SHREVEPORT/BOSSIER CITY, La. – How low can you go? For Debary, Fla., pro John Cox, the answer was low enough to skim through a shallow underpass that led to his Red River hot spot – one that produced a five-bass limit weighing 14 pounds, 10 ounces and put him in first place on day one of the Walmart FLW Tour Major.
“We knew about it from a long time ago,” Cox said of his honeyhole in Pool 4, one lock downstream from the takeoff site at Red River South Marina, adding that he became aware of the backwater area after a 2009 tourney in which he didn’t fare well. “We brought a push-pole; I lightened the boat up completely.”
A few more details about just what it took to achieve Cox’s limbo underneath the road above: a 2-by-4 for a push-pole; a 17-foot aluminum Crestliner powered by a 75-hp Mercury four-stroke engine for maximum flotation with minimal weight; the least amount of tackle possible; and a single battery that he also used to power his trolling motor when he made it through.
Even with the herculean effort to mimic a water bug, it wasn’t easy for Cox and his co-angler partner (Timothy Sisk – 2nd) to pass through the tunnel. In fact, they saw another boat get temporarily stuck trying to thread the same needle.
“I was hoping to catch the water drop just like we did,” Cox said of the falling water level in Pool 4, which helped set off the bite in his area. “I caught a limit in like five flips.”
Cox was fishing a jig made by his friend Andy Scholz, also an FLW Tour co-angler. He fished the 1/2-ounce Dandy Baits jig with a green-pumpkin/green-glitter skirt in 6 to 7 feet of water. He said he was “just dropping it in, and they were yanking the rod out of my hands.”
Cox’s shallow-water jackpot is fairly secure in terms of fishing pressure, but the flip side of that scenario is that there is no guarantee even he can access it again, especially with the water dropping.
Reynolds in second slot
Mike Reynolds of Modesto, Calif., caught a limit to weigh 13-15, which put him in second place after day one. He was one of a relatively small percentage of anglers to stay upstream in Pool 5 Thursday.
“I didn’t lock (downstream),” he said. “I’ve never been here before. I practiced three days (in Pool 5); I just wanted to maximize my fishing time.”
That move paid off handsomely when he landed the Snickers Big Bass, worth $500, at about 9:30 a.m. on a chartreuse-and-white 3/8-ounce spinnerbait with gold Colorado blades. The lunker largemouth was one of eight keepers he caught Thursday, and he plans to stay near the launch site in Pool 5 tomorrow.
Thomas takes third
Hanover, Indiana’s Wes Thomas, wearing Indiana National Guard colors, was another pro who didn’t lock downstream, opting to stay closer to the launch. He sacked a five-bass limit for 13-7 and third place.
“I stayed in Pool 5 all day,” he said. “I caught most of them on a little crankbait (Xcalibur, square bill, shad color) … and two on a frog, walking it in the lily pads.”
He said he believes the key to his area are “bream beds, and those fish are in there runnin’ those bream,” so he barely moved his crankbait to attract strikes.
“I caught all those in one spot – had `em by 9 a.m.,” Thomas said.
He’ll return to the location tomorrow, which he had to himself until about noon today when another competitor moved in and caught a couple. He has some backup areas in Pool 5, but said they are not as productive for him.
Eisenmann, Ehrler round out top five
Fourth place in the Pro Division went to Gene Eisenmann of Frisco, Texas. He put together a five-bass limit weighing 13 pounds, 1 ounce for fourth place after day one.
Eisenmann said he “had a horrible practice,” that is until he found a 30-yard stretch in Pool 5 on Tuesday with only minutes left in his fishing day before the one-day off-limits period began. In a short space of time Tuesday, he shook off four or five keepers, so he returned there today.
“I just went there, put my Power-Pole down, turned my HydroWave on and off (a sonic device that mimics the sound of baitfish), and grinded all day,” he said, adding that he had seven keeper bites and culled twice. “I’m not too shallow – 8 to 9 feet. I just sit on my seat and let my worm soak, take my time.”
Fifth place went to National Guard pro Brent Ehrler of Redlands, Calif., who landed five bass for an even 13 pounds. In so many words, Ehrler reported junk-fishing for his catch in pools 5 and 4, though the latter location was more productive for him.
He fished “anything shallow,” using a Lucky Craft B.D.S. 1 square-bill crankbait, flipping a Yamamoto Flappin Hog, throwing a frog and fishing a Phenix vibrating jig.
As far as his plans for tomorrow, the prior Forrest Wood Cup and EverStart Series Championship winner said, “I know a couple areas I’ll try … but I’m going to have a little bit shorter fishing day tomorrow, which isn’t going to help.”
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros at the Walmart FLW Tour Major on the Red River after day one:
6th: Blake Nick of Adger, Ala., 5 bass, 12-14
7th: Micah Frazier of Newnan, Ga., 5 bass, 12-12
8th: Mark Rose of Marion, Ark., 5 bass, 12-10
9th: Lance Vick of Mineola, Texas, 5 bass, 12-7
10th: Terry Bolton of Jonesboro, Ark., 5 bass 12-0
Mike McDonald of Randleman, N.C., sacked a limit of five bass Thursday to take the day-one lead in the Co-angler Division with a weight of 12 pounds, 1 ounce. He achieved a feat rarely seen on the Tour: He surpassed his pro partner, JT Palmore, who ended the day with three keepers for 96th place.
“We ran down to Pool 4 to a little backwater pond,” McDonald said, adding that his first keeper came on his third cast, right after Palmore got one from a little rock pile – a pattern that repeated itself until McDonald kept catching them.
McDonald ended up weighing in a mixed bag of fish, comprising three largemouths and two spotted bass (the spots each weighed about 2 ¾ pounds). He said they fished more than one area about 20 miles downstream from the first lock near a bridge and that he caught most of his keepers in water 7 to 10 feet deep.
“I caught them on a jig, fishing on bottom, hopping it real hard,” McDonald said.
Timothy Sisk of Gastonia, N.C., had the good fortune of drawing Cox, the pro leader, on day one, which helped pave the way to his second-place showing with a limit weighing 11-7. They fished in a hard-to-reach area of Pool 4.
“We were in a little tunnel … like an underpass under a road … and I had to push through with a 2-by-4,” Sisk said, adding that the maneuver was well worth the time and effort invested in getting to the backwater area.
He reported catching most of his bass on a chartreuse-and-white ChatterBait and one by flipping a black-and-blue Paca Craw to shallow grass in less than 4 feet of water.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers after day one of the Walmart FLW Tour Major on the Red River:
3rd: Keith Carson of Debary, Fla., 5 bass, 9-13
4th: Billy Dehart of Burlingame, Calif., 5 bass, 9-10
5th: Chris Hults of Vancleave, Miss., 5 bass, 9-8
5th: David Lauer of Lady Lake, Fla., 5 bass, 9-8
7th: Alan Hults of Gautier, Miss., 4 bass, 8-8
8th: Jeff Sprague of Forney, Texas, 5 bass, 8-7
9th: JR Wright of Truckee, Calif., 5 bass, 8-1
10th: Larry Hostetler of Floyds Knobs, Ind., 5 bass, 7-15
The Snickers Big Bass award in the Co-angler Division and $250 went to Aaron Beshears of Van Buren, Ark., for a 5-1 kicker that he caught on a Senko at about noon in Pool 4.
FLW Tour action resumes on day two at 6:30 a.m. when the full field takes off from Red River South Marina, located at 250 Red River South Road in Bossier City, La.