With his win on Lake Texoma, Del Rio, Texas, pro Ray Hanselman made Rayovac FLW Series history by sweeping the Texas Division. Hanselman did most of his damage with a Strike King Sexy Frog, although he made a few flips and pitches here and there with plastics.
Recent rains had pushed Texoma to about 2 feet above normal pool, and Hanselman used this to his advantage by targeting overlooked areas that had been muddy during practice. Working flooded brush in the backs of secondary coves, he found bedding fish, as well as postspawners ready to chew in the clearing water.
Most of the other top 10 finishers also targeted a mix of spawning and postspawn fish. The changing water level, plus a mild cold front that pushed through the first day of the event, made for tough fishing under mostly high, bright skies. Anglers reported super-tough conditions, and many struggled to get daily limits.
Here’s a look at the second- through 10th-place finishers:
2. Hallman Hammers ’Em for Second
After seeing enough solid bed fish in practice and calculating the likely influence of a full moon a day after the tournament, Bradley Hallman says he was “all in for sight-fishing” the entire tournament. The plan worked well on day one for 14 pounds, 8 ounces, a little less so on day two with 12 pounds. The third day, Hallman stormed up the standings on the strength of a 20-pound, 5-ounce sack that put him in second with 46-13.
Needing light and warmth to facilitate this game, Hallman started his mornings by looking for a topwater bite before transitioning to pitching presentations.
“I started off throwing a frog and had a limit probably by 9:30 to 10 o’clock, but then the sun got high enough around 10 and I started looking for them,” he says.
Targeting beds with a Texas-rigged Zoom Ultra Vibe Speed Craw, Hallman fished flooded brush and found his areas reloading daily.
“I was fishing the same areas. We were getting new fish every day,” he says.
Hallman notes that his Power-Poles were essential in holding his position to work stubborn bed fish. Also important: bait color.
“All week, I sight-fished with a green pumpkin bait, but I also used a white tube if I was having a hard time telling if a fish was eating the bait,” he says. “You obviously don’t want to foul-hook a fish [bass hooked outside the mouth while sight-fishing must be immediately released], so with the white, I could tell if she ate the bait.”
3. Confidence Bait Leads Lebrun to Third
Nick Lebrun from Shreveport, La., caught only four keepers on day three, but they were the right ones. He weighed in 21 pounds, 13 ounces – the day’s heaviest sack and the tournament’s second heaviest – and finished just 7 ounces behind Hallman with 46-6.
Earlier in the tournament, Lebrun caught his fish on a V&M Cliff’s Wild Craw (Bama bug color) Texas rigged with a 1/2-ounce Elite Tungsten weight and a 3/0 Gamakatsu hook. Day three saw him switch to a SPRO Bronzeye Poppin’ Frog in sexy shad – a choice he says gave him supreme confidence.
“I tried to fish the frog with ‘X-ray vision,’” Lebrun says. “I tried to picture the holes in these bushes and pretend there was a 5-pounder lying there.
“I’d make the precise cast and work the frog like she was staring at it the entire time. That confidence and mind-set are important – especially when it’s really tough.”
Lebrun says a basic walk-the-dog presentation served him best. He’d give the bait four to five twitches, let it sit and then repeat.
As for his specific targets, Lebrun likened his Texoma experience to the previous Texas Division tournament on Sam Rayburn. In that event, flood conditions pushed bass deep into shoreline timber and brush.
“I had several blow-ups [on day three], and they were in places that reminded me of Rayburn, where you should never be able to get a fish out,” he says. “But they came right to the net, so the good Lord was with me.”
4. Power-Poles Key to Setina’s Program
After leading day one with 20 pounds, 9 ounces, Joe Don Setina slipped on day two when he lost some key fish to the heavy brush he was pitching. Day three saw him recover and turn in 15-2 for a three-day total of 45-13.
