Casey Martin Wins FLW Lake Chickamauga

Casey Martin Winning Pattern, Baits & Gear

Remember working up the courage to ask your dad for the first time if you could take the family car out for a drive? You knew it was a 50-50 proposition, but a bit intimidating nonetheless. That's about how Casey Martin felt on day 1 of the Lake Chickamauga FLW Tour. He'd come off of his first spot with an empty livewell. Most of his other spots were covered up, including an area where he'd found a big school of bass - the "mega school" as he would later call it. Mark Rose, who's widely regarded as the Zen master of ledge fishing on the Tennessee River, was already parked on the mega school. Out of options, Martin idled up, cleared his throat and asked Rose if he minded someone fishing behind him. Without hesitation, Rose invited Martin in on the spot and they both proceeded to have an excellent opening day, bagging nearly 23 pounds apiece. From there, Martin gained momentum and never stumbled as he alternated between the mega school and a nearby big fish hole that remained largely untouched through the event. By employing a variety of presentations, including a 13-wire umbrella rig, the 1-2 punch was the perfect recipe as he closed the season in historic fashion with an unheard of 25 1/2-pound daily average in late June to register his first Tour win. "It took courage to ask him," he said. "It was more out of desperation because at that point I hadn't realized how good my big fish spot was because I'd only caught one there in practice. "I didn't have other places to go so it took a bit a courage for me to ask him. We both caught 'em that day. It was such a big school, though, that he knew if it wasn't me who asked him, it would be somebody else. If he'd have tried to run me off, I probably would've left." A native of Canada, Martin moved to Alabama when he was young kid so he's no stranger to the ins and outs for summertime fishing on TVA lakes. He'd won three Tour events as a co-angler before making the move to the front of the boat this season. What was proving to be an average season for the rookie turned into a dream sequence as he climbed 16 positions in the points to qualify for the Forrest Wood Cup and then closed out his dominating win with a tournament-best 30-pound stringer on Sunday.

Living in New Market, Ala., Martin has easy access to a handful of TVA lakes, including Lake Guntersville. Leading up to the event, he fished Guntersville each day to bone up on how schools would change and move around day to day and how they picked up on different baits. "It fished pretty much the same," he said. "It's not a bad practice field. The thing about Guntersville is you can run a bunch of spots and find fish on most of them. You couldn't do that at Chick." Once official practice got going, there was so much current ripping through Chickamauga that it was challenging to get a read on how the fish were setting up. He didn't find much on Sunday or Monday and considered locking up to Watts Bar Lake for the final day. "They were pulling so much current that you couldn't easily graph the fish," he said. "On (Tuesday), they let up on the current and fish started to suspend and showed themselves. By then, most guys had gone shallow or were looking at mid-range stuff. Only a few guys were looking out deep on the last day." The little bit of freedom allowed him to pinpoint a couple zones that held quantities of fish and also some bigger specimens, including the mega school, which was holding on a big ledge in 15 to 25 feet of water. Like many of his competitors, though, it was difficult to gauge the actual quality because setting the hook usually drew the attention of others (pros and locals) in the vicinity. "I never looked at anything less than 15 feet," he added.


Being able to get on the school alongside Rose on day 1 was a key factor to Martin's success, but he still had to figure out how to fire them up and put them in a feeding mood. He swung through them with the Picasso Bait Ball Extreme umbrella rig and also threw an Omega football-head jig and a Z-Man ChatterBait. "There was a little turn on it where the fish would just stack up and suspend," he said. He also had a few other areas where he could pick off one or two fish, usually 4-pounders, that he'd hit throughout the day, but those were mostly one-and-done spots. The area where Martin caught his biggest fish was a long point that separated two spawning bays. It was visible from where he and Rose were fishing so he could keep tabs on it. "When there were no boats around on days 1 and 2 , I'd sneak in there and get back out," he said. "They were post-spawn fish moving out and looking for shad to feed on. It wasn't really a timing spot because there weren't a ton of fish there, but every 45 minutes I could go there and get a good bite, usually between 4 and 8 pounds." His 22-15 stringer put him in 3rd place, 3 ounces ahead of Rose. "That was huge," he said. "I knew if I had another good day on day 2, I was going to make the Cup."

