Summer-to-fall transition fishing can be some of the toughest fishing of the year. Usually, however, by the middle of October, the autumn season is well underway, and anglers expect the fish to be well into the fall feed.
With unseasonably warm and dry conditions throughout the Southeast this fall, the 173-boat field at the 2016 FLW Bass Fishing League Regional at Lake Seminole Oct. 13-15 found out that expectations don’t mean much, and being able to stay ahead of the ever-changing fish transition was an ever-challenging scenario.
The three-day event featured lead changes each day, and in the end it was Choo Choo Division angler Marshall Deakins from Dunlap, Tenn., who claimed the final seat in the musical chairs contest.
Deakins produced an impressive 18 pounds, 9 ounces on day one, slipped with 13-11 on day two to maintain his second-place ranking and closed out the event with a 17-13 limit on day three that was enough to take home the win with a three-day weight of 50 pounds, 1 ounce. His mastering of the tough conditions earned Deakins a new Ranger boat, $20,000 cash and the Evinrude contingency bonus, which brought his total earnings to $66,000 for the event. The win marked his fifth victory in BFL competition.
Deakins spent his entire tournament targeting suspended fish among the standing timber in the Spring Creek area of Lake Seminole. He reported seeing the fish on his graph in practice, but his travel and practice partner Lee Graves figured out how to catch the fish.
“He started letting a lure slowly fall down the trunks of the timber, and the fish would eat it on the way down,” Deakins says. “That pattern worked the first two days, but I had to change it up with the windier conditions today [Saturday].”
Deakins reports that his primary pattern for the first two days of the event consisted of tossing an electric shiner-colored Zoom Z Craw rigged with a 1/8-ounce pegged slip-sinker. He says that he would cast the lure to the trunks of the trees and let it fall. Strikes would occur as the lure fell.
Things changed on the final day.
“I had a tougher time of it because the light sinker was hard to control in the wind,” Deakins says. “I had to switch things up and go with an Alabama Rig to get bites.”
He rigged his umbrella rig with two dummy baits and three 1/4-ounce heads paired with 4-inch Scottsboro Tackle Company Swimbaits in the natural light color.
Deakins reports seeing the group of fish he targeted with the umbrella rig on his depth finder as he idled through the area the first two days of competition.
“I saw them there, so when I had to make an adjustment, that’s the first place I went to,” he says. “I caught them almost immediately. I’m really glad I threw to them.”
While he has won in BFL competition on Lake Guntersville, Deakins’ emotional response at the weigh-in at Seminole showed this win was significant.
“I am still a little surprised to be standing here right now,” he told the crowd as he choked back his emotions. “I thought I could have a good event. I just would never have imagined that I could be standing here having won this event.”
Phillips finishes second
Steve Phillips of Douglas, Ga., started the final day in third place, having posted 30 pounds, 13 ounces after two days of competition. Phillips was able to climb one place in the standings by bringing a solid 16-pound, 8-ounce limit to the stage at the Bainbridge, Ga., Walmart.
His day three performance brought his total weight to 47 pounds, 5 ounces, and earned Phillips $10,000 and a $200 Costa contingency award.
Phillips reports locating his fish by using a Carolina-rigged watermelon seed-colored Zoom Trick Worm in deeper water, but once the event began he started catching fish on a variety of baits. His two primary producers were a green ayu-colored Lucky Craft Slender Pointer MR112 jerkbait and a Hog Farmer umbrella rig rigged with 1/8-ounce heads and a mishmash collection of 4-inch shad-colored swimbaits.
He says there was a transition day for presentations on day two.
“I caught the bulk of my fish on the jerkbait on the first day, but it was split between the jerkbait and A-Rig on day two,” Phillips says. “Today [Saturday] was primarily about the A-Rig, but I also caught a few on the jerkbait.”
Like Deakins, Phillips also concentrated his efforts on the Spring Creek area.
Keyso rounds out the top three
Third-place finisher Mike Keyso Jr. of North Port, Fla., reports fishing the opposite end of the lake from the top two finishers, looking for grass edges in the Flint and Chattahoochee rivers. He started the week with three flipping sticks on the deck, all rigged with 1 1/4- to 2-ounce Flat Out Tungsten sinkers, 4/0 Strike King Hack Attack Heavy Cover Flipping Hooks and black and blue flake Reaction Innovations Sweet Beavers.
Keyso started day three in 10th place but made a big jump thanks to the largest bag of the final day, an 18-pound, 15-ounce limit that was bolstered by a nearly 8-pound monster.
“I looked for areas where clean grass came together with slimy, dying grass and flipped those edges,” he says. “Those transition areas are where I heard the most bluegill activity, and that’s why I targeted those areas.”
Keyso earned $5,000 for his efforts.
Top 10 boaters
1. Marshall Deakins – Dunlap, Tenn. – 50-01 (15) – $66,000
2. Steve Phillips – Douglas, Ga. – 47-05 (15) – $10,200
3. Mike Keyso Jr. – North Port, Fla. – 42-14 (14) – $5,000
4. Robert Crosnoe – Inverness, Fla. – 42-09 (14) – $3,100
5. Chris Kirksey – Fairmount, Ga. – 41-12 (14) – $2,000
6. Tyler Morgan – Columbus, Ga. – 41-07 (15) – $1,800
7. Rodger Beaver – Dawson, Ga. – 40-12 (12) – $1,600
8. Clabion Johns – Covington, Ga. – 38-07 (14) – $1,400
9. Dustin Royer – Davie, Fla. – 33-07 (13) – $1,200
10. Nathan Thomas – Weirsdale, Fla. – 32-06 (13) – $1,000
Rudolph wins co-angler division
Jessey Rudolph of Deltona, Fla., won the co-angler division at Lake Seminole. Rudolph says that the key to his third career co-angler win at the BFL level was paying attention to what his boater was doing, and finding something to offer the fish that his partners were not.
“I really try to work around what my pro does,” he says. “If they are frogging a mat, I’ll flip, and if they’re flipping, I’ll frog. I caught all of my fish on those two techniques this week.”
“I really had to find something each day to make them bite,” he says. “I tried to work around what my boaters were doing, and stay out of their way at the same time. It’s an unbelievable feeling to be standing here right now having won this event.”
Rudolph collected a certificate for a Ranger boat valued at $45,000 as his prize.
Top 10 co-anglers
1. Jessey Rudolph. Deltona, Fla. – 36-02 (15) – $45,200
2. John Trudel – Lighthouse Pt., Fla. – 31-04 (12) – $5,000
3. David Bozeman – Ocala, Fla. – 26 – 4 (9) – $2,500
4. Randy Paquette – Sarasota, Fla. – 25-05 (15) – $1,500
5. Tony Dimauro – Watkinsville, Ga. – 22-13 (8) – $1,050
6. Stanley (Trey) Shaw – Dunnellon, Fla. – 20-05 (7) – $900
7. Christopher Wilder – Macon, Ga. – 20-04 (7) – $800
8. Richard Mongiovi – Indian Lake Estates, Fla. – 19-15 (7) – $700
9. Johnny Pittman – Albertville, Ala. – 19-15 (8) – $600
10. Isaac Clemmons – Fitzgerald, Ga. – 17-09 (8) – $500
The Lake Seminole Regional featured the top boaters from the Bull Dog, Choo Choo, Gator and South Carolina divisions. The top six boaters and co-anglers qualified to compete in the 2017 FLW 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.