Work obligations in North Carolina kept John Duvall of Madison, Ga., from practicing for the Walmart Bass Fishing League Regional on Lake Sinclair, held Oct. 8-10, but a straightforward approach of flipping and buzzing boat docks produced a winning three-day weight of 36 pounds, 13 ounces for Duvall.
Duvall credits fellow competitor Kip Carter (who finished fourth) for helping him get on the right kind of fish without the opportunity to practice. Carter had mechanical problems during the first day of the tournament and was granted permission to call another angler for assistance. He called Duvall and also invited him to fish the docks he was fishing. Duvall caught a quality bass almost immediately while in that area, and that provided him necessary confidence and direction.
Duvall also pointed toward an answered prayer on the final day.
“At one point I just stopped fishing for a minute and said a prayer, and on the next flip I caught my biggest fish of the day,” he says.
Duvall caught most of his keepers by flipping a 1/4-ounce Katch-Her Lures jig, but he also mixed in some presentations with a 1/4-ounce Picasso buzzbait.
“The jig was primary, but the topwater definitely was important,” he adds.
With both presentations, Duvall stuck with targeting boat docks, and he says there was no real common denominator among the docks that produced.
“I figure fish live around docks, so I just kept fishing them, figuring eventually I would get bit,” Duvall explains.
He stayed on the move, working from one dock to the next, but remained in one fairly large area in the northern part of the Little River arm of Lake Sinclair.
“I probably had about 60 docks that I mostly fished,” he says. “I’d fish all of those docks, and then I would turn around and start fishing the other way.”
Duvall’s hometown of Madison is only about 45 miles from Lake Sinclair. Lake Oconee, which he considers his home lake, is the next lake up on the Oconee River chain. Therefore, Duvall has spent a lot of time on Sinclair over the years and knows how it fishes. However, he had only been on the lake once since late in the spring, so he was surprised and thrilled to win the $20,000 first prize and a new Ranger boat.
The Lake Sinclair Regional field of 176 boaters and 176 co-anglers included top points finishers from the Bama, South Carolina, Gator and Music City BFL divisions.
Couch Worms His Way to Second
Tony Couch of Buckhead, Ga., a former Walmart FLW Tour pro who has earned more than $400,000 with FLW, finished less than a pound behind Duvall with 36 pounds, 3 ounces.
Like Duvall, Couch focused on docks, but he did all his work with Zoom worms. Specifically, he fished a Magnum Shakey Head worm on a shaky head and a Junebug-colored Ol’ Monster worm on a Texas rig, and he had to see which worm the fish wanted at any given dock.
While Couch stuck with worms and docks throughout the tournament, he had to alter his approach with conditions, which were different every day.
“I started out fishing clear water and mostly shallow docks and ended up fishing more stained water and deeper docks,” he says.
Couch also changed locations during the tournament. He spent the first day up the Oconee River arm of the lake and the second and third days up the Little River arm.
“I caught a lot more fish up the Oconee River,” he adds, “but I caught bigger fish in Little River.”
He also had to figure out where the fish were around any given dock. Some were well up under the structures. Others were in nearby brush.
“It helped if there was brush around a dock, but it wasn’t always necessary,” Couch explains.
A slow presentation was definitely key, though Couch says he covered a lot of docks in three days.
Topwater Aids Trudeau in Taking Third
Raymond Trudeau of Saint Cloud, Fla., used a jerkbait and a Zara Spook to catch 35 pounds, 15 ounces for a third-place finish.
Trudeau, who focused exclusively on clear water in pockets at the far lower end of Lake Sinclair, spent all of the first day and most of the second day fishing with a jerkbait, which was how he had patterned the fish during practice and how he expected to catch them. Those fish were mostly in 4 to 7 feet of water.
“Then I started noticing fish cruising really shallow – big fish, cruising close to the edges,” he says.
A topwater seemed like a good fit, so on day three Trudeau got a limit on a jerkbait and then spent the rest of the day throwing the Zara Spook around retaining walls. The topwater approach produced a 5-pound-plus fish and helped him catch the biggest bag of the final day – 13-6. That big bag helped him move from seventh place to third place.
“I also lost one that was almost as big as that biggest one when it was almost to the net, and had a couple of other good ones hit it,” he adds.
Smith Skips His Way to Co-Angler Win
Randy Smith of Fayetteville, Ga., used a single strategy throughout the Sinclair Regional to amass a total weight of 26 pounds, 3 ounces and win the co-angler division by more than 5 pounds over his nearest competitor.
“I used the same green [Zoom] Trick Worm to skip docks all three days,” Smith says.
The boaters Smith drew fished different parts of the lake all three days and fished a range of water colors and depths, but docks, which are very plentiful at Lake Sinclair, were an important part of the equation all three days. On the final day, Smith and his boater, Chris Marshall (12th place), did not fish anything other than docks.
Using light spinning gear and 10-pound-test line, Smith would skip a weightless worm as far back under a dock as possible and then let it sink.
“They were pretty aggressive. If one was going to take it, it usually would get it on the drop,” he says.
If the worm made it to the bottom, Smith generally didn’t work it back. He would just reel it in quickly and make another skip.
The top six boaters and top six co-anglers at the Sinclair Regional qualified to compete in the 2016 Walmart Bass Fishing League All-American, which is a televised event with a six-figure payday and a boater berth in the Forrest Wood Cup on the line.
Here are the qualifiers.
John Duvall, Madison, Ga.
Tony Couch, Buckhead, Ga.
Raymond Trudeau, Saint Cloud, Fla.
Kip Carter, Social Circle, Ga.
Kyle Welcher, Opelika, Ala.
Clabion Johns, Covington, Ga.
Randy Smith, Fayetteville, Ga.
Radney Atchison, Prattville, Ala.
Ronald Harrell, Mitchell, Ga.
Ernest Stephens, Orrum, N.C.
Gerald Williams, Scottsville, Ky.
John Wilkerson, Nashville, Tenn.
Click here for complete results.