Oklahoma pro Jeff Reynolds took advantage of seasonal bait aggregations, as well as daily peak periods, to win the Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division finale on Lake Texoma presented by Frabill. Reynolds employed a two-pronged approach of chasing smallmouths up shallow and largemouths out deep to seal the victory with 51 pounds, 9 ounces.
Like Reynolds, many of the top pros on Texoma sampled both shallow and deep patterns to produce not only largemouths, but their brown cousins as well. The fall transition made bait the primary focus for Texoma bass and that meant a deluge of patterns were in play. Below is a look at how the rest of the pros pieced the puzzle together.
2. McFarlin surges in the final round
Don McFarlin entered the final round 6-2 off the lead, but after sacking up 17-3 — the biggest catch of day three — he narrowed the gap, as he rose from eighth to second with a three-day total of 47-1.
“I had a much better day today; I didn’t lose any fish,” the Gordonville, Texas, pro says. “Yesterday, I flubbed up a couple and had some good ones come off. I kind of got behind and played a little catch up.
“I lost three fish that were in the 4-pound range. But that’s fishing. It’s not the first time; it won’t be the last.”
McFarlin caught most of his fish on a Texas-rigged 7-inch blue fleck Berkley PowerBait Power Worm. He fished the worm in 5-25 feet and when he went to the shallow end, he targeted profoundly undistinguished spots.
“It looked like nothing,” McFarlin says. “There was a break line that went from 8 to 12 feet of water. There were a few little bits of brush; not much, but the fish were chasing bait and hanging right on that break.”
3. Consistency carries Andreas
Two solid days kept T.R. Andreas near the top, and despite a smaller day-three catch, the Kerrville, Texas, pro managed to finish third with 44-6. After opening with 18 pounds on day one and placing third, Andreas added 15-7 on day two and rose to second. Day three proved a more arduous road and managed only 10-15.
“It was a tougher bite; I probably had 10 fish today,” Andreas says. “I just never got the big bite.”
Andreas started his days with topwater action, in which he’d throw a River2Sea Whopper Plopper. Day three delivered a mixed-bag flurry that worked out much better for his co-angler, Dan Wilson, who won his division.
“I’d catch a striper, he’d catch a big smallmouth; I’d catch a striper, he’d catch a big smallmouth,” Andreas laments. “I think he caught four smallmouth there and I caught one.”
After his topwater bite fizzled, Andreas switch to green pumpkin finesse worm on a 1/8-ounce shaky head and flipped a black/blue Strike King Rage Bug. By day three, Andreas found that fishing pressure had whittled down the potential upon which he had depended.
“The topwater bite was definitely scattered,” he says. “You just had to run and gun and hit lots of spots. It just didn’t pay off for me today.”
4. Wilhoit commits to creek
Alton Wilhoit also remained near the top all three days of the event. He placed fifth on day one with 17-13, rose to third a day later by adding 14-15 and ended fourth with a day-three limit of 11-10. Wilhoit’s total of 44-6 matched that of third Andreas, but ties are broken by the heaviest single-day catch — in this case, Andreas’ 18-pound day-one bag.
All week, the Noble, Okla., pro caught his fish by running west and pushing deep into Beaver Creek, where he fished shallow laydowns. With lake managers steadily dropping Texoma for winter pool, Wilhoit found his spots losing water daily. Not only did the falling water affect Wilhoit’s target areas, it also made an already-treacherous approach even more dicey.
“I made up my mind what I was going to do even before I came down here,” Wilhoit says. “I decided to live or die by this pattern. I’d either do good or not. I had a few people follow me in there and I can’t believe they did. There was a brown rooster tail (from shallow mud) for 200 yards going in there.”
Wilhoit caught one of his fish on a jig, but the rest bit a spinnerbait. Using a 3/8- or 1/2-ounce bait, depending on depth, he likes a double willow leaf configuration with one white blade and one red.
