Everyone has superstitions!
6/13/2014 FLW Outdoors
Little Debbie Fudge Rounds taste great, but they might also be the secret to Michael Neal’s success as an angler. “A guy I used to fish with a bunch back home brought Fudge Rounds one day, and we caught them really good that day. So it just stuck since then, and I try to eat one every morning before takeoff,” Neal says. “At Champlain the last time we were there, we stopped at like every gas station between where we were staying and the ramp, and they didn’t have them. So my dad dropped me in the water and ran to Walmart and got me a box.” (Full Story)
6/8/2014 FLW Outdoors
2nd – Michael Neal – 93 pound, 6 ounces – $30,000
“I gave it a run,” says Michael Neal.
The Dayton, Tenn., pro weighed in day four’s heaviest stringer, a 25-pound, 9-ounce limit that boosted him to the runner-up spot. He fell short of Hackney’s four-day total by 4 pounds, 1 ounce. Like everyone else, Neal dealt with heavy boat traffic throughout the tournament, and that prevented him from getting on a particular school he wanted to fish – until today. “Every fish I wound up putting in the livewell came off that one spot,” Neal says. “It’s 8 feet on top and 18 feet on the bottom, and I caught most of my fish 10 to 14 feet deep. It’s a transition area. They won’t be there all summer long. “It’s a spot where you can cast here, you can cast here, and you can cast in between,” he adds. “You can almost fish 180 degrees. They were all right on bottom. On DownScan, I could see them stacked really tight. It was one of the best days I’ve had fishing deep.” He experienced a flurry of action early while the current was really ripping, then ignited another bite at around 10 when the current slacked off – the change in flow being the trigger to make them bite. Neal spent the entire tournament fishing between the Natchez Trace bridge and Bear Creek. He did most of his damage with a football-head jig and a Lunkerhunt Saltwater Swim Bento swimbait. Today, he also caught some fish by long-lining a crankbait. (Full Story)
6/7/2014 FLW Outdoors
3rd place – Michael Neal – 67 pounds, 13 ounces
“A lot of current and no bites.” That’s how sophomore pro Michael Neal described his morning today. “I thought when we took off it was going to be real good,” says Neal, who weighed in 20 pounds, 4 ounces today. “I wish it [the current] wasn’t ripping that much because I’m sitting at the bottom of a ledge and casting up on top. It’s hard to line up the cast to get it to land on the spot.” The current was sweeping so hard across Neal’s ledges today that it pulled his line and sinking lure off the sweet spots where the fish are set up before it hit bottom. That’s a challenge, considering the size of the targets he’s trying to hit. “The schools are big, but not in a great big area,” he explains. “When you see them on the graph, they’re stacked up 5, 6, even 7 feet up, but the school’s not but 20 feet wide.” Neal countered the slow bite this morning with a drop-shot and other slower-moving lures, picking up one fish here and one fish there. His break finally came in late morning when he ignited a school with a swimbait. “I was really scratching my head at 10:30,” he says. “Then I had one little flurry and caught everything I weighed.” Neal’s fish today came from spots he’d been hoping to fish all week, but couldn’t get on with the full field on the water. He ran all the way to Tennessee waters at Pickwick’s lower end the first two days. He opted to stay farther upstream today because the extreme lower end, while it has great schools of fish, has fewer schools of fish. Neal accurately anticipated an increase in traffic from local tournaments today and decided to stay where he’d have more schools to himself. Tomorrow, however, he’s making the long run once again and hoping to get on the mid-20-pound bite he uncovered Thursday and Friday. (Full Story)
6/6/2014 FLW Outdoors
2nd place – Michael Neal – 47 pounds, 9 ounces
