Despite the wild, wicked weather at Grand Lake for the Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division presented by Ranger Boats – which forced the cancellation of day two – most of the pros that scored top 10s kept their patterns pretty simple for the two days of competition.
Nick Prvonozac won the event by flipping a YUM Vibra King Tube in the same places where he had seen bass bedding in a Grand Lake Costa event two years ago when the water was much clearer.
With Grand Lake bass trying to spawn, soft plastics – either weighted or unweighted – fished in Grand’s coves and pockets played a big role in the top-10 patterns.
Matt Arey of Shelby, N.C., recorded his third top five in a row at Grand Lake over the last three years, reeling in a two-day total of 33 pounds, 10 ounces for second place.
Arey spent most of his practice throwing a swimbait and looking for spawners. When a bass would track his swimbait, he would look around to see if the fish had come off a bed. During the practice period Arey marked some 60 beds. When the tournament began with dark, rainy weather, Arey visited his marked bed locations with a wacky-rigged 5-inch Lunkerhunt Lunker Stick (leech and watermelon red) and caught most of his fish blindcasting to the beds.
“I was skipping under a lot of cables and walkways of docks,” Arey says. “That metal is some rough stuff so I went a little heavier on my line. With the water up, many of those cables were sitting right on the surface. At times I would literally wait for the wind to push the dock around, putting tension on the cables and lifting them off the water just enough for me to get a skip cast under them.”
Chad Warren of Sand Springs, Okla., climbed his way up to third with a two-day total of 30 pounds, 11 ounces.
Warren spent most of his tournament alternating between two weightless Yamamoto Senkos: one wacky-rigged on spinning tackle with 10-pound test line and leader for skipping under docks and one rigged straight weedless on 16-pound test casting tackle for heavier cover.
“Most of the time I fished the Senkos in spawning coves,” Warren says. “But I also had a couple stretches of willows where I flipped a Gene Larew Biffle Bug, which produced the biggest fish I weighed in.”
Matt Cooper of Smithville, Texas, played the keep-it-simple approach, utilizing one lure and one area to catch a two-day total of 30 pounds for fourth place.
“I’d pitch to any little buck bushes or pieces of wood on the bank,” Cooper details. “Most of my bites came anywhere from 8 inches to 2 feet.”
Tommy Martin of Hemphill, Texas, kept his pattern short and sweet, pitching a Zoom Baby Brush Hog in coves and pockets in the Elk River for a two-day total of 28 pounds, 12 ounces.
Martin topped the Brush Hog with a light 1/8-ounce weight and fished it on 14-pound test Bass Shops XPS fluorocarbon. He noted that dying the tails of the Brush Hog in chartreuse was a key part of his presentation.
“I was fishing coves and pockets that had a little deeper water with steeper sides,” Martin says. “Those flat pockets were no good. It needed to have 6 or 7 feet of water in it. And if there was a little bush or laydown or rock sticking off one of those steeper banks, I could usually get a bite next to it.”
Albert Collins of Nacogdoches, Texas, caught the biggest limit of the tournament on the final day weighing 20 pounds, 2 ounces. His big catch rocketed him from 75th place to 6th with a two-day total of 28-10.
Collins big haul came on a Texas-rigged lizard (green pumpkin) topped with a 3/8-ounce Elite Tungsten weight fished on 20-pound test line.
“There were so many people fishing the backs of the pockets, I just decided to get out on the points,” Collins says. “Once I caught a couple of good fish that way, I started running main-lake points, casting a lizard and dragging it slowly off those points.”
While soft plastics were dominant for much of the top 10, Dave Donham of Highlandville, Mo., bucked the system catching a two-day total of 28 pounds, 7 ounces on hard baits.
“The first day the water was clear enough to use a Spook and a Rogue,” he says. “After all that, some of the water stained up and on the final day I had to go to a ¾-ounce War Eagle spinnerbait.”
Jim Moynagh of Carver, Minn., hauled in 28 pounds, 6 ounces to take the eighth spot.
“I fished coves and pockets on the lower end with just two lures mainly,” Moynagh says. “A topwater prop bait and a weightless worm.”
Tye Smith of Fort Gibson, Okla., checked in a two-day total of 28 pounds, 5 ounces for ninth.
Perhaps Smith wins the unofficial award for the most interesting technique of the week: fishing a weightless lizard for spawning bass.
“I caught all my fish this week on a 7-inch green pumpkin lizard with no weight,” Smith details. “I just get in the coves where the fish are spawning, make a tight cast parallel the bank and sort of twitch that lizard right through the zone where all the beds should be. I work it sort of like a jerkbait with longer pauses to let it hover near beds.”
Todd Castledine of Nacogdoches, Texas, finished out the top 10 with a two-day total of 27 pounds, 15 ounces.
Castledine mostly sight-fished on day one with a Strike King Rage Bug with a 5/8-ounce tungsten weight on 25-pound test Sunline Shooter. On the last day he went topwater fishing with walking baits including a Strike King KVD Sexy Dawg.