Strickland Sticks 31-Pound Megabag - Major League Fishing

Strickland Sticks 31-Pound Megabag

Florida pro leaps into the lead going into the final day
Image for Strickland Sticks 31-Pound Megabag
Laramy Strickland Photo by Charles Waldorf. Angler: Laramy Strickland.
February 22, 2020 • Justin Onslow • Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit

Laramy Strickland fished clean on day two of the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit event on the Harris Chain, which is presented by Bad Boy Mowers. He fished so clean that he weighed in 31 pounds, 6 ounces – the biggest bag of the tournament so far – despite a cold front that shut down the bite for a lot of his competitors.

Complete results

For the Pro Circuit rookie and Harris Chain regular (he hails from nearby Bushnell, Fla.), the biggest difference between day one and day two was making the most of his opportunities.

“I had 14 pounds [day one], but I had three swimmers,” he explains. “I lost like two or three giants. Today, I caught my giants and I was out of there by 10 o’clock.”

Laramy Strickland

“There” meaning his best spot of the day, which Strickland unequivocally plans to hammer again on Sunday, the final day of the weather-shortened tournament. It’s a spot he doesn’t want to get too specific about, mostly because he knows how good it can produce for a second day and he doesn’t want the 30-angler final-day field to know too much about it.

“I’ve had it to myself, and I hope to keep it to myself,” he says. “I’m just going to go fishing and do what I do to know how to catch them, and I’m going to either hero or zero tomorrow. We’ll see how it goes.”

If Strickland’s spot is as good as it appeared to be on Saturday, the more likely result is going to be “hero.”

The Florida pro stuck with one primary bait on day two – an undisclosed flipping bait. He did cast around a Zoom Ultra Vibe Speed Worm a bit, as one often does bass fishing in the Sunshine State, but for the most part, it was one bait and one technique in one area of the chain that did all the damage – and all before lunchtime.

Strickland’s most encouraging sign is that he laid off his fish so early in the day, accompanied by the fact that the cold, blustery weather helped his pattern. It’ll be warmer on the final day, but not necessarily warm by Florida standards, and the wind should still be blowing.

“I laid off my fish,” he says. “There is so much I haven’t fished in there, so we’re just going to go fishing tomorrow and see if I can catch a ‘dirty 30’ again.

“I wasn’t expecting that big of a weight. I thought I could catch around 20 [pounds], but the big ones bit today. I’ve got a bunch more. I hope it gets even colder.”

Laramy Strickland

The big ones weren’t just 6-pounders across the board, either. Strickland weighed in the biggest fish of the tournament with his 9-6 today (taking the Berkley Big Bass award), paired with another giant that went 8-12. That’s a great month fishing in Florida for some people, and Strickland did it in just a few hours.

And the craziest part? Strickland caught all his weight in just six bites on the juice.

“I do live here, so I just kind of run around to big fish areas and try to get a giant bite all day,” he says. “I fish big fish ways.”

It showed on day two, and it’s a bad sign for the rest of the field when the leader and local hammer is so excited about his prospects on Championship Sunday.

“I’m excited. I know that what’s happening,” he says. “What’s taking place is good, and I believe it’s going to hold for at least another day.

“Things are lining up to get good again.”

If day two was any indication, that’s no lie.


Jimmy Washam

2. Jimmy Washam – Covington, Tenn. – 41-13 (10)

Sometimes fishing based on prior knowledge and experience can be detrimental, and sometimes not having spent much – or any – time on a particular fishery can come in handy. That certainly has been the case for Tennessee pro Jimmy Washam this week.

“This is my first time in Florida, and I guess it kind of played to my advantage because I didn’t have any preconceived notions,” he says. “I didn’t know what was going to happen with this cold front, so I just went fishing and my pattern somewhat held up. I had to make a couple minor adjustments but got back on them and was really blessed with another big bite.”

That big bite came in the form of a 7-plus-pounder – his second in as many days. It’s hard to count on kicker fish, but Washam is sure hoping for another one on Sunday.

“All I can do is hope and pray for another big bite tomorrow,” he says. “I think I can put the quality in the boat, but I need that big one.”

Washam made several adjustments throughout the day, including tweaking his pattern just a bit to account for how fish were positioned based on the drastically different weather conditions from day one to day two. He found that more fish were tucked up tighter to cover and made the right adjustments to target those fish.

“From there, I started running tighter contours,” he says. “They wanted to be tighter to some thicker grass. I ran two or three places and was lucky to get a good fish or two off each one.

“I made a run back from down south in the Dora area into Eustis and went to hit a place I didn’t even fish Thursday. I caught a 4-pounder in practice and left it. I knew the wind was coming across at an angle I could actually fish it. I made two casts once I got lined up right and caught a 4-pounder and that one over 7 on back-to-back casts. It was just a one-cast deal.”

Hitting that key spot confirmed to Washam that the pattern he’s on is one that’s working and will continue to work on Sunday.

“My pattern has held up, and I’ve actually got a pattern instead of just an area deal,” he says. “The place I caught the big one, it just felt right at the time and it fit my pattern.”

He won’t get too specific about the pattern and his baits of choice just yet, only divulging that he’s fishing around grass with moving baits.


