By Todd Ceisner
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.
Here’s how he did it.
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.
> Day 1: 5, 22-04
> Day 2: 5, 20-04
> Day 3: 5, 19-00
> Day 4: 5, 18-03
> Total = 20, 79-11
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.
Rose wasn't catching many fish each day, but he was around good quality.
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 Notes
> 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 Notes
> 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.
The Bottom Line
> Main factor in his success – “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 LakeVü 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.”
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