By Todd Ceisner
It's just one tournament, but maybe, just maybe, Beaver Lake has shed its label as the Shaky-head Capital of the Ozarks.
All it took was a perfect blend of breezy, cloudy weather mixed with a fishery full of bass on the move to their spawning areas. The end result was a Beaver Lake FLW Tour event that will be the standard against which future Beaver Lake tournaments will be compared. Don't get used to it, however.
It was yet another triumph for the umbrella rig, which seemed to draw out Beaver's biggest specimens and was responsible for two 20-plus pound stringers.
At the same time, a couple Top-5 finishers didn't rely solely or at all on the multi-lure device to fill their weigh-in bags. Instead, they targeted staging smallmouth with, yes, a shaky-head or a jerkbait.
Here's how those who trailed winner Jason Christie at the end filled their livewells.
2nd: Shawn Murphy
> Day 1: 5, 14-06
> Day 2: 5, 13-01
> Day 3: 5, 16-11
> Day 4: 5, 14-01
> Total = 20, 58-03
Shawn Murphy was the FLW Tour Rookie of the Year in 2011, but has struggled ever since. Last year, he didn't cash a check in any of the six Tour Majors (he cashed in two Opens) and opened this season with two finishes in the 100s.
He's hoping his runner-up finish at Beaver will turn his fortunes around.
In practice, he got on a cranking pattern along pea gravel banks with chunk rock in 8 to 12 feet of water. He also caught a few on a homemade 10-wire, five-blade umbrella rig.
He opened the event throwing a Wiggle Wart and his 14-06 effort on day 1 had him in 15th and he made a steady climb from there. When his crankbait bite faded on day 2, he picked up his "jumbo-rella" rig and didn't put it down the rest of the event.
"I just couldn't get a bite on the crankbait," he said. "Catching a couple on (the rig) in practice gave me the confidence to throw it, so I picked it up and started going over the same areas I'd just fished with the crankbait and they'd bite it. They wanted a little different presentation. I figured it'd be a factor before we'd even gotten here. It seemed like the bigger bites would come on it."
He slid up to 8th after 2 days, and then used a 16-11 stringer on day 3 to charge into 3rd.
"I fished Indian Creek toward the dam quite a bit because it had clear water and you could see down 18 feet," he said. "I'd fish there while the wind was blowing or if there was some cloud cover. When it got sunny, I'd run down to Ford Creek because it had some good, colored water in there and some bluff-type banks that shallowed out with the some spawning pockets in the back of them."
> Crankbait gear: 7'11" medium-action G. Loomis GLX crankbait rod, Shimano Chronarch casting reel (6.4:1 gear ratio), 8-pound Sunline Super FC Sniper fluorocarbon line, Storm Wiggle Wart (phantom green craw).
> Umbrella rig gear: 7'11" heavy-action G. Loomis swimbait rod, same reel, 20-pound Sunline Super FC Sniper fluorocarbon line, homemade 10-wire, 5-blade umbrella rig, 1/16- and 3/32-oz. Bite-Me jigheads, 3.8-inch Keitech Swing Impact FAT swimbaits (bluegill flash and silver flash minnow).
> "Throwing that umbrella rig on fluorocarbon is definitely a plus, especially in that clear water and around the standing timber," he said. "The braid makes a little more noise and it's more visible in that clear water."
> Main factor in his success – "Having the confidence to stick with the way I like to fish. I always say, 'Chunk and wind until you find.' Once I got keyed in early in practice on the crankbait and once they quit biting, that 10 or 15 minutes with the Alabama Rig gave me the confidence to throw it."
> Performance edge – "My Evinrude E-Tec got me there as fast as any other boat on the lake."
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