By Todd Ceisner
Mark Rose has been on hot streaks before.
There was a stretch in 2011 during which he recorded three straight top-6 finishes in FLW Tour competition, including a win at Lake Pickwick and a 3rd-place showing at the Forrest Wood Cup at Lake Ouachita.
Then there was the time in 2009 when he finished 2nd at Beaver Lake and followed that up with a 4th at Kentucky Lake, both FLW Tour events.
Those were memorable (and meaningful) stretches, but neither compare to the run he’s presently on.
Two weeks ago at Lake Guntersville, Rose was thrilled about the opportunity to get back to his shallow-water fishing roots. Ledge-fishing has become a drag for him, so he seized on the late-winter/pre-spawn phase and kicked off the season with a dramatic victory at a lake where he’d always craved a win.
Last week at Lake Travis, it was a classic Rose scenario – deep water, offshore-structure fishing. He used his electronics to identify some timber near the end of the Mansfield Dam Park boat ramp, an area he’d remembered from the last time the FLW Tour visited Travis in 2007. He didn’t practice there or check the spot until day 2 of the tournament as he’d been fishing another spot close by.
“It was 40 feet lower (in ’07),” he said. “I remember the end of the ramp – it was a big a mound with loose rock.”
Now with the lake filled up, that rock and wood created the perfect offshore situation for Rose as the bass suspended in and around the trees. It produced four big fish for him over the final 3 days, critical catches that fueled his history-making victory that saw him outdistance Bryan Thrift by less than a pound for the second time in three weeks.
“I’ve been on hot streaks before, but never two wins in a row,” he said.
Rose complemented his deep-water patterns with a dock-flipping program on the weekend that helped augment the big fish he’d catch in the morning.
“It was a deep-shallow combo,” he said.
As hot as Thrift has been over the past 9 months, Rose is in the midst of a stretch that includes six straight top-25 finishes dating back to Pickwick Lake last summer. He has top-6 finishes in four of the last five Tour events.
Here’s how he captured his second straight victory.
With cloudy and windy conditions greeting the field for the start of practice, Rose initially dialed in a shallow crankbait bite in the Colorado River and figured he’d ride that as long as the conditions would allow come tournament time.
He focused mostly on bluff walls and associated structure and also developed a pattern with a Strike King Denny Brauer Baby Structure jig.
“I felt really good about that,” he said. “I’d crank when the wind blew and I really felt like on those chunk rock banks and bluffs, I was prepared for any conditions. I felt like the jig would work under sunny and slick conditions and the crank would work with wind and clouds, but those fish packed up and left on me.”
He also had identified three areas down the lake that he’d classify as deeper, offshore spots. Those came in handy as there were not the numbers of shallow fish as he’d expected there to be.
“We were given the perfect recipe for shallower staging fish,” he said. “I was expecting to see them on channel swings and deeper bushes in 6 to 8 feet of water and out in the mouths of pockets. I wasn’t expecting the fish to be as deep as what they were. I’m thankful I idled around in practice and found some deep fish because those places wound up producing a good many fish for me.”
> Day 1: 5, 11-09
> Day 2: 5, 17-03
> Day 3: 5, 15-13
> Day 4: 5, 14-09
> Total = 20, 59-02
Rose started the tournament up the Colorado with a shallow-running crankbait and the jig. He caught three small keepers, but sensed the whole game plan was going south with the sunny, slick conditions.
He came back down lake where he caught a 4-pounder off one of his deep spots that anchored his 11-09 bag on day 1.
“About noon, after trying to make it work all morning, I left with those little fish and I knew I was in trouble if I didn’t put something together,” he said. “It was my instinct to trust my gut and run away from it.
“I stopped on a deep place I’d found in practice and caught that 4 on my first throw. That told me I needed to regroup and what I needed to do for the rest of the tournament.”
He was 41st after the first day, more than 13 pounds behind Thrift, who’d caught a tournament-best 24-12.
He stuck with his deep-water program on day 2 and turned in his best bag of the event, a 17-03 stringer that propelled him up to 5th. While probing a stair-step ledge on a deep point near the Mansfield Dam on Friday – it was where he’d caught his 4-pounder on day 1 – Rose recalled the 2007 FLW Tour event at Travis when he caught some of his fish off the end of a nearby boat ramp. The water was 40 feet lower back then, but when he idled over it Friday, there were fish holding around some trees that had grown up near where the ramp ended, now in 50-plus feet of water.
