Local fishing tackle shops near Sam Rayburn Reservoir were all but wiped out of Strike King XD Series and Rapala DT Series crankbaits by the final day of the FLW Tour season opener presented by Polaris. Many of the Tour pros who made the top 10 were throwing one or the other, and anyone who wanted to replicate those winning patterns knew enough to get them while they lasted.
Winning pro Terry Bolton and second-place finisher Nick LeBrun both made a good deal of money at Big Sam launching crankbaits, and while the spinnerbait came into play for both, it was craw- and shad-colored crankbaits that put a dent in the monster largemouths at Rayburn.
1. Rapala DT10, DT14 and DT16 crankbaits were all crucial in Bolton’s first FLW Tour win. He opted for the demon and Caribbean shad colors and threw his crankbaits with Lew’s BB1 Pro Speed Spool reels with the 5.1:1 gear ratio. The man nicknamed “Blade” for his spinnerbait prowess also caught some quality fish on a white 3/4-ounce Accent spinnerbait and mixed in a few on a Carolina rig with a 5-inch green pumpkin Zoom Lizard.
2. Nick LeBrun started out his week throwing a craw-colored Strike King 5XD with No. 2 Hayabusa treble hooks (which he credits for not losing any key fish). The 5XD was instrumental in his massive 29-pound, 2-ounce stringer on day one. As the tournament progressed, LeBrun started working in a prototype spinnerbait he and V&M are working on that will be called “The Big LeBoom.” He fished a 3/4- and 1-ounce spinnerbait (either white and chartreuse or black) without a trailer. He also picked up a Carolina rig for a bit, but the 5XD and spinnerbait were his main deal that led to 90-7 for the tournament.
3. Bryan Thrift was slow and meticulous in bagging 88-13 on Rayburn. He dragged around a Carolina rig equipped with a Zoom Brush Hog or 5.5-inch Damiki Stinger, both in green pumpkin color. When that bite slowed for Thrift – particularly on day four – he picked up a Strike King 6XD in a shad color and caught some key fish in his best spot of the tournament.
4. Chad Warren put together the biggest bag of day four – a 23-2 stringer with a pair of 6-pounders in it – with a couple key baits that weren’t necessarily the biggest players for him earlier in the tournament. He bagged those hawgs on a wacky-rigged and nail-weighted Yamamoto Senko (green pumpkin dipped in chartreuse) on day four and also fired out a shad-colored Strike King 5XD. His best bait early in the tournament was a white 1/2-ounce Bayou Bug Swim Jig-a-lait with a Keitech Swing Impact FAT 3.3-inch trailer.
5. Local Rayburn stalwart Jim Tutt kept it simple to earn his fifth-place finish in the FLW Tour opener. Aside from three fish caught on a jerkbait, a spinnerbait and a Texas-rigged lizard, every fish Tutt caught came on a No. 7 Berkley Bad Shad with a green and black back, red sides and an orange belly. His secret weapon: a few sprays of BANG Fish Attractant, a trick he found on Rayburn many years ago to help him win a Rat-L-Trap tournament.
6. Colby Schrumpf caught most of his 70 pounds, 7 ounces on a pair of crankbaits: a Bandit 300 Series in brick red and a Bomber Fat A in a baby bass color. He did catch a few small fish – “nothing that mattered” – on a Jewel Bait Co. jig, but that crankbait duo was the ticket to his sixth-place finish and $18,000 payday.
7. Jordan Osborne camped out on a drain with a 10- to 15-foot drop-off for the entirety of the tournament (save for a little time exploring new stuff on day four). He dragged a Carolina rig and cranked a Strike King 6XD. Osborne equipped his Carolina rig with a chartreuse Yamamoto Senko or a Bass Pro Shops magnum-sized soft jerkbait in the Houdini color. His 6XD was a shad pattern, and he threw it on 14-pound-test Sunline Super FC Sniper Fluorocarbon, a 7-foot, 6-inch Cashion deep-diving crankbait rod and Daiwa Steez reel.
8. Tom Redington wanted to fish moving baits at Rayburn, but after striking out during practice on a number of reaction baits, he opted for a finesse approach predicated on drop-shotting with a 1/2-ounce weight and a green pumpkin/red Berkley Havoc Bottom Hopper. He also caught a good portion of his total on a homemade 1/2-ounce jig (green pumpkin) with a sapphire blue Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Meaty Chunk Trailer. Redington caught everything else on a Texas-rigged junebug Berkley Powerbait MaxScent The General with a 3/8-ounce weight.
9. Sam George found himself in second place after day one, due in large part to one key spot on the lake he calls his “magic little place” – a spot he continued to camp on most of the tournament. He got down to his fish with a Salmo Rattlin’ Hornet (size 6.5) in a red craw color and a Greenfish Tackle football jig paired with a green pumpkin and orange Strike King Rage Craw.
10. Charles Sim traveled 28 hours from Ontario to get to Rayburn and earn his first top-10 finish on the Tour, and he spent almost the entire event not having to travel far at all. The Canadian pro sat on a drain that led back to a spawning area pretty much all four days throwing a Strike King 6XD in powder blue back chartreuse, a Carolina rig and a Texas rig. He caught his biggest fish (a 5-10) on the Carolina rig with a NetBait Mad Paca. He used a NetBait Paca Craw on his Texas rig.