I already knew." He went upriver on the final day to check the viability of Mud Creek, which can sometimes be ultra-productive. This time it wasn't, so his mind was made up. "It wasn't the best practice I've had, but considering how tough it was I thought I had a good practice," he said. "I was very confident. I never thought I wouldn't catch a limit." He generally fished deeper water (7 to 12 feet) than most of the other top finishers since that's where he had the most success in practice. Grass was the key element to all of the spots he fished. "I'm not sure I figured out the where and when, though," he said. "I was fishing virtually from below Alred to past Goose Pond. Instead of trying figure out the where and when, I made a lap around the lake and gave up on the trying to hit a place at a certain time." He had success with a variety of hard baits along with a paddletail swimbait. "Every day was different and I just kept rotating through them," he said.
Lipless crankbait gear: 7'2" medium-heavy Shimano Zodias prototype fiberglass casting rod, Shimano Metanium MGL casting reel (6.3:1 ratio), 15-pound unnamed fluorocarbon, Jackall TN 60 and TN 70 (spawn tiger and super shad).
Swimbait gear: 7'4" heavy-action Jackall Poison Adrena casting rod, same reel, same line, 3/8-oz. D&L Tackle swimbait head, 4.8" Jackall Rhythm Wave (prism shad). The swimbait, on average, produced bigger fish than any other lures, Davis said. "If I had four fish and I have five hours left to catch one, I'd throw that," he said. "The more weight I had, the more risk I took with it."
Jerkbait gear: 6'10" medium-light Shimano Zodias casting rod, same reel, same line (12-pound), Jackall Squad Minnow 128 (super shad). The jerkbait was effective along grass edges and helped him reach fish that were in the 8-foot range or deeper.
Crankbait gear: 7' medium-action Shimano Zodias fiberglass casting rod, same reel, 10-pound unnamed monofilament line, Jackall Jaco 58 and Jackall Muscle Deep 7 (red crawdad).
Main factor: "My history on this lake."
Performance edge: "The Metanium reel and the Zodias rods. From guiding to tournaments, having that equipment has helped my fishing out tremendously."
Scott Sugss' Pattern, Baits & Gear
"By day 2, I was throwing it out and counting it down to five and reeling it just fast enough to feel it vibrate," he said. "When it hit that first piece of grass, I'd twitch it up and that's when the reaction bite would happen. I had to crawl it. "At home, I do the same thing. I call it 'force feeding.' You put it in their face and make something happen with the bait to get a reaction." All 20 of the fish he weighed in were caught on a rattlebait and pulled from flats covered with eelgrass. "I was in the middle of the lake and those fish are in and out all day long," he said. "It changes so much all day long. One minute it's dirty, then it's clean when they're running water. If you hit it on the right timing you can do well." He said the hydrilla and milfoil were not the big players that they are at other times of the year on the Tennessee River. "Everywhere I'd find hydrilla it'd be stringy and dying and the milfoil was too shallow and thick," he added. "The elgrass would be 2 or 3 feet tall and had more defined edges. That's where the bites came."
Lipless crankbait gear: 7'3" medium-heavy Abu Garcia Veracity casting rod, Abu Garcia Revo Premier casting reel (6.4:1 ratio), 12- and 15-pound Berkley Trilene 100% fluorocarbon line, 1/2-oz. Berkley Warpig (red craw), 3/4-oz. Booyah One Knocker (orange craw). Suggs used 12-pound line for the Warpig and 15-pound for the One Knocker.
Main factor: "Understanding that migration (pattern) with the front coming in. Fishing grass as much as I have in different places and knowing what bass do when there's a major front come in was key.
Performance edge: "When you're fishing those bars, even though I was trying to follow those edges, my Lowrance system was great. I was able to follow that line. Also, my Power-Poles were critical. Out of the 20 I weighed in, 14 of them came when I had my poles down. Both were major players."
Shinichi Fukae's Pattern, Baits & Gear
Lipless crankbait gear: 7'3" medium-heavy Shimano Expride crankbait rod, Shimano Metanium casting reel (7.4:1 ratio), 14-pound YGK fluorocarbon line, 1/2- and 5/8-oz. SPRO Aruku Shad (mudbug red and Delta craw). Fukae said the YGK line will be available in the U.S. beginning this summer. He swapped out the stock Gamakatsu treble hooks on the Aruku for the new Gamakatsu G-Finesse hooks.
Main factor: "I found some key areas using my Lowrance and had to Power-Pole down to stay in those areas. I figured out the preferable grass type with the Shimano rods and caught all my fish on the SPRO Aruku Shad with the G-Finesse trebles on it. That combination worked perfect for me."
Performance edge: "My main sponsor, Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits, has allowed me to do what I love to do. They are an outstanding company and people not only for pro anglers like me, but also for any level of fishermen for supplying the best plastics in the world. I'm a full-time pro and couldn't get the job done without their support and products as well as all of my sponsors for this year."