5. Inspired Gressett takes fifth
After reaching the top-10 by rising from a day-one 11th-place effort to fifth, Tioga,Texas, pro Kevin Gressett held onto the number five spot and finished with 43-2. Sharing a personal moment of inspiration, Gressett recounts an occurrence that likely influenced his final placement.
“On the final day, I was in an area where I had no confidence that I’d catch a fish,” he says. “I lost my wife during the registration for the Rayburn tournament, so I said ‘Shellye, what would you do?’
“I had some docks about 200 yards around the corner. First cast, I caught my last keeper with 30 minutes to go. I believe that even though we lose somebody, they can still speak to us.”
6. Dwindling opportunities for Burkett
His was a story with Cinderella potential, but a fairy tale ending was not meant to be. Oklahoma pro Hayden Burkett placed 34th on day one with 12-13, but rocketed into the top-10 by sacking up the tournament’s heaviest bag — 19-7.
Adjusting his spinnerbait color from a clear-water pattern to a more vivid chartreuse to better fit the stained water he was fishing seemed to position Burkett for a final-round surge. Unfortunately, a diminishing window of opportunity tightened and the day yielded only 10-3, which dropped him to sixth with 42-7.
“I was going way out west and fishing laydowns,” Burkett says. “On day one, the laydowns had 3 feet of water on them. Day two, they had about 2 1/2 and on day three, the backs of the laydowns were up on the bank.
“I just think the big ones left and the little ones stayed because there was a bunch of bait around the laydowns. I had brush piles all around them, so I thought the big ones would move out there, but I don’t know what happened.”
7. Sprague played numbers game
After moving up from 20th place to seventh on day two, Jeff Sprague of Point, Texas, turned in a final-round effort of 12-18 and ended with 42-7 to stay in the seventh slot. Burkett’s day-two catch of 19-7 broke the tie.
Having scanned from 50-foot depths to the bank, Sprague dialed in on the fish that were following shallow bait balls. He caught fish on a 6th Sense Crush Dogma topwater walker for open water bait schools, a Crush 50X squarebill when wind blew shad onto the shallow rocks and a drop-shot with a Gene Larew Tattle Tail Worm over deep brush piles.
“I caught a lot of fish this week,” Sprague says. “I bet I caught 25-30 fish a day; they just weren’t the right size.”
8. Slower final day lowers Newberry
Texas legend Dicky Newberry also benefited from a day-two surge with his second-round limit of 16-14 raising him from 24th to sixth. A slower day three would see him yield two spots to finish eighth at 41-7.
“I did a little bit of everything,” Newberry says. “I caught them on a spinnerbait; I caught a lot of them on Texas-rigged 7-inch Berkley Power Worm. I think the key bait was a Bill Lewis Echo 1.75 (wide body squarebill) that I threw over rocks and points.
“I found two to three key points that were holding fish. It seemed that during the day, they’d move in. There was a lot of bait and a lot of sand (white) bass up there. I probably would’ve won with my sand bass — they were big.”
9. Missed opportunities for Mosley
Brandon Mosley of Choctaw, Okla., grabbed the number nine spot on day one and held that position through the tournament’s conclusion. He recorded weights of 16-14, 12-5 and 11-10 for a final score of 40-13.
“I was running a pattern that I thought was the winning pattern — I still think it could’ve been the winning pattern,” Mosley says. “I had a couple of fish come off on day two and I lost a couple the final day. It just wasn’t my week."
10. Head’s homemade bait delivers
Three years removed from his retirement, Ricci Head now enjoys producing his Head Shed Wiggler — a bladed swim jig with a wire neck and a brush guard. The Shawnee, Okla., pro committed his tournament to throwing this bait and took 10th with 37-14.
Running far up the Washita River arm, Head targeted laydowns in what he describes as muddy water. Using his 3/8-ounce Wiggler, he paired the reaction bait with a Yamamoto Zako. Head says all of his bites came in two feet or less.