Zack Birge getting things started on the final day of the Walmart FLW Tour on Lewis Smith Lake. He is banking on his bite picking up about noon.
March 29, 2015
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2:45 p.m.: Pros Pulling Out All the Stops in the Waning Minutes
Leader Zack Birge is in touble.
With only four fish, Birge badly needs another keeper (and probably an upgrade) if he wants to maintain his lead. By our estimates, Dave Lefebre is about a half-pound behind Birge right now thanks to a freak double fish catch that included a 5-pound pig. Lefebre’s on fire and has been most of the day.
Scott Martin is also making a strong push from the middle of the pack and is almost even with Birge.
We don’t have a dead-on estimate for Clark Wendlandt, but we know he had about 9 pounds before culling out a squeaker. If he added a pound, he’s about even with Birge now too.
Tracy Adams is only a pound or two back of the leader and has been around a lot of fish today. A couple more culls and he could easily close the gap.
Even Andy Morgan, who started the day in ninth place, is within about 3 pounds of Birge. He’s one you definitely don’t want lurking behind you when you’re leading the final day of a Tour event.
Right now, everything’s quiet on the water. Very few reports are coming in from our On The Water reporters. It feels like the next big bass to be caught could be an absolute game changer.
1:55 p.m.: Afternoon Lull Setting In
Despite previous predictions that the spawning bite was about to get red-hot, fishing has actually slowed for most pros. Only a few updates have trickled in over the last half-hour: Wendlandt culled out a squeaker to upgrade to about 10 pounds, Birge still has only four fish, Morgan has 12 or 13 pounds, Adams is flirting with double-digits, Benton has 8 or 9 pounds, Martin is one fish away from a good mid-teens bag, Reyes has about 10 pounds and Lefebre has topped 14. Whew … that’s the quick rundown.
Do the math, and it’s pretty clear that this tournament is about to get all knotted up. Birge needs to not only fill his limit but upgrade a fish or two. He hasn’t really changed up much but is still waiting for a new wave of spawners to stage in his ditch or slide into the bushes to spawn.
The rest of the field is hunting and pecking for shallow fish. Schoolers and fish chasing bluebacks are still in play, but the timing has to be just right to make that pattern work.
A light veil of cloud cover still hangs over Jasper. If the sun would just break through, it could open a window for someone to make a big upgrade in the final hour. Let’s see how this shakes out.
Standy by for one final update at 2:45 p.m. Pros check in at 3:15.
Bonus Video from Day 3: See How Dave Lefebre Made the Top-10 Cut
1:00 p.m.: John Cox Involved in Accident, Elects to End His Day
Florida pro John Cox, who started the day in eighth place, was involved in a single-boat accident on Lewis Smith Lake shortly after noon. Cox declined medical treatment following the accident but has voluntarily decided to end his day early. Those are all the details we have at this time. Cox is on his way back to the ramp. We’ll update fans when more information is available.
12:34 p.m.: Moving Time Begins on Lewis Smith
Zack Birge finally managed to drum up a couple of key bites in his primary area about an hour ago, but he’s not exactly slamming the door on his competition. Unfortunately for Birge, a blanket of cloud cover has settled over Lewis Smith, and almost instantly the reports from pros fishing shallow stopped coming in.
The one exception is a 4-pound spotted bass that Scott Martin caught off a bed. He’s working on a pretty solid limit, but he needs a 20-pound bag to even have a shot at Birge’s lead. He just made a move with hopes of culling out a 1 1/2-pound fish. If he can replace it with a 4- or 5-pounder, he’ll have at least a chance.
The bite has gone in fits and spurts today. No one is consistently catching them, but when the fish turn on, everyone seems to get in on the action. Right now we’re in a mini-lull period.
Drew Benton just ran way upriver to one of his shallow spots. It’s likely he’ll burn the rest of his day there. Andy Morgan is in the backs of pockets now too, trying to upgrade his small limit.
11:14 a.m.: Bedding Fish are Starting to Lock On
Reports from the water say that the largemouths are moving up in droves. Wendlandt and Adams are around plenty of fish. The bass are still a little “off” in this cold weather, but the bite is about to bust open at any time. Wendlandt just returned to one on a bed that he couldn’t catch this morning, and he got her to bite five times before finally getting a good hookset. Their aggressiveness is picking up.
