Kapiton Grabs Lead in Rayovac FLW Series Championship
A contestant’s greater challenge was finding a kicker bite to separate him from all the 10-, 11- and 12-pound limits that were bound to cross the weigh-in stage here at Joe Wheeler State Park. Florida pro George Kapiton did just that thanks to a 6-pound toad that pushed him out front with a limit weighing 18 pounds, 2 ounces.
Though Kapiton is at home in shallow, grassy waters, he proved he is no one-trick pony by expanding his shallow-water prowess to this Tennessee River impoundment.
“I really didn’t find anything the first few days of practice,” said Kapiton, who also fishes the Walmart FLW Tour. “On the third day of practice I finally stumbled into some fish. I didn’t really know how good it could be, but I definitely learned some more about it today.”
Kapiton is making a run of about 40 miles run to his primary area. His main concern is how long it will take him to get there at the start of Friday’s second round, taking into account the high winds that are forecast for Halloween. What is normally a 45-minute run could take nearly twice as long in rough water.
“The weather is going to make it interesting to run back up there,” Kapiton added. “I really do really believe that I could smash them back up there tomorrow [Friday]. I feel like the weather change will help the bite.”
Even if he has to take nearly two hours out of his day to run to his spot, Kapiton will benefit from having a longer day than he had Thursday because of his later check-in time.
“I only caught four fish from my spot today, and my co-angler caught five,” continued Kaption. “I think there are more fish in that area than what I first thought, but I don’t want to push it because that is about the only spot I have.”
Toward the end of the day Kapiton decided to make the run back down near the takeoff site. With nine minutes to go in his day he boxed his 6-pounder, which carried him from a respectable 12-pound limit up to his tournament-leading weight.
Reluctant to give up any inside information about his fishing area or baits that he used, Kaption did say that he wasn’t alone on day one. He stated that there were at least half a dozen boats sharing his water, though none of them were dialed into what he was doing.
“I do have one other place all to myself, and I know that because I had to bust some limbs to get back in it. But I really plan to go back up to where I’ve been catching them and put one bait in my hand and see what I can do.”
2nd place – Randy Haynes – 17 pounds, 10 ounces
If ever there were a man who could pull a hefty limit off of Wheeler Lake ledges in the fall, it’s Randy Haynes. The Tennessee pro did what he does best to the tune of a 17-pound, 10-ounce limit that nudged him to just 7 ounces behind Kapiton.
This was no normal summertime TVA ledge fishing outing for Haynes, however. Where he normally catches 80 to 100 fish a day in June and July, the ledge master boated only eight keepers in the opening round.
“The fish were few and far between,” said Haynes. “You’d catch one here and catch one there but it wasn’t like it should be. It wasn’t even like they bit because they were hungry, it was more of a reaction bite, I think.”
While Kapiton believes that the front rolling through Friday will help the bite, Haynes holds the opposite view.
“It was tough to get bit out there today and that front is going to be bad for me,” Haynes said after weighing his five fish Thursday. “Offshore fishing and fronts are a bad combination.
“I do have another pattern that I couldn’t get going this morning that I will try again tomorrow. But other than that I’m just going fishing. There is no rhyme or reason to what I’m doing. I just fish what looks good on the graph or I like the feel of on the bottom.”
Haynes weighed in three hefty smallmouths and was surprised he didn’t have more. He said Wheeler’s smallmouth bite is usually dependable in the fall and he expects the 68,000-acre lake to live up to expectations on day two.
3rd place – Koby Kreiger – 17 pounds, 6 ounces
It’s no surprise to find Koby Kreiger in the mix at the Rayovac FLW Series Championship, especially considering that he owns two titles already.
Kreiger got the nickname “Mr. EverStart” (the previous presenting sponsor of the Rayovac FLW Series) after claiming several FLW Series titles and two FLW Series Championships. He now looks poised to make a run at a hat-trick of FLW Series crowns.
One of the reasons Kreiger has been able to win multiple championships is due to what might be regarded as his instinctive ability to catch fish in the fall.
“There’s just something about this time of year that I get,” said Kreiger. “When fish start relating to bait in the fall I understand what they do and where they go. I can just catch them.”
Another reason Kreiger is so good in autumn is because of his ability to fish the moment – or junk fish, as he refers to it.
“I caught fish all day long,” Kreiger recalled. “I’m just junk fishing. If you throw only one bait, you aren’t going to catch them. Whatever bank I pull up to I throw what feels right. I started out fishing the main lake, then ran all the way up almost to the dam and turned around and came back down to the other dam. That’s basically my plan.”
4th place – Todd Auten – 15 pounds
Todd Auten is another shallow-water specialist who seems to be in tune with Wheeler’s bass. He brought a 15-pound limit to the scales Thursday.
The South Carolina pro is targeting not only fish close to the bank, but also those suspended off the break – with the same lure in either scenario.
“I noticed that there were fish suspended out over 20 feet of water and I’m trying to throw shallow-running lures to catch them,” said Auten. “I caught fish from just inches of water all the way out to 20 feet today.
“Nearly every one of my bites has come when the bait hits the surface or gets halfway back to the boat. The biggest thing is trying to stay with the baitfish.”
Auten notes that some of the places he fished Thursday got more than one visit, but he did run some new water as well.
“I have a lot of places to fish. I ran back through some of the areas I caught fish from earlier in the day once the sun came out, but I didn’t really catch much. You just have to weed through a lot of small fish to get those quality ones.”
Despite finding numbers, Auten lacked a strong kicker bite. He hopes that will change on day two.
“I did catch some fish off of some areas where I didn’t get bit during practice. So that tells me that maybe this front is pushing some fish up where I want them.
“It’s really just junk fishing 101. I have 10 rods on the deck and I have caught fish on every one of them.”
5th place – Casey Gallagher – 14 pounds, 14 ounces
Representing the Central Division, Casey Gallagher of Pulaski, Wis., rounds out the top five with a 14-pound, 14-ounce limit.
Like much of the field on Wheeler Lake, Gallagher got off to a slow start before boxing a decent keeper. Gallagher then underwent a three-hour dry spell. Around noon, however he got on a flurry of action and boated his limit in a matter of minutes.
“I’m not fishing schooling fish, but they are definitely grouped up when you find them,” confessed Gallagher. “The spot I caught them in was something I found in practice. I saved it for tomorrow – once I had my limit. I also have a bunch of new places to run that I didn’t even touch.”
With a cold front accompanied by strong winds set to push into the region, fishing could be tough for the competitors fishing the main points and structure on Wheeler. Gallagher remains confident that his area should be protected from the wind enough that it won’t bother him.
“I had hoped for 12 pounds today so I’m happy to have reached above that. Hopefully I can repeat on Friday.”
Rest of the best
6th place – Joe Holland – 14-08
7th place – Scott Canterbury – 14-0 [truncated for length]