Fishing off the back of the boat, a co-angler is inherently subject to whatever his or her partner’s plan avails. Moreover, given the likelihood of fishing different styles and areas each day, the propensity of using the same bait for three days is uncommon. To use the same bait exclusively and win, well, that’s a straight-up statistical oddity.
Another way of describing such an occurrence: Mat Downey’s victory at the Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division event presented by YETI on Sam Rayburn Reservoir. After catching his biggest limit (19-15) to take the lead on day two, the Kountze, Texas, co-angler added 18-13 in the final round to seal the deal with a three-day total of 55-4.
Each day, Downey weighed a limit, and each of the 15 fish he brought to weigh-in ate a bone-colored River2Sea Whopper Plopper. On day three, he caught a solid keeper far in the back of Buck Creek, but an afternoon flurry literally made his day – and his tournament.
“I had 15 pounds in 30 minutes after noontime,” he says.
Shallow hydrilla was the common thread that yielded all of his opportunities this week. A classic prespawn staging habitat, the grass also serves as the immediate fallback point for tired and hungry fish departing the beds.
“I think all of my fish had spawned out. I don’t think I caught a fish with eggs,” Downey says. “Grass near a creek channel was the key. I think they were traveling back out after spawning.”
Tactically, Downey says the key to effective presentations was winging the Plopper far enough to see the fluorocarbon backing below his 50-pound-test braid.
“I was telling my boater that I threw to my backing line,” he adds. “I threw as far as I could throw, and a lot of my bites were a long way out.
“I threw it ’til my arms hurt. That was my only plan. I told myself today that I was going to live or die by it.”
Top 10 co-anglers
1. Mat Downey – Kountze, Texas – 55-4 (15)
2. David Kayda – Huffman, Texas – 51-10 (15)
3. Bud Pruitt – Houston, Texas – 50-12 (15)
4. Antwon Harris – Deridder, La. – 47-3 (14)
5. Andrew Brandstrom – White Bear Lake, Minn. – 46-13 (14)
6. Craig Strickland – Lumberton, Texas – 43-9 (14)
7. Michael D. Greer Jr. – Deridder, La. – 42-0 (15)
8. Michael Allbright – Athens, Texas – 38-10 (14)
9. Jeff Cade – Richardson, Texas – 37-1 (11)
10. Jim Zaleski – Parsons, Kan. – 36-0 (12)