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WooleyMichaelRageHawg

Wooley Comes Into His Own With 8th at FLW Cup

Who is Michael Wooley? That's what some FLW Tour fans were asking when he finished 8th at this year's Forrest L. Wood Championship at Lake Murray, SC. Well, we know who Michael Wooley is – a Strike King pro from Tennessee who happens to be a heck of a stick, and he proved it on Murray. Here's how he fished.

Practice

"I spent about 8 days there before the off-limits," he said. "I had some previous knowledge of the lake.

"The first time I was there I did really well – I fished upriver, real shallow. So I did that the first 4-5 days there, but I couldn't get anything going shallow. The lake had changed – the grass I'd fished had gone.

"I finally started fishing deep, which is my strength anyway, and I got on a pattern with a Carolina rig fishing deep humps."

It wasn't video-game fishing, though – the fish weren't showing up on his electronics. "You couldn't idle around and see them," Michael said. "Certain bars and points, and humps that weren't real big at all – sort of tips of islands – they tapered down in 40 feet of water. Sometimes I'd catch three or four fish off one, some I'd catch one, some none.

"I tried everything – shakey heads, a dropshot – but a Carolina rig was the only thing I could get them to bite." After running through several different Strike King soft-plastics, he settled on the Rage Hawg in watermelon red flake as being hands down most productive.

Rage-HawgWatermelon-Red-Flake

The three days of official practice looked like this:

  • The first day was cloudy and rainy – good shallow conditions. Michael said, "I practiced shallow that day and caught them extremely well, but I knew we could have those conditions in the tournament."
  • The second day was sunny ("if it got cloudy, they would not bite deep," he noted) and he caught them "really well" deep.
  • The third day was sunny again. He fished a bunch of new spots and caught fish on all of them.
Tournament

After that practice, little did Michael know that every day of the tournament – even though the conditions were basically the same – except one would be tough. How tough? How about just one limit over 4 days – and he still finished 8th!

Day 1: "It was high pressure – we had a front come through, and it was tough. I stuck with the deep bite, only had one fish 'til 1:00, then at 2:30 I caught three more keepers real quick. I only had five bites that day...lost one."

Day 2: "I fished the same way, and had 15 keepers. They just bit. I had a limit and was in 4th. I was excited – I thought they'd bite even better on Saturday."

Day 3: "It went back to being tough again. I only caught three keepers the third day, for 8.5 lbs, but I broke a 4-lber off right at the boat, trying to get the net. I think I only fell two spots" in the standings.

Day 4: "Just another grind day. I didn't catch a fish until 10:00 or 10:30. I caught another one at 12:00, then two keepers in the last 30 minutes. I only had those four bites that day."

A tough tournament, but he was on a pretty unique pattern and was catching the right-quality fish to win. Even so, "I was ecstatic to finish 8th," he said. "Going into the third day I thought I might have a shot at [winning] because the fish bit so well that second day. But just to make the top 10 was huge for me."

It was, after all, just his first Cup appearance.

Other Fishing Keys
  • All his spots "had some kind of rock on the bottom," he said. "They were all hard bottoms, and every now and then would have a stump or brushpile."
  • "The bass move constantly with the herring, and I didn't know whether they'd be there [day to day]. I only had one hump I caught a fish off every day."
  • He cast his Carolina rig shallow, into about 20 feet, and pulled it deeper.
  • He used a 3/4-oz Strike King tungsten Carolina-rig weight. His main line was 17-lb Seaguar fluorocarbon with a 4-foot leader of 12-lb fluorocarbon. he fished it with a 7' 3" Dobyns 734 rod and Lew's Tournament Pro 7.1:1 reel.