Avena close to switching gears

Adrian Avena has three 2-pounds-plus spotted bass and would like to bag a fourth before he switches gears and goes shallow, looking for one of those 6 1/2-pound largemouth game-changers like he caught on Day 2.

Avena has a 12-pound limit, which has him in second place on BASSTrakk. But he'd like to cull at least one of the smaller spotted bass in his livewell. The third-year Elite Series angler from Vineland, New Jersey, knows it's going to take a home run to catch Takahiro Omori, and soon he will start swinging for the fences in shallow, stained water.

Avena weighed a limit of spotted bass yesterday, but one of those was a 3 1/2 pounder caught shallow.

"It was up there in 2 1/2-feet of water, right where a largemouth should have been," Avena said. "I did catch a couple of 2-pound largemouth shallow, but they didn't help. It's a fine window. Right now we're kind of flirting with that line. The water temperature is still a little too cold."
Avena has marked a lot of 54- and 55-degree water shallow. The 60-degree mark is the magic spot. David Walker mentioned finding some 60-degree water yesterday. There might be more today, after a night when the temperature didn't drop below 60. It's 64 degrees now. Avena threw a buzzbait for an hour or so yesterday, trying to force the issue, with no luck.

"The conditions were screaming it," Avena said. "Next week, I guarantee it, a guy can go in these shallow pockets and catch a big bag of largemouths. We're just starting to see it now, where a few of those are getting caught."

When Avena caught the 6 1/2-pounder on Friday, "My trolling motor was kicking up mud."
With another one of those today, he just might reel in leader Takahiro Omori as well.

 

Hawk with fourth keeper

Roy Hawk just landed his fourth keeper, bringing his current total to an estimated 5 pounds 7 ounces in BASSTrakk. Just like the other three, Hawk caught this bass near a lake point. He’s throwing a Duo Realis crankbait. He told us that on a long cast the lure will go down to seven feet. But the pattern he’s working today is more medium length casts. It is foggy in this part of the lake, with a water temperature in the lower 50s.

Avena's one-two punch

Adrian Avena is using a one-two punch to catch spotted bass in deep water, and then largemouth in the stained water of the backs of creeks.

On Tuesday you’ll see photos in the Top Lures of Lake Martin photo/story gallery. In the meantime here are the details of this lure arsenal.

For reaching spotted bass at 35-45 feet he made a Damiki Rig using jig heads ranging in weights of 1/4 to 1/2 ounces. A 3-inch Berkley Gulp! Minnow, Smelt, completed the rig. For largemouth holding in isolated cover he used a 3/8-ounce All Terrain Tackle Jig with Berkley Havoc Pit Boss Junior trailer.

Hawk finally lands one in a pocket

Roy Hawk finally caught a bass back in a little pocket. His other fish were all caught on lake points. He has a limit now for 6-7 and fourth place in BASSTrakk. Hawk has spent a fair amount of time in pockets and I was beginning to think, why doesn’t he just stick with the points? This bass was of the spotted variety. It is his fourth spotted bass of the day. His fifth fish was caught near a downed tree. 

By the way Hawk uses left handed spinning reels and right handed baitcasters. He said he started doing this as a kid when there weren’t many left handed baitcasters. 

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Hawk with 3rd keeper

Roy Hawk is slowly building a limit. He had three keepers in the livewell for approximately 4 pounds 7 ounces. All three have been caught pulling a crankbait across points. In between he has spent a fair amount of time fishing in pockets with nothing to show for that effort.

Another couple culls for Menendez

Menendez is still on his pattern and culled up twice in two casts. The crankbait bite has been key for him all week, but when it comes time to hunt big fish he resorts to his trusty spinnerbait.

He’s been finding bigger fish on blowdowns without bark. The “younger” trees with more limbs and bark have held fish, but the bigger ones are preferring the former.

He’s looking at a Top 5 finish, if not second place. With lots of time remaining, Menendez is very much still in this thing.

