Mark Rose Wins FLW Lake Guntersville

Mark Rose's Winning Pattern, Baits & Gear

Mark Rose has grown weary of ledge fishing on the Tennessee River. The advancements made in electronics and mapping has brought throngs of anglers to the offshore spots that he used to have to himself. That's why he wanted to savor every moment of last week's Lake Guntersville FLW Tour season opener. He was able to pick an area of the lake and be off by himself for the most part, much like he used to be when he was establishing himself as a ledge-fishing guru. "I like the later winter and early springtime," he said. "I just fished a lot as a kid this time of year. I just like it." Rose's decision to focus solely on Browns Creek was the product of success he'd had there in a previous late-winter tournament. "That's what put me in there," he said. Once he settled on Browns, he thrived on being able to read the conditions each day and maximize the handful of spots he had to come away with his third career FLW Tour victory. "I like having to figure out the puzzle of it each day," he said. "That' what I love the most about it." While his weights trailed off as the event progressed, his daily average of just shy of 20 pounds was enough to hold off a furious final-day push from Bryan Thrift. Rose finished with 79-11, which was a few pounds shy of what David Fritts caught the last time an FLW Tour event was staged in early February at Guntersville.

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.

Competition:

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:

Winning Pattern:

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.

Winning Gear:

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."

FLW Tour Lake Guntersville Winning Pattern BassFan 2/7/17 (Todd Ceisner)

Bryan Thrift's Pattern, Baits & Gear

Bryan Thrift did not have lofty aspirations for the season opener. He's already locked up a berth in this year's Forrest Wood Cup thanks to his Lake Norman FLW Tour Invitational win last fall, so the Lake Guntersville tournament was all about getting off to a good start. "My expectations were to figure out how to get a check," he said. "With the Cup already made, my main goal was to get back to making a living fishing." He spent his whole practice session trying to find the best stretches of grass that were still holding fish. Day 1 and 2 "were terrible," he said, but he started to get something going on the final day when he caught a half dozen keepers. "I figured grass was the best way to win," he said. "Usually you can find a wad of them and jack them, but that wasn't the case this year." He targeted a flat in 3 to 6 feet of water that was covered with eelgrass and also had a patch of milfoil in it. Within the milfoil was a hole and he estimated 80 percent of the fish he weighed in came from that specific spot. "These were staging fish starting to set up on some of their pre-spawn places," he added. "Most of them were scattered, but that was the only place that I caught more than two off of." The morning of day 1 is when Thrift realized slowing down would be a key component to any success he had. "I was worried about catching a limit and catching four by 9 a.m. calmed me down," he said. "It opened my eyes to having to slow down and seeing that the fish weren't everywhere. You just had to fish for them." His key presentations were ripping a lipless crankbait through the grass and also cranking the edges with a square-bill.

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."

Lake Guntersville 2-5 Patterns BassFan 2/8/17 (Todd Ceisner)

Alex Davis' Pattern, Baits & Gear

It would've been fairly easy for Alex Davis to get spun out last week with all of the history he has at Guntersville. When he's not competing in tournaments, he's typically on the lake each day as a guide. Despite all of his past experience, he was able to stay focused on the here and now and adjust to the conditions that were some of the toughest he's had to face. "It was hard to ignore some of the history, especially the shallow stuff," he said. "I've caught them good up there for many years and it was hard to ignore when I hear that Thrift says he caught 'em up there or when I see Shin (Fukae) up there. Had it not been for my history on the deeper river stuff I wouldn't have finished where I did." That's where his experience played a big role. On a lake where there are seemingly no secrets, Davis was able to hit small, nuanced spots on the main river and not once did he encounter another competitor. "You can't find all the places I fished this week in 3 days," he said "It's just not possible. They are places you don't find by a map; you find them fishing." He figured 17 or 18 pounds per day would keep him in the hunt and he was right. Executing that each day was the true challenge, especially in light of the changing weather each day.

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."

Lake Guntersville 2-5 Patterns BassFan 2/8/17 (Todd Ceisner)

Scott Sugss' Pattern, Baits & Gear

For the first day and part of the second day of practice, Scott Suggs had figured out a vibrating jig pattern in one creek and a jerkbait bite in another creek. It wasn't until Monday afternoon that he started slinging a lipless crankbait around the inside edges of eelgrass flats. "I've always thrown a 'Trap this time of year and I couldn't do that, but I had quite a few bites on day 2 and I got locked in on what I wanted to do," he said. "In the last hour, I caught 18 pounds on the 'Trap." He continued to throw a lipless bait on the final day, taking time to change colors and sizes and experiment with different sounds to fine-tune his program. As the event progressed, he had to adjust to how the bass were positioning in relation to the sun and wind. "On day 2, I went in there and I knew the front was coming," he said. "The fish weren't biting where they bit the day before. I went to the outside edge and got on them there. "The last 90 minutes to 2 hours of practice keyed me in on where they were at and where they'd go from where they had been." Inside edges close to a channel or ditch swing just inside that first bar off the main channel is where he found the majority of fish to be staged. "I had about a 3-mile stretch of the river, a total of nine places on both side," he said. "Once I got bit, I tried to spend my whole tournament in that area." By day 2 of the tournament, he had figured out the retrieve he needed to employ to trigger bites. With the water in the low 50s, the fish were mostly lethargic and not giving chase to baits. Suggs said it was key to crawl it along and leave it in the strike zone as long as possible.

"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."

Lake Guntersville 2-5 Patterns BassFan 2/8/17 (Todd Ceisner)

Shinichi Fukae's Pattern, Baits & Gear

Shin Fukae is thankful that he spent some time at Lake Guntersville prior to it going off limits last month. In fact, he spent New Year's Day exploring the lake. He discovered plentiful grass and was able to identify some deeper areas with eelgrass that he came back to during the tournament. "Didn't fish much, but I found a good grass area," he said. His best spot held a healthy population of fish and he camped on them all four days, making hundreds of casts with a lipless crankbait. He fished it much the same way he did when he was a kid learning to fish for bass at Lake Biwa in Japan. "I just threw that as much as I could," he said. "I casted to the same spot over and over again. I tried different angles and retrieves. Some people would've only made a couple casts, but I knew the fish were there." He started on the same spot all four days and would stay there for up to two hours. He'd usually leave with three or four keepers, then pick off single fish at other spots.

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."

Lake Guntersville 2-5 Patterns BassFan 2/8/17 (Todd Ceisner)

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