The mega school spot attracted more attention on day 2 and the way the boats aligned, Martin wound up with the best angle on the fish. He couldn't trigger bites with the umbrella rig or jig or ChatterBait and eventually resorted to 6" Roboworm rigged on a dropshot. "It wasn't the rig that day," he said. "I think I had the line on where they were, though, since I was on the outside. JT (Kenney) was throwing a rig on the other end and not getting a bite. I had the line where they were active feeding." He caught 20 pounds out of the mega school and then made some key upgrades from his big fish area, including a double that resulted in a 7-11 and a 5-pounder, that pushed his weight up to 27 pounds and gave him the lead. By day 3, his one-fish spots were spent so he focused on the mega school since those he was sharing water with missed the Top-20 cut. The umbrella rig was the big producer Saturday as he hauled in another 23-pound bag to extend his lead to 10 pounds. He used the same formula on the final day and it resulted in the second-biggest bag of the season in a Tour event as he closed out the win and season in style. He notched a Top-10 finish in the season opener at Lake Okeechobee, but struggled mostly the rest of the way. Never did he think he'd win an event as a rookie. "No, the trophy is great and everything's great," he said, "but the money's the huge factor for me. I do this pretty much out of my own pocket and this allows me to do this for a couple more years."

Winning Pattern:

Having the community hole with a massive school of fish was one thing, but having another group of big fish that saw nothing but Martin's baits all week was his saving grace. "That was a huge factor," he said. "I knew the mega school was thinning out and it was getting harder to get the bites there. I was tempted to go into the (big fish spot) on Saturday, but I'm glad I didn't go." When he chunked the rig, he'd let it fall to the bottom before he started cranking it back. "I was sitting in 22 to 26 feet and throw up onto 12 or 14," he said. "They were suspended right off the ledge."

Winning Gear:

Umbrella rig gear: 7'11" extra-heavy Duckett Fishing casting rod, Shimano Chronarch casting reel (5.5:1 ratio), 25-pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon line, Picasso Bait Ball Extreme, 3/8-oz. Omega swimbait heads, Zoom Swimming Super Fluke Jr. (albino), 6" Strike King Shadalicious swimbait (blue gizzard), 6" Basstrix swimbait. He used the five-arm version of the Bait Ball, but only used three hooks to stay in compliance with Tennessee law. He used 10 teaser baits. Of the 20 fish he weighed in, 12 came on the rig.

Dropshot gear: 6'10" medium-action G. Loomis spinning rod, Daiwa Sol 2500 spinning reel, 10-pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon line, 3/8-oz. Picasso tungsten dropshot weight, 1/0 Roboworm Rebarb hook, 6" Roboworm straight tail worm (green-pumpkin and morning dawn). He rigged his bait 12" to 15" above the weight on his dropshot set up to catch them when they were suspended just off the bottom. When they suspended high, he picked up the rig.

Football jig gear: 7'1" heavy-action G. Loomis GLX casting rod, Shimano Chronarch casting reel (7.1:1 ratio), 15-pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon line, 3/4-oz. Omega Custom Tackle Derek Remiz football-head jig (Ozark special), NetBait Paca Craw trailer (green-pumpkin).

ChatterBait gear: Same rod/reel/line as jig, 5/8-oz. Z-Man ChatterBait (white), 5" Castaic Jerky J swimbait (albino).

Main factor: "Finding the right schools and finding a group of big fish and knowing how to adjust over the 4 days and not burning through them. Saving some fish for the final day was key."

Performance edge: "My Lowrance electronics and their mapping are critical when it comes to ledge fishing."

Lake Chickamauga Winning Pattern Bassfan 7/2/13 (Todd Ceisner)

Wesley Strader's Pattern, Baits & Gear

Wesley Strader never had to deal with other anglers in his primary area. That's because he ran north from takeoff and fished an isolated rock pile in the river. "In practice, I did a lot of idling and fished shallow quite a bite," he said. "I could catch 16 to 20 pounds fishing shallow, but that went away. I could catch a lot of 3-pounders up shallow, but it was hard to catch anything bigger." That's when he turned his attention to a spot he'd found years ago. It's a subtle rock pile where the bottom comes up to 15 feet and drops to 20 feet behind it. "It's a place where there's a 3- to 4-week window where they get there," he said. "I found it 15 or 20 years ago. It's not something that shows up on any mapping, but it's on the original TVA maps. "I got dialed in on it over the last 3 to 4 years when they get there. It's all about current. When it slows down they slide one way or the other and you have to feel your way around it. Once you find where they are, you have to triangulate and find the right cast. On one side is a shell bed and a hole with edges on both sides." He caught a fair number of fish on a big Texas-rigged worm, but did most of his damage, especially on day 4 when he weighed 22-04, with a Basstrix swimbait. On day 1, he started elsewhere and caught three keepers before running to the rock pile. On day 2, when the field was held back by a 2-hour fog delay, he opted to start there and caught 20 pounds, all on a single swimbait. He didn't weigh another fish caught elsewhere the rest of the tournament. On day 4, they slid back onto the edge of the hole behind the rock pile. He knows that because he caught four in a row at one point Sunday. "I went down lake and caught tons of fish, but just nothing of quality," he added.