“I go over there and catch one,” Rose said. “I remembered catching fish there in 2007 and I said, ‘Before I leave here, I’m just going to throw on it.’ The wind was blowing on it and I wanted to try it. That’s when I found there was a fish or two on it.”
He wound up catching two keepers there with a football jig, but the spot ultimately swung the outcome of the tournament in his favor.
He didn’t start day 3 on the boat ramp, but it wasn’t long before he made a cast there and the first fish he caught was a 6-pounder that anchored a 15-13 stringer that pushed him up to 2nd entering the final day.
“I saw some arches deep around those trees and I sat down in my boat and tied on a swimbait immediately before making a cast,” he said. “I fired it out there and caught that one almost immediately.”
He said there were a couple trees near the end of the ramp and a couple more off to the side. The key was making repeated casts from a distance since a vertical presentation didn’t yield any bites. For the fish hugging the end of the ramp, he offered up a big football jig, while a swimbait was effective in catching the suspended fish.
On Saturday, he realized the deep-water bite tapered off late in the morning. With the sun still high in the sky for a third straight day, he ran a series of docks, hoping to intercept some fish that moved in.
He caught two key upgrades Saturday afternoon, including a 3 1/2-pounder, flipping a Strike King Rage Bug arounds docks.
“The docks were shallower to mid-range,” he noted. “When the sun got out it’s time for those fish to start cruising. This is the time of year they’re in cruise mode. Putting that dock thing together was a big deal.”
He employed the deep-shallow combination again on Sunday when he trailed Thrift by 1 pound to start the day. He caught two big ones near the boat ramp and wound up leaving the area shortly after 11 a.m. with four keepers. He made a modest run up the lake and spent the rest of his day targeting docks. He finished his limit just after 12:30 and caught two more key upgrades in the afternoon to vault past Thrift.
“I believe some of them were pre-spawn and some were post-spawn,” he added. “I caught a few that were long and skinny, but most of them were fat and healthy.”
Winning Gear Notes
> Swimbait gear: 7’6” heavy-action Lew's Custom Pro Speed Stick Ledge Series swimbait casting rod, Team Lew's Magnesium Speed Spool casting reel (7.5:1 ratio), 17-pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon line, 1-oz. Strike King Squadron swimbait head, 6” unnamed paddletail swimbait (shad).
> Jig gear: 7’2” heavy-action Lew's Custom Pro Speed Stick Ledge Series jig/worm casting rod, same reel, 15-pound Seaguar Tatsu fluorocarbon line, 3/4- and 1-oz. Strike King Tour Grade football jig (green-pumpkin), Strike King Rage Tail Craw trailer (green-pumpkin).
> When it was windy and he was fishing deeper than 30 feet, he opted for the heavier jig. He used the 3/4 in less than 30 feet.
> Skipping/Pitching gear: Same rod as jig, same reel, same line as swimbait (20-pound), 5/16-oz. Strike King Tour Grade tungsten worm weight, 4/0 Mustad Wide Gap KVD Grip Pin worm hook, Strike King Rage Tail Rage Bug (blue craw).
The Bottom Line
> Main factor in his success – “Probably trusting my instincts and not having a one-track mind, like knowing when to go shallow. The deep-water bite died after lunch and I had to just leave it. That’s where the best quality was, but I had to leave it and put together what I could with my kickers.”
> Performance edge – “I couldn’t have won this week without my Garmin units. To be able to see (those trees) so clear so deep was huge. Those fish were in 52 feet of water suspended around a tree about 5 feet off the bottom. I could see those fish in that tree and suspended around it.”
> The studio show of FLW Live debuted during the Lake Travis event and Rose had a live camera in his boat for the final 2 days. While he’s a big fan of the live streaming of tournament action, he wanted to apologize for not being the most insightful angler during the event.
“I don’t know if he did it on purpose, but my cameraman only told me a couple times that Live was on,” Rose said. “I was so focused I probably wasn’t very educational. I was trying to win a tournament and I was so focused on my next move. I’ve heard nothing but good reviews, though.”
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