Michael Neal might have jinxed himself this afternoon by predicting that he’s going to continue to waylay Pickwick’s ledge bass this weekend, but if his luck holds up he’s in the best position to try and run down Hackney in what is fast becoming a heavyweight showdown. Today, Neal weighed 24 pounds, 9 ounces to push his two-day total to 47-9. “I’ve found some spots that are off the wall, or a little away from some of the community holes,” Neal says. “Like I said yesterday, they’re called community holes for a reason: They hold big fish. Hopefully tomorrow I can get on some of the community stuff, in addition to my other stuff. “I’m fishing for fish that haven’t been messed with,” he adds. “It [his program] is a little bit different. We’ll have to see if he [Hackney] can do it again. I laid off my fish around 11. It shouldn’t be a problem catching 20 pounds the next two days.” Neal is focusing on five key spots, but with only 20 boats on the lake tomorrow, there’s a lot more real estate open for him to fish. And now that he can pull in on any community ledge and idle around freely until he locates fish, Neal is confident he can find the schools, set up quickly and commence with the catching. Of course, getting access to community ledges also hinges on amount of local boat traffic over the weekend, and there are other factors important to igniting the bite. For instance, an increase in current flow, says Neal, is what helped produce a lot of the big weights we saw today. The sophomore pro is sticking with his usual collection of ledge-fishing lures this week, including a Lunkerhunt swimbait. More important than lure, however, is understanding how to ignite the school and make them bite. “Once you can get one bite and catch it, you’re in good shape,” Neal says. “Then you can catch more.” (Full Story)
6/5/2014 FLW Outdoors
4th place – Michael Neal – 23 pounds
Lake Chickamauga local Michael Neal was another popular FLW Fantasy Fishing pick this week, and he didn’t disappoint his supporters on day one. His 23-pound limit puts Neal a pound and a half off the lead. Neal is in his element this week. He’s a ledge fisherman, even when it’s not the heart of “ledge season” as it is now, and his knowledge of bass behavior on the Tennessee River in summertime helped him avoid many of the crowds that other anglers had to deal with today. “I like to fish off the bank,” Neal says. “I don’t always fish deep, but I do fish off the bank. “I’ve always heard how small this lake fishes,” he adds. “But I can honestly say I never fished in a group of boats today. I was surprised.” Neal sifted through 10 places today, catching bass on five of them with a few lures, but finding the best results with a 5 1/2-inch Lunkerhunt Saltwater Swim Bento. Part of the reason for his success was locating a few subtle secondary structures that held fish. “They’re called community holes for a reason,” Neal says. “They hold lots of fish, probably more than anywhere else. These are the biggest schools anywhere on the Tennessee River. In practice, I would find a community hole and then look on the outskirts. I got on one spot late today that I’ll try to get on tomorrow. It was a sweet spot by a community hole.” Good for Neal, he thinks the secondary spots will continue to replenish with bass that get flushed out of the bigger schools by the angling pressure. If he’s right, this Tennessee River ledge expert will be fishing all the way through the weekend. (Full Story)
Click here to listen to the FLW Outdoors Podcast Episode 26 where I talk about my 3rd place finish at Lake Guntersville April 24-26.
4/26/2014 FLW Outdoors
Michael Neal of Dayton, Tenn., finished third with a three-day total of 73 pounds, 1 ounce worth $12,000. For most of the week Neal fished subtle drops off a large spawning flat in a primary creek. He kept his boat in 9 to 10 feet of water and cast up into 5 to 8 feet trying to contact isolated grass clumps and wood. His go to bait was a Lunkerhunt Swim Bento swimbait (sassy shad) rigged on a 5/8-ounce Pulse jighead tied to 20-pound test Sunline. “I was fishing a long stretch – maybe 500 yards or so,” Neal said. “Every hour or so I’d get into a flurry and catch 10 or 15 pretty quick and then I’d keep moving along until I hit another flurry.” (Full Story)
4/24/2014 FLW Outdoors
Offshore expert Michael Neal of Dayton, Tenn., grabbed the third place spot with five bass weighing 25 pounds, 10 ounces. Neal has found a single place that is producing most of his fish. “I’m fishing out, but I’m not fishing deep, per se,” Neal said. “I’m fishing the first drop along a big spawning flat in a major creek in 6 to 8 feet of water,” Neal said. “There is grass and wood along the break, holding the fish. Most of them are post spawn fish, but I did catch one big prespawner there today.” Neal said most of his fish are coming off a Lunkerhunt Swim Bento swimbait along the drop. (Full Story)