Swimbait gear: 7'6" medium-heavy Powell Max swimbait rod, Lew's casting reel, 20-pound Toray Excellent fluorocarbon line, 3/4-oz. Pure Poison Jigs swimbait head (white), 6" Basstrix swimbait (scaled sardine). He opted for the 3/4-oz. swimbait head to counter the effects of the current. "It was just enough to keep it down in the current," he said. "As the current got stronger, I had to slow down my cadence on the retrieve because if I would reel too fast, it would get up too high in the water column and go over their heads before they had a chance to bite it."

Worm gear: 7'1" heavy-action Powell Endurance casting rod, same reel, 16-pound Toray Excellent fluorocarbon line, 3/8-oz. Reins Tungsten worm weight, 4/0 Gamakatsu offset EWG worm hook, 10.5" Zoom Ol' Monster worm (red bug). The color of the worm was a key in Strader's mind. "When it gets hot like this, I don't know if it's the bluegill, but for some reason, they bit red bug better than anything."

Main factor: "Just being able to commit to an area even when they weren't biting and adjust when they slid out on the rock pile. The only other boats I saw were the two or three that ran to Watts Bar."

Performance edge: "The Toray line I used. It's almost like braid, but it's fluorocarbon. There's no stretch, which was important when the current would get going so hard. I had to stay in contact with the lure because it was easy to miss bites with all that current. I went fishing with (former FLW tour pro) Michael Murphy recently and it's what he uses. I used his rods and I never had to re-tie. I flipped trees all day and never broke off. The stuff is remarkable."

Lake Chickamauga Patterns 2-5 Bassfan 7/3/13 (Todd Ceisner)

Michael Neal's Pattern, Baits & Gear

Despite the accumulation of years spent fishing Chickamauga, Michael Neal came into the tournament knowing he didn't have that many places to fish, referring to the crowded feel of the lake and the obvious summertime locations the fish were ganged up on. Still, he managed to hit a milk run of spots each day and bookended his season with another 3rd-place finish. "I looked at where they would usually get and if they weren't there, I looked to where they'd gone to," he said. "It was all getting hit. Everything on this lake is pretty much a community hole." He didn't spend any time shallow or over the grass in practice because, "I knew if you caught them there, it'd be impossible to catch them there for 4 days," he said. He got bit out of brush piles in practice ran back to them on day 1 of the tournament to rack up 17-06, including a 5 1/2-pound kicker. The following day, he fished some brush, but mostly fished deep ledges and came out with 22-14 that shot him up to 3rd. Using a football-head jig and a swimbait, he sacked 22-08 on day 3 to pull into 2nd place. "I just looked at all of the schools I knew were there and tried to catch the most I could," he said. "I kept telling myself, 'You don't leave fish to go find fish.'" His streak of 22-pound days ended there, however, as he spot-hopped too much on the final day and came in with 17 pounds to slide back into 3rd. He fished a wide variety of structure as his shallowest fish came out of 8 feet of water while his deepest hookup was in 38.

Jig gear: 7'6" heavy-action Duckett Fishing casting rod, Lew's Super Duty casting reel (7.1:1 ratio), 15-pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon line, 3/4-oz. Warrior Baits football-head jig (spring craw), 4" Warrior Baits craw trailer (road kill).

Swimbait gear: 7'10" extra-heavy Duckett Fishing casting rod, same reel, 20-pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon line, 1-oz. unnamed swimbait head, 5 1/2" Strike King Shadalicious swimbait (blue gizzard).

Main factor: "The one place I had the morning bite on days 2 and 3. Eight of the 10 fish I weighed those days came from that spot and that's what got me into the Top 10. It wasn't a huge school. I about caught them all, but that one spot was key because I had it all to myself."

Performance edge: "My Yamaha motor. I was burning a lot of gas and I hit plenty of spots over a 25-mile stretch. I ran it twice each day."

Lake Chickamauga Patterns 2-5 Bassfan 7/3/13 (Todd Ceisner)

