SHREVEPORT/BOSSIER CITY, La. – Mercury pro John Cox didn’t need to break his back Saturday to access his incredibly productive, nearly inaccessible fishing hole like the first two days of Walmart FLW Tour competition on the Red River. In fact, he hardly had to work up a sweat to outfish the field yet again – at least he made it seem effortless.
And that’s just fine with him. After punishing his boat and himself the first two days to wiggle through a small culvert that granted access to a bounty of backwater bass, he said his back was awfully stiff this morning (watch video of the maneuver); and while he began the day with more than a 7-pound lead, the Debary, Fla., angler didn’t rest on his laurels.
Instead of locking down to Pool 4 like Thursday and Friday, he stayed closer to the upstream launch site in Pool 5 and still managed to sack more weight than any other pro with a five-bass limit weighing 12 pounds, 1 ounce giving him a three-day total of 40-11 and an 8 1/2-pound lead going into the final day of competition.
“I wanted to so bad,” Cox said of the temptation to return to his honeyhole, but he knew the water had dropped enough to likely make entry into the backwater area impossible today. “Instead I ran down by the dam (in Pool 5) and fished a little hole down there and then moved a couple ponds up … I hit one hole and caught my limit.”
Cox began catching keepers at about 10 a.m. and was done by 11; after that he said he started “looking for stuff to get the big bite tomorrow,” and his new-water search paid off.
“I missed a good one and then caught a good one … where I’m going to start in the morning,” he said, adding that he was about six to seven miles downstream from the launch.
Cox reported catching one on a fluke today, one on a spinnerbait, one on a jig and one on a Zoom Speed Worm.
“I pretty much caught each keeper on a different bait,” he said.
Cox worked as hard as any angler in the field the first two days to take a commanding lead in this FLW Tour Major tournament, but today he proved that he has more tricks up his sleeve than a magic fishing hole. The rest of the pros to make the top-10 cut will certainly have to work equally as hard to catch him.
Brownlee rises to second
Former EverStart Series Championship winner Clint Brownlee of Tifton, Ga., sacked his biggest five-bass limit of the tourney today – 11 pounds, 12 ounces – for a three-day total of 32-3. He moved up to places to second.
“I’m fishing a little area just like back home on the Flint River – just a little oxbow a little ways off the main channel,” he said, adding that he is not far from the launch site at all in Pool 5. “I’ve been in there every day, just getting one key bite every day.”
Brownlee is throwing topwater buzzbaits on 20-pound braided line as well as doing some flipping of a Zoom Trick Worm – “just getting lots of reaction bites.” He said he is fishing a small 1/8-ounce Strike King buzzbait on the heavy line so he can “throw that thing a mile,” which is necessary because his fish are “spooky.”
The only problem with his pattern occurs when he hooks a big one in heavy grass and has to maneuver it out without losing it, but he allowed as how it is a good problem to have. He reported 10 to 12 keeper bites today.
Rose on the rise
Another former EverStart Series Championship winner, National Guard pro Mark Rose of Marion, Ark., sacked a 10-11 limit today to climb two places to third with a total weight of 30-9.
“I’m just fishing like the rest of these guys – by the seat of my pants,” he said, adding that he is enjoying the ride. “It’s nice to fish the bank again … on a river system like this and get back to my roots.”
Rose is “just fishing a small oxbow, covering a lot of water as fast as I can” in the same area of Pool 5. Most of his bites have come from a Strike King KVD 1.5 crankbait, but he also reported catching some on a 3/8-ounce Strike King Pro Model spinnerbait.
Robertson enters the fray
Castrol pro Darrel Robertson of Jay, Okla. – winner of the 1999 FLW Championship – made a massive move up the leaderboard Saturday from 19th to fourth place on the back of an 11-10 limit, giving him a three-day total of 29-3.
Robertson said he has been locking down to Pool 4 and fishing near the bridge at Coushatta, La., but he plans to stay close in Pool 5 on the final day.
“I’ve caught pretty much everything flippin’,” he said, adding that his bait of choice has been green-pumpkin Biggle Bugs in ¼- to 3/8-ounce size.
He said he has been “keying on grass” so far, but plans to “just fish a few lily pads and flip to some wood” for the finale.
When asked what he has fished so far this tournament, he said, “Basically I’ve been flipping a black-and-blue (Yamamoto) Craw. Today I had to change baits a little bit.”
He switched to a 5-inch prototype craw with a double tail, because “they wanted a bigger bait,” as well as a black-and-blue Yamamoto Hula Swimmer.
Yamamoto has been fishing in Pool 5 this week, just south of Clark’s Red River Marina.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros at the Walmart FLW Tour Major on the Red River after day three:
6th: Christian Romans of Carrollton, Ky., three-day total of 15 bass, 27-4
7th: David Dudley of Lynchburg, Va., 15 bass, 27-4
8th: Brent Ehrler of Redlands, Calif., 14 bass, 26-14
9th: Mike Reynolds of Modesto, Calif., 14 bass, 26-10
10th: Jon Strelic of El Cajon, Calif., 14 bass, 26-4
FLW Tour action resumes on the final day at 6:30 a.m. when the top 10 pros take off from Red River South Marina, located at 250 Red River South Road in Bossier City, La.