Hunter Freeman

3. Hunter Freeman – Monroe, La. – 39-6 (10)

Hunter Freeman caught four big fish off one spot on Saturday to anchor his 25-14 bag – the second-heaviest of the day.

“It’s a pretty simple place,” he explains. “It’s one cast; make it over and over and over. I’m not going to leave it tomorrow, so we’ll see how it goes.”

Freeman fished that area for about 30 minutes on day one but couldn’t dedicate time to it earlier in the day because of his boat draw. On Saturday, he spent just enough time to there to figure out exactly what kind of fish it’s holding.

“I have not caught a fish off it under 6 pounds,” he says.

To catch those fish, Freeman employed a Carolina rig and a lipless crankbait, but all his biggest fish came on the Carolina rig.

Freeman is going to spend all of Sunday fishing in that area, but he’s unsure of what it will have to offer – given the ever-changing weather conditions – with prespawn and postspawn fish moving in and out.

“I’ve caught two prespawners and the rest of them are post, so they’re moving out,” he adds. “If one more wave moves out, it could be ugly.”


Miles Burghoff

4. Miles Burghoff – Soddy-Daisy, Tenn. – 38-15 (10)

Like Freeman, Miles Burghoff has one area he really wants to hammer on Sunday, but he’s not entirely sure what it will offer considering the pressure that area has received over two tournament days.

“The fishing pressure really hurt my areas,” he says. “I’m fishing a canal, and when you have that many people on those hard lines, it’s really hard to have fishing pressure in there because the fish have nowhere to go, so everybody is hitting the same stuff.”

Cutting the field to 30 anglers on the final day should help, though, Burghoff made a couple adjustments on day two that helped him figure out a few things. If all goes well, his final-day bag should look more like his stringer on Thursday (26-8) than what he weighed in on Saturday (12-7).

One of those adjustments involved tying on a 3/4-ounce weight on his Texas rig to elicit more reaction strikes, as opposed to the 1/2-ounce weight he was previously using. Burghoff also switched the color of Z-Man Palmetto BugZ he was using to Bama bug because of the dingier water he was fishing, which seemed to help his bite. After changing weights, he immediately caught a 5-pounder. When he switched colors, he hooked into a 4-pounder right away.

Tomorrow may be all about adjustments, too, as Burghoff really only has one area, his primary canal, that he feels confident in.

“My goal is to win this thing, and so tomorrow, I’m going to go up there, and if I can’t get them flipping a couple miles of the best stretches, I should be out there by 10 o’clock and should know if I need to make some adjustments,” he says. “That place right there is where I need to be.”


Kyle Gelles

5. Kyle Gelles – Pingree, Idaho – 36-12 (10)

Like Burghoff, Idaho pro Kyle Gelles had a bit of a down day on Saturday. He still caught enough to jump into the top five but it wasn’t quite what he was hoping for from an area that produced so well on day one.

“I just never got a big bite,” he says. “I was around those types of fish, but it really died off for me this afternoon, where the other afternoon is where I did my damage.”

Fishing a huge flat covered with shell beds and several types of grasses, Gelles drifted around on day one and caught fish after fish to the tune of 21-3. Today, the big bite never came and “they were just eating it funny,” which Gelles attributes to the condition changes from day one to day two.

As a result, Gelles made some bait changes, but still stuck primarily with moving baits to probe the grass and other offshore cover.

“Today, the jerkbait came into play a lot more than it did the first day,” he explains. “I also just switched up to a regular swimbait trying to mix it up from the ChatterBait. I just couldn’t get bit on it first thing.”

The ChatterBait Gelles leaned on day one was a Z-Man ChatterBait Jack Hammer, 1/2 ounce in clearwater shad, which he tipped with a Keitech Swing Impact FAT in light hitch. When he went to just the swimbait, he stuck with the Keitech (3.8 and 5.8) in both light hitch and electric shad.

Unlike many pros this week, Gelles was throwing the swimbait and a jerkbait (Lucky Craft Pointer 110) around grass where he knew schools of shad were swimming around. On day one, he was able to lock on to those schools and catch bass feeding on them, but on Saturday, the wind was blowing enough to keep those shad on the move – and the bass with it.

Because of that, Gelles says he was having a hard time finding concentrations of bass, and, instead of catching three or four in a row like on day one, he was lucky to get a bite here and there.

“I’m fishing grass and shad, trying to follow the shad around a bit,” he says. “I just don’t think they set up like they did the first day. The wind had them blowing around.

“I don’t know what’s left out there. I leaned on them pretty hard today.”


 Top 10 pros

1. Laramy Strickland – Bushnell, Fla. – 46-0 (10)

2. Jimmy Washam – Covington, Tenn. – 41-13 (10)

3. Hunter Freeman – Monroe, La. – 39-6 (10)

4. Miles Brughoff – Soddy-Daisy, Tenn. – 38-15 (10)

5. Kyle Gelles – Pingree, Idaho – 36-12 (10)

6. Jared McMillan – Belle Glade, Fla. – 35-15 (10)

7. Ron Nelson – Berrien Springs, Mich. – 35-11 (10)

8. Casey Scanlon – Lake Ozark, Mo. – 35-4 (10)

9. Rusty Salewske – Alpine, Calif. – 34-3 (10)

10. Chad Warren – Sand Springs, Okla. – 34-1 (10)

Complete results