Walmart FLW Tour – FLW Tour Opens Wheeler Lake (Sept. 20-23, 2012)

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Steam rises over the Tennessee River as FLW Tour competitors head out on a chilly day one. (Photo by David A. Brown)
FLW Tour pros competing with natural buffet on Lake Wheeler

20.Sep.2012 by David A. Brown

DECATUR, Ala. – There are no vegetarian bass, and the Tennessee River’s offering no incentive for such a dietary option, as the FLW Tour Open field takes to a Lake Wheeler literally brimming with bait.

“There’s bait from the top of the water column to the bottom, out on the river ledges all the way to the backs of the pockets,” said Straight Talk pro Scott Canterbury.

Such baitfish prevalence, he said, is exacerbating an existing seasonal challenge. This is the time of year when bass abandon their hot summer patterns and head for creeks and pockets where they’ll gorge on shad. This week isn’t likely to see any mass migrations, as conditions and food status are not prompting any significant changes.

“There’s tons of fish in the river but they’re just in a funk right now. It’s the late summer and the water temperature hasn’t really fallen yet. The summer fish that have been out on ledges have been beaten on all summer long and they’re wanting to transition (to fall patterns) and go shallow. But the fish can be anywhere. They don’t have to go back (shallow) to find bait – they can eat anywhere they want. They can be in between the ledge and the backs of creeks or pockets. Anywhere they open their mouth, they can eat.”

Canterbury said he’ll keep a variety of baits handy, but he believes his best bet will be slower presentations with plastics. He didn’t catch a lot of fish in practice, but those he did seemed to prefer a bait that stayed in easy reach.

Chevy pro Jay Yelas will look for bass schooling on baitfish and tempt them with a jigging spoon, crankbait and worms. He’ll also try to find a few flipping bites.

Ohio pro Charlie Hartley agrees with the bait analyses, but he’ll take a more wide open approach. He pulled out multiple rods this morning with an assortment of jigs, Texas-rigged plastics, Rat-L-Traps and small crankbaits.

“I’ve had a lot of success this time of year on this body of water just junk fishing,” Hartley said. “If something will sit still, I’ll pitch at it and then keep moving. The fish are scattered this time of year and you’re happy to get a bite or two and if I fish really hard, I can get a bite or two.

“You want to throw anything that imitates a shad. They are eating shad and you want to be where the bait is and that’s the key. You want to look like the bait, or just a little bit different.”

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