Dan Morehead's Pattern, Baits & Gear

While most everyone else was offshore picking off ledge-oriented fish, Dan Morehead mowed the best grass he could find to collect his best Tour finish since placing 4th at Table Rock Lake in 2009. "Being from Kentucky, I came here wanting to ledge-fish," he said. "I was one of the first ones on the water Sunday morning and got out there and caught a few right away on the obvious stuff. Then I started looking for some intricate stuff like shallow drops, but I couldn't catch anything doing that. You had to be on the obvious stuff to get a bite." The only issue with that was the instant he'd come off somewhere "obvious" there'd be multiple boats waiting to pounce on it themselves. "I knew I needed a Top-75 finish to make the Cup and I knew ledge-fishing was putting my destiny in someone else's hands," he said. "I spent the last 2 days of practice shallow. It wasn't easy, but I felt like I could catch 15 to 17 pounds a day there. I shook off a lot so I really didn't know what was there." His best "shallow" spots were offshore humps and bars with isolated grass patches on them. Early in the morning, the fish would be up in 5 or 6 feet of water and the outer edge of the grass would be in the 9-foot range. He used a combination of Texas-rigged worms to catch the majority of his fish and also caught a few significant weigh fish (a 4-pouner, a 5, and a 7 1/2) on a shaky-head. "When it got hot and slick in the middle of the day, I could tickle it over the grass and get bites with that," he said. "The place I caught my biggest fish had the healthiest, best strands of grass I could find. The hydrilla was 4 feet tall and you coul fish through it and over it. The outer edges were where most of the bites would come. "For whatever reason, the grass is behind this year. A lot of it is only 18 inches tall so the key was finding healthier, tall grass. That's where the fish were."

Trick Worm gear: 7' heavy-action American Rodsmiths casting rod, Shimano Calais casting reel (6.2:1 ratio), 12-pound Gamma Edge fluorocarbon line, 3/16-oz. Picasso tungsten worm weight, 5/0 Gamakatsu offset round bend worm hook, Zoom Magnum Trick Worm (red bug).

Ribbonworm gear: Same rod, same reel, same line, 1/4-oz. Picasso tungsten worm weight, same hook, 9 1/2" Luck-E-Strike Original Ringer worm (plum).

Shaky-head gear: 7' medium-action American Rodsmiths spinning rod, Shimano Stradic spinning reel, 8-pound Gamma Edge fluorocarbon line, 1/8-oz. Picasso Shakedown jig, Zoom Trick Worm (plum).

Main factor: "I got on something nobody else was doing. Even though there were several others in the area, they weren't on shallow grass. I was fishing unpressured fish."

Performance edge: "It comes together as one, but I relied heavily on my Lowrance electronics. They kept me in productive water. I logged over 300 miles running up and down the lake and I'm pretty proud of my Evinrude. I haven't needed to take the cowling off it yet this year. Another thing that was key was the Fish Guardian, which dispenses Rejuvenade directly into your livewell. I never lost a fish all season and never had a fish close to being in trouble."

Lake Chickamauga Patterns 2-5 Bassfan 7/3/13 (Todd Ceisner)

Andy Morgan's Pattern, Baits & Gear

Morgan hadn't spent enough time on the water at Chickamauga in recent summers to have supreme confidence coming into the event. He was just hoping to catch enough to put the Angler of the Year trophy in his arms, which he did by the end of day 2. From there, he continued to climb the standings as he rose from 22nd after day 1 to 14th to 7th before bagging 19-08 on day 4 to grab 5th. He moved around plenty and threw a Zoom Ol' Monster worm at virtually every stop. He estimates that he caught 95 percent of his fish last week on that bait. "The growth of the hydrilla recently has changed the lake," he said. "Everything has changed so much that I came into it with a clean slate. I fished some old stuff and found some new stuff, too. I practiced hard and fished places I'd never fished before. I thought it was best to approach it like I'd never been here before." His practice and knowledge of the lake told him he could catch between 16 and 20 pounds a day and he was right on with his estimates. "I had to commit offshore and knew I had enough places to get enough bites to stay in contention," he said. "I had places where I could make five casts and not get bit and knew I wasn't getting bit so I'd pick up and leave. "I fished totally by the seat of my pants. I started running toward areas I wanted to fish and if there wasn't a boat on it, I'd pull in and fish it."

Worm gear: Assorted 7' medium-heavy casting rods (Powell, Joe's Custom Rods, G. Loomis), assorted casting reels (Abu Garcia Revos, Lew's, Shimano), 12- and 16-pound unnamed fluorocarbon line, 1/2-oz. Strike King tungsten worm weight, 5/0 Owner Z-Neck offset worm hook, Zoom Ol' Monster worm (plum and green-pumpkin). He also caught keepers on a dropshot and on day 3, he stuck a couple 4-pounders cranking the Strike King 10XD.

Main factor: "Everything just fell into my lap. I usually don't like a slugfest and this really wasn't one. It was a grind, especially the way I was fishing. I could go a couple hours without a bite, but I like the hopping around and working all day. That's what was up my alley."

Performance edge: "I was really impressed with my Lowrance electronics. It was a deal where I could go straight to my stuff and line up straight on exactly what I was throwing on. My Bullet XRS has been great all year and the Evinrude E-Tec  what more can you say? I never had a malfunction or a failure."

Lake Chickamauga Patterns 2-5 Bassfan 7/3/13 (Todd Ceisner)

Back To Top