On day three, Setina caught one small keeper on a frog, but boated all of his other bass while bed-fishing. He alternated between two Reaction Innovations baits – a Little Dipper and a Sweet Beaver. He liked the sun gill color for the Dipper and green pumpkin for the beaver. Dipping the tails of baits in chartreuse dye enhanced their appeal.
“I just drove around the backs of pockets looking for them,” Setina says. “I found some really stubborn ones, and one thing that was really important was having my Power-Poles. That was just as important as having the fishing pole. I could tuck in there and hide from them and stay still. The fish were spooky, so I was really thankful to have my Power-Poles.”
5. Reynolds Sight-Fishes for Fifth
Jeff Reynolds, of Calera, Okla., devoted his tournament to sight-fishing and turned in a fifth-place total of 39 pounds, 4 ounces. Working marinas and flat, grassy pockets, he pitched a Zoom Z-Hog in green pumpkin or white.
“The bigger fish were in the marinas, but the fish in the grassy pockets weren’t getting as much pressure,” Reynolds says. “The lake was coming up, and the fish were moving back into that grass.”
Reynolds caught most of his fish in less than 3 feet of water. He says he caught fish throughout the day, and while sunlight helped his sight-fishing, he found success in the shadows as well.
“I caught my biggest fish – a 6-15 – in the first five minutes of the second day,” Reynolds says. “We took off at 6:30 a.m., and it was about 6:50 when I caught that fish. I had found this one the day before, so I knew where she was, and I got her in probably three pitches.”
6. Big Day Two Buoys Bird
Like an Oreo, the sweet stuff came in the middle of Cody Bird’s three days on Texoma. The Granbury, Texas, pro weighed bags of 10 pounds, 5 ounces and 6-4 on the first and third days, with a big spike of 21-9 on day two.
Bird had a couple of patterns going this week. He found some quality smallmouths that would eat a Kicker Fish Hightail Holeshot finesse worm on a shaky head in the morning. After that, he’d look for bedding largemouths with the Kicker Kraw that he designed for Kicker Fish.
Unfortunately, he only found cooperative bedding bass of any quality on that second day and ended up sixth with 38-2.
7. Boat Problems Sink Ankrum
He was remarkably consistent the first two days, with weights of 15 pounds, 13 ounces and 15-12, respectively, but an engine malfunction in the afternoon of day two limited Brian Ankrum’s mobility. The Natalia, Texas, pro thought he had the problem fixed by the day-three takeoff, but after a morning of mechanical woes, he had to trailer his boat, borrow another and try to make something of the day.
The time loss left Ankrum with one final-day keeper and a seventh-place total of 33-3. All of his fish came on a Koppers LIVETARGET Frog in the leopard frog pattern.
8. Brown Fishes Fast for Eighth
Robert Brown of Round Rock, Texas, took eighth place with 32 pounds, 9 ounces. He caught his fish on a 3/8-ounce Strike King spinnerbait in the sexy shad color with an Indiana and a willow-leaf blade. He also threw a weightless white soft jerkbait.
“I was working them really fast,” Brown says of his two go-to baits. “I fished them around laydowns and submerged cover. I was just trying to get them in front of the right ones.”
9. Cecil Bed-Fishes for Ninth
Sight-fishing specialist Russel Cecil stuck with his signature strength and earned a ninth-place finish with 31 pounds, 8 ounces. Cecil gave the fish two different looks by pitching a Big Bite Baits WarMouth on a 1/4-ounce weight and a Big Bite Baits YoMama with a 5/16-ounce weight. He rigged both on 4/0 hooks.
10. Frilot Gets Chatty for 10th
Hailing from crawfish central – Breaux Bridge, La. – Craig Frilot chatted openly with Tournament Director Ron Lappin about his hometown’s seasonal abundance of this tasty crustacean. On the lake, Frilot did his talking with a Z-man ChatterBait accented with a Zoom Swimmin’ Super Fluke trailer – both in shad colors.
Click here for complete results.