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Tak is no lock to win this

Yes, Takahiro Omori is in the driver’s seat for a victory at Lake Martin. He begins the day with a 4-pound, 2-ounce lead over second-place Roy Hawk. Omori has a spot that has consistently produced at least a 12-pound limit and sometimes more over the previous three days.

But Hawk and particularly the other three anglers bunched within six pounds of Omori — Luke Clausen (– 4-5), Andy Montgomery (– 5-6) and Adrian Avena (– 6-5) — have a slugger’s chance to overtake the leader. There have been at least three bass over 6 pounds weighed-in this week: a 6-11 and a 6-3 by Cliff Prince on Day 1 and a 6-8 by Avena on Day 2. Those are the wildcards, along with the ever-changing weather.

Lake Martin has been remarkably consistent this week, as you can see from the following comparison. The only exception was the lack of a 6-pounder, or even a 5-pounder, yesterday. Will one of those game-changers be caught today?                                                                   

 

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Anglers/limits

110/100

110/101

51/49

Bass weighed-in

533

531

250

Total weight

1,139-10

1,107-0

540-9

Avg. bass weighed

2.14 lbs.

2.08 lbs.

2.16 lbs.

Big bag

19-13

17-1

13-4

Big bass

6-11

6-8

4-5

2018: year of revenge or western guys?

The first Elite tournament of the season always brings about new trends that might just carry out for the full season.

Last year’s Cherokee tournament had a surprising theme of young guns or rookie/newcomers, with Jacob Wheeler winning that one, Jamie Hartman finishing second and Jesse Wiggins taking third.

The 2017 rookie/newcomer class ended up being the strongest in my seven seasons. For this year’s Elite season opener we only have one rookie/newcomer in the top 12. That is Arizona pro Roy Hawk who sits in 2nd place at the start of the day. He’s 47 years old and has $1 million in tournament winnings, though less than $500,000 in Bassmaster and FLW (which means he qualifies as a rookie). I imagine that any new Elite worries whether he can hang with this collection of the world’s best anglers. Certainly Hawk has shown this week that he can. And his excitement level this morning at the dock was palpable.

So what are the themes that will emerge from Lake Martin? Perhaps revenge. Nine of the top 12 did not make the 2018 GEICO Classic. Most considered 2017 a sub par year, particularly our leader Takahiro Omori who finished 84th in Toyota Angler of the Year. This group has attacked the first tournament with a vengeance.

The other clear theme at Martin is strong performances from west coast anglers, with six of the top 12 being western guys. That includes Hawk, Luke Clausen, Jared Lintner, Justin Lucas, Dean Rojas and Brett Hite.

Has Lake Martin simply played to their strengths, or is this a year where western guys will dominate? Only time will tell.

Menendez and the mud

After a flurry of action early, and a fair limit, Mark Menendez feels like he had a few really good bites. But it slowed way down as a thick mud line moved in from up river.

The water change may have pushed the fish farther in the creek that Menendez is fishing, but he’s working the original spot hard before he moves.

It rained last night, but didn’t hit as hard as everyone expected. A better situation overall, but this batch of runoff is hurting Menendez’s action.

Omori’s tournament to lose

It’s been wet, don’t get me wrong, but considering how bad the forecast looked earlier this week we’ve really dodged a bullet at Lake Martin.

Takahiro Omori has a strong lead coming into Championship Sunday, and he couldn’t be in a better situation. His entire limit of fish thus far has come from way up the Tallapoosa River on a single spot the size of a pickup just downstream from a small point.

Big rains with heavy runoff could have completely scrapped his plan, but its held off and he’ll likely catch enough bass again today to take home his seventh title.

But there’s no guarantee in this game. Local anglers already know where he is, so hopefully they left Omori’s spot alone.

We’re at his spot awaiting his arrival, and I’m sure it’ll be a show again today.

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