Bagging a massive 27-pound limit on the final day to win the Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division opener presented by YETI on Sam Rayburn Reservoir accomplished a dream for Todd Castledine. But the dream was not just a victory. The Nacogdoches, Texas, pro had four wins in FLW competition before today. Rather, the dream fulfilled was the comeback. Castledine climbed from ninth to first with his final-day performance.
Castledine, who claimed a $50,500 prize, entered the final round 5 pounds, 5 ounces behind day-two leader Jason Bonds. Naturally, Castledine would have preferred the inverse scenario, but he saw this as an opportunity to notch not only a statistical victory, but also one of personal satisfaction.
“When you’re in ninth, you don’t expect to win it,” he says. “So you go out there with a different mindset. Leading a tournament like this is difficult, but when you’re in ninth or 10th place, it’s the best feeling in the world. You just go out there and try to have fun and catch a big bag.
“I’ve led a couple of these, and I’ve always wanted to come from behind and win. I just wanted to be that person that showed up with a big bag the final day.”
Complicating matters, Castledine was running on empty, thanks to the remnants of a recent bout with the flu, which caused him severe nausea just minutes before the final takeoff. Overcoming this weakening distraction defined “gut check.”
“I haven’t been able to hold anything down in like five days, but that’s no excuse,” Castledine says. “I’ve just been rundown from fishing a lot, and I just can’t get better, but this win is going to help me get better.”
Yesterday’s cold front dropped the air temperature by about 17 degrees, and the water temperature fell about 8 degrees. Many pros struggled, but not Castledine.
“It helped that on the first spot I pulled up to, I started catching them in the first couple of minutes,” he says.
Castledine sacked up an early limit by throwing a Strike King KVD 2.5 square-bill crankbait to catch prespawn bass around shallow grass. He would later cull up with a couple of bedding fish, also caught around the grass, using a Strike King Rage Bug (blue craw) Texas-rigged with a 3/8-ounce weight and a 5/0 wide-gap hook.
This productivity gave him a solid limit; probably not enough to win, but still a moral triumph, given his starting point and the mitigating health issue.
However, anyone who plays this game long enough knows that when it’s your time to win, special things happen. For Castledine, all it took was belief in a key spot and the willingness to give it a second shot.
“About 2:10 I pulled up to a deep spot in about 18 feet that I hadn’t fished in a month,” he recalls. “I dropped the trolling motor down, threw out there, and in about 10 seconds I said, ‘I’m not going to catch anything out here.’
“I pulled the trolling motor up, took off down the lake, and after about half a mile I did a U-turn and went back to that spot. I threw out there, and on the first cast I caught that big one [a 9-pounder]. I was really happy with what I already had. I was thinking I should move up a little bit. I was heading to another place where I thought I could cull up a little, but something told me to go back to that deep spot.”
Castledine caught the 9-pound hawg on a Texas-rigged Strike King 10-inch Rage Tail Anaconda. The catch transformed his day and cemented his decision-making confidence.
“Yesterday, I got lucky and caught a 9-pounder, and I thought, ‘There goes my luck for the entire tournament,’” Castledine adds.
Apparently not. For Castledine, lightning struck twice, and it ignited an impressive come-from-behind performance that the Texas veteran can add to his already impressive tournament resume.
Top 10 pros
1. Todd Castledine – Nacogdoches, Texas – 66-11 (15) – $50,500
2. Jason Bonds – Lufkin, Texas – 63-0 (15) – $20,900
3. Ray Hanselman – Del Rio, Texas – 60-10 (15) – $14,500
4. Casey Sobczak – Willis, Texas – 58-15 (15) – $12,500
5. Kris Wilson – Montgomery, Texas – 56-13 (15) – $11,500
6. Ken Smith – Dallas, Texas – 56-1 (15) – $9,250
7. Jeff Reynolds – Calera, Okla. – 52-12 (15) – $8,000
8. Andrew Upshaw – Tulsa, Okla. – 52-3 (15) – $7,000
9. Billy Billeaud – Lafayette, La. – 51-12 (15) – $6,000
10. Tommy Martin – Hemphill, Texas – 50-15 (14) – $4,500