Drew Benton, Andy Morgan and now Scott Martin have switched from spotted bass to chasing bedding largemouths. They’re hedging their bets that the action is going to pick up for largemouths that’ll outweigh the smaller spots being caught this morning.
Jason Reyes has had a little success on bedding fish too. This morning he was mixing in a swimbait and rotating through a variety of presentations, both shallow and deep, but now he’s spending a lot more time on the spawners.
The one pro sticking to a little bit different game plan is Dave Lefebre. He’s still fishing deep docks and is definitely around some bigger fish. He just needs to figure out how to get them commit. He had a nice one follow his bait out and lost another.
10:35 a.m.: Spotted Bass Action is Cooling Off, Boat Pressure for the Leader
Well, the morning spotted bass bite has started to slow down. Scott Martin and Dave Lefebre were catching spots pretty well early on, but now they’ve both hit a lull. Meanwhile, Andy Morgan got a limit of spots and decided to bug out in search of largemouths. His search has been pretty slow.
Tracy Adams is off to a good start as well and is chasing bedding bass. He’s still hunting for a big bite.
Both Drew Benton and Zack Birge are trying to dial in the bite right now. Benton has a small limit. He had a 4-pounder follow his bait to the boat but not eat. That fish really would have helped. Unfortunately for Birge, who has just one keeper, a couple of anglers are parked on his best spot. Rumor is that they were watching him fish in there yesterday. Birge seems calm and collected beyond what you’d expect from a rookie, but this is a real test for the young Oklahoma pro.
9:40 a.m.: Lefebre Culls Again, Adams Locks up a Limit and Scott Martin Lands the Biggest Fish of the Day
It didn’t take long for Lefebre to improve his limit once more. He now has 12 1/2 to 13 pounds. The spotted bass action this morning is helping his cause.
Scott Martin, who stocked his bag with big spots early yesterday, caught what is probably the biggest bass of day four so far. It’s about a 4-pound spot. He caught a 5-pounder yesterday. Martin is looking at the fish he’s catching via his depth finder and dropping down to them in 40 feet of water.
Tracy Adams joins the short list of pros with early limits. His fifth came off a bed and weighs about 2 pounds. Wendlandt caught a decent keeper off a bed too. Maybe that means the spawning largemouth action is picking up.
9:20 a.m.: Lefebre Firing on all Cylinders
Dave Lefebre told the crowd at takeoff that despite his 8 1/2-pound deficit behind leader Zack Birge, he’s still got a shot at winning this tournament. Thus far this morning, Lefebre has proved that he’s still in the hunt. He has culled several times already and is gaining about a pound with every new fish. Right now, he has about 12 pounds. The only other pro with a limit is Andy Morgan, but he’s barely flirting with double-digits.
No one has caught a real kicker yet. The cold this morning seems to really have slowed the largemouth bite, so it’s most likely that the action will really pick up this afternoon. The sky is clear, and the sun is shining. Once it gets up high, expect the water to heat up and the action to improve with it.
7:30 a.m.: Brrrrr, Another Chilly Morning for the Final Round
Day four broke even colder than day three, with the air temperature hovering around 30 degrees and trucks and boats cloaked with frost. It’ll be a challenging morning for the camera crews covering the top 10 for FLW’s television production, but if today turns out anything like yesterday, the pros themselves shouldn’t have any problem catching fish.
The morning largemouth bite has been slow for the last three days, and most of the early action is for spotted bass. The action flip-flops later in the day once the sun starts to shine and warm up the shallows. Drew Benton, who’s chasing spawning largemouths, says his only concern is that it’ll take too long for the largemouths to start cooperating. He thinks his bite might not pick up until 2 p.m. Check-in is 3:15, so that doesn’t leave much time to get it done.
It sounds like Benton is changing up his game plan a little bit this morning in order to get a few spots in his livewell while he waits for the temperature to rise. Unfortunately, the first report we had from the water was that Benton happened to pull into the same spot as where Scott Martin caught his early fish yesterday. There was a bit of tension between the two as they sorted out the situation.
Stay tuned to FLWFishing.com for updates all throughout the final day of competition on Lewis Smith Lake.